• "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"
    There are lots of degrees and levels of agreement within science, and just as many degrees and levels of incommensurability. Among participants in a scientific paradigmatic community, there need mot be unanimous agreement on conceptual definitions in order to work
    productively together. I do think it can be helpful to conceive of normative discursive communities in terms of shared worlds, as long as we treat the idea of world as something like form of life or language game. In a shared world, my behaviors and your responses are mutually intelligible enough to allow for each of us to anticipate the other’s next moves in the game. Now let us say my scientific community undergoes a paradigm shift. Is our new shared world incommensurable with our old one, and if so, how are we then able to go back and forth between the old and new paradigm? I suggest what happens here is that in formulating the new way of thinking, at the same time we subtly reconstrue the sense of meaning of the old concepts such that we now see that old vocabulary in a different light. It is not as if we are able to make the old theory and the new one logically commensurable, but our redefining of the old terms in themselves makes it possible to form a bridge between the old and the new concepts. The old scheme becomes an inadequate or incomplete version of the new one as we retrospectively look back at it. Much the same thing happens in religious conversion. When look back at our old thinking, we implicitly reshape what the old notions were through the filter of the new ones.

    Now let’s say we encounter someone who remains within the old way of thinking. We can share their world with them, maybe even consciously taking into account that we no longer conceive of the particulars of that old
    world exactly in the way that we used to and the other still
    does. But the bridge we created between the old and new doesnt exist for the other. Our new world is mostly invisible to them, at least as evidenced by the impossibility of sharing practices based on that new thinking.

    But there are many other ‘worlds’ of practices that we CAN share with the other. We can participate with them in shared recreational activities, for instance. We can do the same with ‘alien’ species like dogs, when we play fetch with them. Whether we are ‘really’ understanding each other is not a question that need be asked as long as the game is flowing smoothly. Given that astrology makes use of concepts that are loose enough to be amenable to a wide variety of interpretations producing different practices among disparate communities, one can find those who consider themselves to have undergone a ‘conversion’ form astrological belief to astronomy, where for others astrology and astronomy can happily co-exist as distinct but not incommensurable worlds.

    I like this exposition. I think it surprisingly gets along better than I would have predicted with the Davidsonian picture -- perhaps we could treat Davidson's notion of incommensurability as a kind of high-standard, truly alien incommensurability, but that this is a bit off from the sort of incommensurability which Kuhn and Feyerabend are talking about, or what we ourselves may distinguish.

    In a way we could read Davidson as providing some hurdles to the notion of incommensurability such that we have to be able to understand how it is we come to understand designating a scheme as such, and in so doing how it is it's not just something mundane, like disagreement or ignorance, when we do come to understand that.

    It seems you and I have some agreement that it comes down to how people interact together, their practices and such , and I can get along with conceiving of normative discursive communities as participating in differing worlds when we understand these worlds as language games or forms of life, since I try to understand incommensurability in terms of what people are doing and noting how sometimes they are acting at cross-purposes.

    And I think your description of changing beliefs makes a good deal of sense -- how the bridge beliefs between beliefs are mostly invisible to someone who still believes such and such makes a lot of sense. Isn't it this difference in beliefs, and the ability to understand someone else's beliefs, that gives rise to the notion that we have the ability to distinguish between concepts, or at least competing beliefs, such that we'd be able to make the claim to a schematism?

    But also I think you're on point to say that as we move from a previous belief to a new one the old belief "morphs" to some extent. It's no longer the same belief, but a new one as defined by the web within which it sits. One thing here, then, might be that while there's a schematism it can never be articulated because the very act of articulation changes it. We come to understand that there's a scheme behind our belief formation, but in so understanding we also cut ourselves off from its constancy such that we can call it a scheme -- it becomes a bundle of beliefs that are ever-changing instead.

    I think it’s important to take seriously the reality of radically incommensurable conceptual schemes, worlds, forms of life. The often violent breakdown in communication that incommensurability between ethico-political communities produces cannot be adequately ameliorated by consultation of a presumed single real world, even Davidson’s indirect one One needs to recognize that these multiple worlds of practices cannot be reduced to a single correct one., even if we believe such reduction is only an asymptotic goal never to be reached.Joshs

    I agree! But also note that this is why it's important that we get it correctly -- breakdown in communication and incommensurability can have some of the worst consequences for us. I agree that the temptation to reduce everything to a single way of speaking, My Way Which is Right, gets in the way of finding real strategies for understanding one another and coming to live together.

    I think that we could be tempted to use Davidson to skip over what was ever meant by "incommensurable" -- but I think that it's better for understanding when we might go "off the rails" with the idea and become either incoherent or dogmatic.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"
    What, then, do we want to say is the relationship between astrology and astronomy? “Asymmetrical” doesn’t seem to cover it. Any ideas?J

    Some thinking out loud:

    Incommensurable is the word I'm tempted by :D

    But then it seems to be too convenient, in a way. It depends upon just how radical is radical incommensurability, I think -- taking Kuhn's book sometimes it seems a matter of harsh disagreement, and sometimes it seems they inhabit different experiential worlds which in turn give the theories meaning which in turn explains their radical incommensurability.

    Feyerabend made the claim that astrology could be a kind of research program, and it's for this reason that I often think through it as an example. It seems to me that one could, if they wanted, perform a scientific examination of astrology, but that this is not how we relate to astrology at present, be we believers or skeptics in its truth. They are at cross-purposes, and so rather than being incommensurable due to experiential difference they are simply trying to do different things entirely while having a superficial resemblance to one another. Astronomy, as practiced by science, is trying to do science with respect to the stars and planets and such, while astrology is trying to soothe people's fears about the future or their place within the world or what it is they ought to do with their life today: one is descriptive of the universe, and the other is therapeutic. And what Feyerabend would point out is that when astronomer's attempt to debunk astrology they end up looking like one another rather than looking like a proper scientific enterprise; appeals to authority and a general belief in progress from the primitive to the modern frequently substitute for a proper scientific or philosophical analysis of the concepts, where you can find some cases of the stars influencing life -- Feyerabend points to plants responding to solar flares, and oysters responding to the waves which in turn is the result of the moon. It's not what the astrologists say, but that's no excuse for the philosophical examination of astrology.

    So minimally I think I'd say they are at cross-purposes, and so this gives a kind of incommensurability that's not conceptual, exactly -- if someone is trying to dance on a floor and another person is trying to tile that floor at the same time then they are incommensurable in the sense that they are working at cross-purposes within the same space.

    If we have people working at cross-purposes does that then give us a reason to believe they are conceptually incommensurable? In a way it makes sense of Davidsonian charity as a requisite for intertranslatability --if we want different things then we have less of a reason to extend charity and then speech becomes interpreted in a manner which it's not being employed for, and if we aren't even aware that we're speaking at cross-purposes then we are in a kind of defunct communicative relationship. That at least gives some grounds for judging whether or not our respective "camps" are incommensurable. But it's not exactly conceptual anymore -- it's practical, in the sense of praxis, which seems to me to be a bit more mundane.

    But perhaps this is just the result of finding an explanation: when we understand things they seem a bit more mundane. Wasn't that the point of explaining, to make it less surprising? To make it more understandable? So there's a sense in which this explanation dispells the belief in in principle incommensurability.

    Though there's still @Banno's example of Dolphins, which I think it is a good example to think through with respect to intertranslatability too. Rather than martians we can just look to our large-brained ocean mammals as a kind of alien which is clearly social and communicating, but seemingly we are unable to translate theirs into our language.

    The part that I'd still be uncertain about, at least, is whether or not they inhabit a different world or not. In fact it seems that we could set this as an aside entirely: insofar that we're able to tell that other humans inhabit different worlds so we'd be able to do the same if we are able to communicate with dolphins. But the Davidsonian argument against conceptual schemes -- insofar that conceptual schemes are what lead to different experiential worlds -- presents a difficulty in that by understanding incommensurable worlds we make them no longer incommensurable: what appeared to be radical difference was no more than simple human ignorance. But that does not then mean the Dolphins are in an entirely different world from us as much as it means they experience the world differently, just as you'd expect for any creature which has different capacities but is also social and needing to collectively understand in order to accomplish species-level goals. So in a way, due to this, here we are understanding the Dolphins even if we cannot talk to the dolphins (since we are not dolphins) in the sense that we see they are a species which relies upon other members, like ourselves, and so we interpret their songs and movements as a kind of language -- that is, we're already crossing the in principle level of incommensurability which Davidson speaks against as impossible.

    The question sort of becomes: is this what was ever meant by incommensurable theories? Probably not, given how little dolphins feature in Kuhn's or Feyerabend's work ,at least to my knowledge. But, all the same, it's a good point to bring up about truly alien conceptual thinking: if it were, then we don't understand it, by the very notion of "alien"; however, this might be a bit of a bulldozer in the face of the seemingly incommensurable between human beings, which requires a bit more nuance to see in what way it's not incommensurable.
  • Perverse Desire
    But aren't cures almost always painful? And won't patients need to accept and tolerate pain if they want to be cured? I don't track your idea that the cure will be painless, or that a doctor treats a patient without any cooperation on the part of the patient. I mostly think that Epicurus will require Aristotle's continence, unless perhaps he has a cure the likes of which the world has never seen!Leontiskos

    Hrmm, not painless, I agree with that -- Lucretius' poem talks about how the cure is painful, and the reason to put it into poetry was to sweeten it in the same way that you sweeten medicine for children when they don't want to take it; so the literature supports that the cure is painful, but is more pleasurable in the long term given that the anxious mind is what is being cured. And I think one has to want a cure in order for it to work its magic -- you have to agree that the pain you feel now is worth getting rid of, and it's this point that I think most would pass over an Epicurean ethic: "you mean that this exciting life is painful? Sign me up for more pain!" would be a common refrain.

    But such a person isn't expected to just act on themselves, for instance -- Alcoholics Anonymous is similar in this regard. The community is what provides support for people to change their behavior for the better, after having acknowledged that there is a problem. And here this is important because it's not an individual's willpower which is at fault for alcoholism, as if they could only conjure more willpower then they'd be able to resist the urge; if anything that image is exactly what's in the way of finding a realistic path to changing one's behavior, by all accounts!

    Rather there must be some way that a community can help an individual who is lacking in this capacity, and the failure of the individual is a failure on the part of the community to provide enough support. The question becomes: How do we help this person become happy, given that they are unable?

    This gets along with the notion that ought implies can, but while acknowledging psychological or behavioral limits of individuals; it's not a lack of willpower, though a presence of willpower would surely make the doctor's task easier, it's that this person requires something more than willpower (given their total inability in that regard).
  • Perverse Desire
    Okay, so in our culture we would think a lot about consent. So if you are an Epicurean doctor and I submit myself to your care then you can work your magic on me, but as soon as I withdraw my consent then it is no longer permissible for you to operate on me. If the "medicine" is onerous then I will be liable to withdraw consent, and thus continence will be necessary, no?Leontiskos

    Hrmm, not if the cure is making you happier, I'd imagine.

    Or here we are -- if you withdraw consent then this is just a failure on the part of the doctor to administer the cure. "Fault" here not in an ethical sense, but rather in an exploratory sense -- if we find a person who is resistant to the cure then we have more to overcome.

    What have the Epicurean doctors been doing for these millennia? Have they found ways to operate on and transform souls without any effort or difficulty on the part of the soul? This is where my skepticism swells.Leontiskos

    Well, first I'd say that there no longer exist Epicureans in this manner where there were schools and such. This way of life is a dead way of life, and so asking after their practices is something of an academic exercise already. At most today we have people who are inspired by the writings, but nothing so organized as it was.

    It seems to me that they operated on similar principles that other churches do: forming communities which reinforce and teaches norms and sets the people who are within that community outside of the social milieu to which they originally belonged such that the social organism comes to influence the person to adopt the way of life. It's a church, more or less, and they were like priests.

    But then we're left with an ancient record to piece these things together, and I'm certain that just like any church there were people who did not get along with the cure. That is I share your skepticism that they had such a cure. But the philosophy around how to treat a sick soul is still quite different: it's not their lack of willpower, but a lack of knowledge on the part of the administrator of the cure. In a way the person who is not cured is morally ignorant -- you cannot expect them to behave in accord with right living because they're still attached to wrong living.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    I don’t see it: can you elaborate? That’s just a hypothetical imperative being used to with modus ponens to derive the consequent. Or are you saying it is world-to-word direction of fit because it is hypothetical, since it is subjective? I could get on board with that, but I don’t see how there’s such a thing as a fact which has a world-to-word direction of fit. ‘You ought to bring an umbrella’ (P2) is non-factual (to me).Bob Ross

    Hrmm, not sure. Sometimes I use the boards to think out loud and sometimes it's more piffle than substance. I'm going with that now. I was thinking how the verb shouldn't matter when translating sentences into a logic, and so it would also go with facts. But in that spirit I was just using silly examples that follow the form, in the same way that we use silly examples to demonstrate validity (like "if the moon was made of green cheese" etc.)

    In another logic, though, you would track the predicates. So... meh. Just some fluff in trying to lay out a way of thinking.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    The only potential way out of it is to deny word-to-world direction of fit, but I as of yet to hear a fully fleshed out concept of a fact with world-to-word direction of fit.Bob Ross

    One truth that is no fact are the logical truths, I think. There's no fact that makes "A = A" true. It's not a state of affairs, and I'm not using this "is" statement to set out how the world is as much as I'm setting out how we're going to talk about the world at all.

    That is, here is a truth without a direction of fit at all, and since we have to accommodate truth to at least allow for logical truth we must accept that sometimes there are true sentences which do not set out how the world is, that are true regardless of the states of affairs.

    I think this is largely in line with the analogy to mathematical reasoning for moral thinking.

    Now we note that in a logic the verb is limited to "is", and it's noted that we need some kind of implicature to connect one to the other, such as "if it is raining then you ought bring an umbrella"

    Consider "If you ought bring an umbrella you ought to sing a song; You ought to bring an umbrella, and therefore..." : if we render this into a sentential logic then "ought" disappears and you have modus ponens with sentences which at least appear to have a world-to-word direction of fit (since these are actually just examples in a reflection on the question, though, they do not -- that is, I think I'd tie the pragmatics to determining direction of fit)

    Which is to note that we need not even derive an ought from an is or an is from an ought; that in terms of our logic or language, at least, that these are metaphysical theses. Consider the verb "to have" in relation here -- if facts are statements with a word-to-world direction of fit then "to have" is, logically speaking, a modification of the copula and fits just fine within sentential logic. So it would go with "ought" -- this is a modification of the One Big Logical Copula, you could say, which includes variations of useage between people, be it setting out a definition, setting out states of affairs, or setting out what we ought to do.

    I think that this account is relying upon a deflationary view of truth, as opposed to a correspondence theory of truth, though. So it could very well be considered an anti-realism on that account, if the target is a belief in moral facts to which moral statements correspond.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    In trying to relate the logical, propositional view with a psychological perspective, I start from the thought that ‘ought’ and ‘should’ arise where there is an indeterminate situation, with at least two outcomes being possible. In science, when we say a certain outcome ought to ensue, we mean that it is statistically likely given our knowledge of the facts involved. When we say a moral outcome ought to ensue, we dont mean one outcome is more likely than the alternatives, but that we prefer one outcome over the others. Where things get tricky from a psychological perspective is when we compare the grounds for our moral preference with the grounds for considering one empirical outcome more likely than another. Even if we believe that moral preferences can be justified on the basis of something more than whim, the social realities we might argue bind our moral preferences ( people shouldn’t happily torture dogs) would seem to be a different category than the empirical realities binding our scientific oughts. But is this distinction justified? If we say the direction of fit for empirical oughts is from the word to the world, aren’t we forgetting that the world we are relying on is already defined on the basis of the social reality of a discursive paradigmatic scheme? So it seems in both the case of the empirical ‘is’ and the moral ‘ought’ , we are relying on a grounding in a social reality that is itself the product of a pragmatic, contingent coordination of values.Joshs

    That's interesting.

    I'm with you that we rely upon the social, and that we're embedded in a world with others. But is the social a product, when considered ethically? I think a product is a relation between entities and how they interact, a kind of description of process from one entity to another. Descriptively our empirical "is" and our moral "ought" come from the same space -- and this would be true if we emphasize the social in our description of a psychology or some kind of description of its structure -- but does this explain why we differ in our judgments on particular ethical problems that seem intractable and without answer? Is it simply that we are part of a different tribe which presently enacting values at odds?

    That would seem to follow along with there not exactly being an answer here as much as a preference, no? It's like the values we're coordinating with others are the basis upon which we can make a distinction between empirical 'is' and moral 'ought', but does that recognition give us an entry into understanding a path out of seemingly intractable ethical problems?
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Whether or not it’s persuasive is a separate matter. Flat Earthers often aren’t persuaded.

    I’m only trying to explain moral realism, not argue that it’s correct.

    Oh. Well... I think I understand the explanation of moral realism you've supplied. I can understand that it can be defended, which is why I noted I'm not going for necessity. That's too high a bar, and it's not even interesting to the problem that I see because maybe we could, at some point, find agreement on intractable questions in which case my entire argument would evaporate.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    OK, now it's fixed. :D Oof. Thanks :) True.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    And why can’t it be that one such state of affairs is that we ought not harm another?Michael

    You can, it's just not persuasive to the person who believes we ought to harm another, so our differences remain even as you call it a state of affairs.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    That someone assigned the property of truth to an uttered sentence is detectable. What does that mean, though? Is there supposed to be come correspondence between the so called true statement and the world? Or does truth just have a social function, as a deflationist might say?frank

    I'd say that it means the speaker believes it ought to be true, in the case of moral propositions. So "One ought not kick puppies for fun" is true means that I believe one ought not kick puppies for fun.

    But in terms of the metaphysics of morals... well, yeah, there'd be some disagreements there. And we could appeal to taste in making a case for one or another metaphysic. Though that doesn't preclude a kind of real ethic in the sense that actions are real, and metaphysics can be seen as kind of literature rather than our real actions, that it is about our actions, and so taste comes about because we're evaluating literature rather than actions, and in the case of action we might make the case that there's more to it than taste, that goodness -- and not just beauty -- is important too.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    The only difference is that some sentences use "is" and some use "ought", and that this verb indicates how we are using the word: the statements which use "is" have a direction of fit from the words to the world. What we say is made true or false because of the states of affairs of the world. It doesn't get much more specific than "states of affairs", I believe, unless we want a metaphysical exposition of facts. Here the reliance is upon language-use as opposed to metaphysics: we use the words in a manner where we want them to set out states of affairs, and this is the whole of it.

    With an ought-statement, however, we use it in the reverse: We want the states of affairs to fit with our words rather than our words to set out states of affairs. So "You ought not eat the baby" is about what you ought-not do rather than what you are doing: One describes, the other proscribes, and this difference in use seems to cause some problems in thinking through ethics.

    We can call it a fact, being this is a free world and we're setting out how it's best to talk, but the ethical differences seem to remain.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Hrmm... not can't. I wouldn't reach for necessity. More just noting that this is not how we normally use the word "fact", at least -- usually we mean word-to-world, where the words are meant to set out how the world is. But we can, of course, adopt other expressions -- just they become subtle or uncertain at some level when so doing. Immediately after what you quote I note how volitions and actions are clearly real, right? And I've also said that this could just be a feature of things now, that we may find some way of dealing with ethics in the same manner that we deal with other bodies of knowledge.

    The closest to "can't" might be the argument from queerness, but I have to admit that I think that argument only follows with a greater degree of certainty about how the world is. Or, also, one might contend that "truths", in the above sense as distinct from facts, are queer, and so the argument is overcome.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Well, there's a subtly here that I'm now not certain about -- between truths and facts, to give a name to the distinction, where truths might include more than features of the world or how it is and so can include statements like "One ought such and such", which then can be true, and understanding the difference between them and facts is through its direction-of-fit. But that doesn't disqualify them from being real, per se, because surely our actions and volitions are real? It only disqualifies them from being facts to the extent that we understand facts to only include statements with word-to-world direction of fit.

    Whereas before I think I've been treating these as lumped together in thinking through intractable problems in ethics, and wondering, in that ambiguity, if this is more a matter of faith than reason, or at least a kind of faith within the bounds of reason.

    We might say that the hermit on the mountain tells the emporer a truth about the world at the end of the story of the Doestevsky'sDostoevsky'sTolstoy's three questions even though it does not rely upon facts. There's a sense in which the story gives credence to the notion through on over-arching providence, but I think that's understandable in the context of a story trying to deal with what seem like reasonable questions that don't have specific, factual answers.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism

    Oh. Well, now I see it.
    Read this morning. It's definitely more soothing than the Dane's :D

    It seems right, though.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Hrmm, I'd say we've already covered this point a bit, and the account laid by is sufficient for me to see a difference between claiming those as moral facts, and claiming Biblical moral facts as moral facts. I like the Book of Moral Propositions because I don't want to get sidetracked into discussions about why the Bible is true, given all the possible avenues that can go. Instead it's The Good Book because we defined it as so, in this thought experiment. In it the Book of Moral Propositions has one that you happen to disagree with. Do you change your mind?

    But this is different from

    ...ethical truth does not set out how the world is, but how we are to act in the world. It's centrally about volition and action. SO it's not about how the world is, but what we might do in it.

    So of course no fact about the world will demonstrate it's truth.

    So we get a T-sentence such as
    "one ought not kick puppies for fun" is true IFF one ought not kick puppies for fun
    Now there are all sorts of ways to unpack this, or extend it...
    "one ought not kick puppies for fun" is true IFF Kicking puppies for fun decreases the total happiness of the world
    "one ought not kick puppies for fun" is true IFF one can will that puppies never get kicked for fun
    or even
    "one ought kick puppies for fun" is true IFF kicking puppies for fun increases my personal autonomy

    And each of these the direction of fit is reversed by the antecedent.

    Which puts volition and action at the center, rather than the propositions in a book.

    I didn't make this connection, though I ought to have before -- but a reread of Fear and Trembling might be due.
  • Spirit and Practical Ethics
    Yes, there are nuances and flavours, but I do believe the essence of the reasoning holds. I agree, if you see your offspring as a continuation. I'd argue that is a form of transcendentalism. I think the only form of transcendentalism that would be responsibility-immune would be some kind of crazy-Calvinistic notion that salvation is pre-ordained. If you keep it simple, to the belief in an "ongoing," it is hard to escape the burdens and benefits of accepting full responsibility for the ultimate consequences of your behaviours.Pantagruel

    I can see how the story goes. That makes sense in a way, but let's consider another case of a materialist below.

    From a practical perspective, whose ethic is the more trustworthy? Materialists seem to lose interest in the consequences of their actions, inasmuch as they will ultimately not be around to see them. So present measurability governs their imperatives. While Transcendentalists, who think of themselves as ongoing, commit to the idea of themselves as being around to reap the consequences of their actions. All things being equal, would you rather trust the ethic of someone whose actions are premised around the belief that, when you're dead you're gone. Or someone who believes in the idea of an ongoing responsibility for deeds?Pantagruel

    In answering the question directly I'm saying that I don't have a strong preference either way with respect to their metaphysical beliefs.

    Some materialists are just naturally inclined towards doing good things because that's what you do -- it's simple. Some transcendentalists, in spite of believing in eternity, are fairly selfishly involved, as human beings tend to be, and the metaphysical beliefs don't matter too much to what they'll do.

    So my preference has to do with the sort of person they are, ethically, and not the beliefs they hold about metaphysical reality, and having met too many good people on either side of that spectrum of belief, at least if self-report is to be believed. If transcendentalism gets a person to see the ethical then that's the belief for them, and if materialism gets a person to see the ethical then that's the belief for them, but it's the ethical that matters and is what I would base my preference on.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    I realized this morning I kind of hijacked your thread @Bob Ross, so apologies for that. What can I say other than this has been something that's been bugging me and I've been thinking about, and none too clearly given how I'm jumping between points. Thanks for providing the opportunity to work out some thoughts, and forgive my excesses.

    I think what you say here gets at the doubts that I'm trying to express in philosophical form:

    P2-A*2*1: If one does not know something is true, then they have no reason to belief that something is true.Bob Ross

    It's whether or not we should call this knowledge that makes me doubt. In some sense if we don't have a knowledge of ethics then we are functionally nihilists, even if we believe there are true moral statements, because then what makes the decision is sentiment and attachment to this or that principle rather than a process of deliberation or a cadre of experts who know.

    So the astrology analogue doesn't work.

    That's a bit of a ramble, but it's after a heavy lunch.

    Oh I've been rambling myself in trying to pick through the thoughts. I appreciate you taking the time to continue your side of the conversation. Perhaps I'll come to some better way of putting things through this talking.

    Good points. I suppose the question would be is that if this difference is enough to warrant our belief in a knowledge of the ethical, since this is the doubt. Or, at least, is sometimes the doubt. Because you're right here:

    But especially in this area, it's the disagreement that gets the attention.Banno

    I recognize there's agreement. But the depth of disagreement still gives rise to a belief that we're no longer talking about true things, at least sometimes, in spite of agreement. The desire is to avoid a conclusion like this:
    Reject ethical truth values and all there is, is violence.Banno

    Because I certainly don't believe that all there is is violence. I want to say that even from an anti-realist perspective that wouldn't follow, else I wouldn't explore anti-realism! But that is certainly a belief we share that we ought to avoid in our reasoning that, at bottom, it's all violence.

    I think we can use our words to come to resolutions without resorting to violence, and that this is a desirable thing. The appeal to heart is to note how there's no proof to be had, that is, no war to be fought in the name of a true cause. That is there's this use of moral realism which also yields the conclusion "it's all violence". This way of talking ethically where people want violence because they are in the right strikes me as a backwards ethics, but the language is the same. So we get some odd duck who persuades others

    "one ought kick puppies for fun" is true IFF kicking puppies for fun increases my personal autonomy

    And you begin to wonder where the truth in it all is when the odd duck is persuasive.
    Is there really much disagreement on things like, "One should not kill their newborn infant," or, "One should not lie without reason"?Leontiskos

    I think there are times when such propositions come to seem empty or at least people begin to redefine who counts as a person and who doesn't. But since it's our actions, rather than the words, which matter to me this is the sort of thinking that seems to want truth and violence and goodness. Perhaps it's this trifecta that bugs me. I can't square away that we ought to kill and call this a good and say it is true that we ought to kill. I can understand living in a world where violence is necessary, but I cannot then say that this world is a good one because my sentiments are largely peace-loving. And I think it's this intuition which gets along with @Bob Ross's use of the Guillotine -- in some sense I am committed to non-violence, and that's the sentiment what underpins my reasoning here. But not everyone is, and some people even think this is a poor way to go about things because it's not realistic in our world. So which is right, in accord with ethical knowledge?

    It seems like something of a judgment call to me that has no truth to it. In a way it's where my ability to reason on the situation breaks.

    And I suppose this is why I find statements like ""One ought not kick puppies for fun" is true" as unpersuasive. Sure, but It's the hard questions that give me pause, not the points of agreement. And our love of puppies does nothing to speak to our, what appears to me, thirst for violence.

    You seem to want to say, "Well, not enough people agree with me, so it probably isn't true."Leontiskos

    Heh. I think this is to be avoided. My doubt can be put in reverse form, for my purposes, because I'm doubtful of a knowledge, at least at times: I am unable to agree with others and so I wonder on what basis I have to think that this is a knowledge I possess at all? What could change my mind on the matter to conform with others? Perhaps this is also why I see it as faith -- it seems like I'm the odd man out, and yet I cannot change my belief in spite of this.

    Now sometimes I have changed my mind. The question of violence is one I tend to go back and forth on, but the at-bottom sentiment is what drives me to think "No, it's pretty much wrong". One thing that moral realism explains is that people do, at times, change from one perspective to another because they think it's true. In fact I'd say this is why, early on, I had realist inclinations because I've changed over time in the same way I've changed my beliefs about facts in the world. It seemed to me that because I had changed my mind on this or that moral position that there must be some truth to the matter. But I notice many prefer to stay where they are -- so it does really seem to come to seem less like a knowledge than I had previously thought. I'm still open to looking at various articulations, but most of the time I see people setting up camps rather than exploring the various ways of thinking through the ethical.

    Or, at least, the desire is to find a way to express ethics in a way that it's not just "Well, not enough people agree with me, so it probably isn't true" -- because that seems to be where we're at on some issues.

    But I must admit that these desires and doubts are not arguments. The argument for me, more than the Guillotine (because I think sentiment is perfectly compatible with rationality, and there could be interesting ways of working sentiment into logical form) is from difference, in the form "If morals were real then we would agree to such and such a standard. We do not agree to that standard, therefore morals are not real" -- but I can see it needs delimiting from the way this expresses, and some of my doubt is based in an inability to articulate a standard. It's too broad and gives the impression that I'm arguing that morals are necessarily not real, where the actual doubt is: here are some issues where reasoning seems to stop working, and so I have some doubts about whether truth is part of our discussion here or whether this is a body of knowledge or whether it's an art, and how to go about thinking here.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"
    We can write from the point of view of those who see the rabbit, or those who see the duck. That's being "situated" because we are able to contrast the two . But we can also from the view of those who see the duck-rabbit. With what is this to be contrasted?

    Or if you prefer, being "situated" is always post-hoc.

    Yes, I think that's the idea: that there's no real way to get around the post hoc choice of a situation to write a history from so the best one can do is specify it. You pick duck, you pick rabbit, or you pick duck-rabbit and organize the documents to tell your story accordingly. There's a pluralism here: they're all good for something, and a fuller understanding of history arises by including all of the perspectives. They're still bound by the documents and such to demonstrate their case, too: it can't just be making shit up.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Again, we cannot reason about ethics unless we acknowledge that ethical statements have truth values.Banno

    Right. We agree this far. The fear, let's say, is that they are all of them false.

    We are repeating an argument that occurred after the war in Oxford and Cambridge, notably between Ayer and his intellectual children, and the "four women", Anscombe, Foot, Midgley and Murdoch. In the wake of the war, many philosophers could not accept the view that morals were no more than expressions of disquiet or preference. There was a renewed insistence on treating ethical themes rationally. This was part of the rejection of Positivism.

    It's not so much a matter of faith as of grammar.

    M'kay. Then all I can claim is it feels like faith because I'm uncertain, then.

    But also I don't think I'd reduce ethics to expressions of disquiet or preference. Philosophy and rationality go hand in hand, and I think ethical philosophy a good thing to pursue, so I'm certainly not opposed to insisting on treating ethical themes rationally. I hold the same for the arts -- we can reason about the arts, but there even in our knowledge of these things we have to acknowledge it's not all truth and inference and deduction. But then I'm not sure what the role of truth is in evaluating art. I know it's important because this is how we think about things, but also there is something to be said for the performance or the heart in such matters too, and to note how artists have different movements which disagree with one another and we don't really think of Cubism, say, as true.

    Ethics is the philosophy of the art of living, perhaps, though it covers more than that too in its course because we are concerned about many things as we deliberate on that question of how best to live or the right thing to do.

    there are statements that we think of as true or as false, that say how folk ought behave; and we make use of these statements in deductions.Banno

    This is why astrology is a persuasive example to me. The astrologists think of the statements as true or false, and make use of the statements in deductions: it's at least possible for us to talk this way and believe it and it be false.

    Now I believe astrology to have reasons for why it's false, and I think it differs from ethics so this is just to make the case against using arguments as a demonstration of truth.

    It's just the sniggling suspicion that if there were real ethical principles then we'd probably agree a little more on some of the intractable problems. But that could just be a problem with us at the moment rather than something that will always be, so I don't argue to the point that there must not be moral facts or some such. Rather it's just that it seems like an art at this point.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    So this might be the better way of putting things -- the anti-realist position sets doubts which a realist position may attempt to overcome, but I haven't been able to figure out how it is that you do that while accomplishing the goal of making a body of ethical knowledge (not producing it, just in a big-picture, philosophy kind of way). Rather it seems we have many different ways of life, many different possibilities which work for some and don't work for others. We can list a few things we agree upon but this agreement does not overcome the disagreement elsewhere. The direction of fit is important for the purposes of persuading people. Usually, by "fact", we mean world-to-word, rather than word-to-world. So how is it that the ought statements can be persuasive as they are in other disciplines which we count as knowledge?

    I wouldn't want to foreclose the possibility of moral realism. I'm not so sure it's necessarily wrong. But I think it worthwhile to either accept that it's a matter of faith -- a faith which we can then reason about, and even seem to benefit some from doing that -- or be able to articulate how it isn't a matter of faith.
  • Spirit and Practical Ethics
    I think the important part you highlight is that we ought to take stewardship for future generations. I can imagine a Transcendentalist who doesn't care about the future because we reap our benefits in heaven, and a materialist who does because they realize that those are their family members and they are committed to family.

    But the important part is whether or not they believe they are responsible for the future or not. The metaphysics is just a dressing to that.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Why pay this any heed, when it is clear that there are moral facts, and that we can and do use them to make inferences? Mackie's argument from queerness just confuses being objective and direction of fit. We all agree that one ought not kick puppies for fun, and so objectivity is irrelevant.
    ...we're not just asserting our convictions...
    — Moliere
    But isn't "asserting our convictions" what we do in physics as well as morality? We engineer planes from what we believe to be true. Why shouldn't we do the same thing in Ethics?

    The argument from difference gets me more than the argument from queerness. It strikes me that there would be more agreement if ethics were real. (not scientific, here, or even empirical or anything of that sort -- I've been trying to be careful in laying out the case).

    I don't think it's as much of a "shouldn't" as a suspicion that it's not going to work the same way. The direction of fit is what marks the difference between physics and ethics while still using facts in our reasoning. But how would you demonstrate to someone that "One ought not kick puppies for fun" is different from "One ought to take the sacrament"? Direction of fit takes care of ought-statements. Which of all the moral propositions are the ones which should be considered?

    Suppose there was a book of all the moral propositions which disagrees with our commitment. I don't think any of us would change our minds on how we should treat puppies just because we have the book of moral propositions. In fact I'd say we already have such a book in our culture and we call it The Bible yet we clearly don't interact with that book in the same way. So given that how is it that we make ethics work as a discipline based in fact, or at least makes us able to make cases and demonstrate their truths?

    It's in the weeds that my doubts grow. Error theory is just a challenge to the notion that because we make demonstrations we can conclude that there are facts to the matter since there are other such ways of talking which do the same but which we wouldn't say are really factual. We're able to fool ourselves into thinking we're speaking about real things. How is it that we know ethical talk isn't just an important game of astrology?

    And this is important because it could be why it is we disagree so deeply on ethical matters: if it's not factual then we're not going to be able to prove to someone else that they are wrong. And here I just mean demonstrable in a way other than merely agreeing that something is true. This turns ethics into a kind of race for ears or as a kind of game where we can prove our point; but I'd suggest that reading all the viewpoints is what makes one more capable of judging ethically. It's not truth and agreement as much as being willing to listen to another's viewpoint and finding what works that marks the path to a working ethic -- but in so doing that, and seeing how much disagreement there is, I feel doubt that there are truths as much as we're emotionally connected to some propositions. It's a matter of heart, so it seems to me.

    But what's more this actually makes room for philosophy. It's because we cannot form a discipline where we have experts which generate knowledge of the ethical that the practice of philosophy remains relevant. We care about ethics, and reason about it, and even more so I think we like to be able to reason about it. Why else would there be so many tracts on right living if it weren't a concern of ours? But philosophy is that discipline which allows us to reflect upon the complicated things in life, and train our judgment.

    I know it's counter-intuitive, but in a lot of ways anti-realism actually seems better for ethical talk than realism. The path of realism just has people trying to prove to one another that they are the better ones, and they were right all along, and its this impulse which anti-realism is good at taking the wind out of.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    What part of this did Nietzsche not understand? Was J. L. Mackie unfamiliar with the linguistic practices of his community?J


    It's kind of funny to me because my interpretation of N is in conflict with Mackie. But they are also a bit disparate, in terms of time and place, so it's more notional. I'd say that N is the uber-anti-nihilist rather than a nihilist. The way I read him is as a heroic attempt to overcome nihilism in light of the death of God.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"
    Moliere, I echo Banno's appreciation for your careful reading.J

    Thanks back :) It's always nice to feel appreciated.

    About “phlogiston” and meaning change: Really? This is a rather eccentric use of “meaning,” isn’t it? I’ll grant you that phlogiston now has vastly different connotations and employments than it originally did, but has the meaning actually changed? Or perhaps I’m not understanding you deeply enough.J

    Perhaps my repeating the mantra "meaning is use" is obscuring my judgment. However, yes, really. I wouldn't have any idea how to tabulate how much phlogiston, and yet many practicing chemists in the past would have started with that tabulation. It's very easy to imagine that it was the same as we do it now but since we aren't there (or would it be better to say "since we aren't then"?) we don't know that simply, meaning we have to make inferences. Further we don't really use the same instruments that they used at that time, which to me is the most important part in thinking about meaning in science (I'm more on the experimental side than the theoretical side).

    So while I accept it sounds weird I think the meaning of phlogiston has sufficiently changed to count as a kind of big change at least in terms of switching concepts. I'm still on the fence about radical, though.

    I feel I should note that for me the loss doesn't need to be a net-loss for it to count -- it's not like we change concepts for no reason at all. The important part there is that there is a loss of knowledge in changing concepts. Some loss is common in revolutions that aren't scientific -- why wouldn't the same hold with the social organizations of scientists?

    Why would different assignments of “either-true-or-false”, rather than different assignments of “true” and “false”, make any difference to the question of scheme-content dualism?J

    In thinking about sentences which are false, but in the form of the proposition, I always like to go to the example of astrology. If this is a bad example for you then I can find another one.

    The difference is in the way I interpret people who speak about astrology -- I would say astrology is a language which people use to talk about their or other people's identities/feelings/histories/etc. and look for a reason why they are the way they are. Which is to say that while it uses the words of planets and positions it doesn't mean that. So if we are to interpret these speakers with respect to the usual meaning we'd be forced -- if we are improperly performing a rational, literal analysis -- to say "These sentences are false. When you speak them I'd use these other sentences", to which we'd surely receive frustration because while I don't believe in astrology, the astrologist-speaking person usually does. But what's important isn't the literal meanings -- it's the talk about who they are and such that's important.

    I think that the WMT-person would be inclined to interpret the CMT-person in the same manner that I interpret astrology, and that is what makes communication at least difficult -- but here Davidson would note that since I've stated the case in words we aren't in principle incommensurable. In fact he'd use my example above in a similar manner that he uses the ketch example, I think. But note how this argument can be rendered in the transcendental form: the only possible way for us to disagree is if we agree. We disagree, and therefore we agree (at bottom) :D

    But then I have to admit that there is a solid difference between meaningful disagreement, which does seem to need agreement to at least continue, and silence or absurdity. So Davidson still has a point to me, and I feel, in reading all this, that I'm even more uncertain than when I started in spite of spilling so many words.
  • What is love?
    One missed in your opening is Erich Fromm's notion of love as an art: Rather than an emotion Fromm thinks the various forms of love are actions we perform, and just as we can become better piano players so we can also become better lovers -- in all capacities of loving.

    I wanted to ask: why is this question given such low priority? The arts are filled with references to love.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Naturally I'd say it's because of individualism :D -- it's considered a topic for an individual to "figure out", and it's generally thought to be understood so people don't believe there's a need to think about love. Rather than thinking about love many prefer to simply feel it and that's enough to count as an understanding.

    Which, to be fair, sentiment is important in loving. Or at least emotion if not sentiment if we want to emphasize the active components of love.

    But I do like that Fromm puts forward a notion of love as a practice that can be improved upon or diminished -- it makes a lot of sense of people who have no capacity for love, and how some people have a deep capacity for love. Rather than a character trait it's just something you learn how to do (or don't learn).
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Perhaps another way of looking at it --

    Sentences are not the bearers of moral worth. Actions are. Whether the sentence is true or false isn't important -- what we do is what's important, and actions are not truth-apt because they are not propositions.

    If error theory is correct then moral language is a kind of important fiction. And I note faith because I'm wondering if it's similar to the important fiction, for some, of the belief in God. Isn't moral worth a common point for people who believe in God? Then in what way is our moral deliberations different?

    It's important to me that they are different if we want to claim that they are real, because I'm an atheist. I simply cannot believe there is a God in the world I live in.

    So I'm happy to entertain the notion of a non-scientific moral realism. But then I want to know what that theory is such that we're not just asserting our convictions.
  • Is nirvana or moksha even a worthwhile goal ?

    I mean it sounds nice to me, but I don't think it makes sense to pursue it anxiously because that's counter-productive to the goal -- at least for me I have to accept who I am and live with that, and who I am is not that. I have my various anxieties and strange attachments and wanting to be content does not change this. But I still want to be happy and content with life. Why wouldn't I?

    The problem, as you note, is that this can be harder to do than it seems.

    But at the least I think that striving for contentment is counter-productive. Indeed, contentment strikes me as a lack of striving at all!

    Many of us seem to be persecuted by the idea that we should be more serious, more transcendent, more ethical. I'm somewhat simplistic - I think we should just get on with living and try not to be a cunt.Tom Storm

  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"
    It may be true that "phlogiston" doesn't have the same meaning now that it used to". If so, it is worth drawing attention to our realising that this is the case. We've moved beyond the incommensurability of the duck- people versus the rabbit-people to the "transcendental" realisation of the duck-rabbit.

    This capacity for "transcendence" (I don't like that word...) permits one to take on an historicist approach. So either one is parochial in taking on the mantle of one conceptual scheme in order to asses other; or one takes a position outside of the various conceptual schemes in order to assess them - an impossibility; or one agrees with Davidson in rejecting the notion of conceptual schema.

    If we adopt the historicist perspective, then we must look at the situation at the time Davidson was writing. Davidson's philosophically pretentious theory of meaning was necessary in order to break through the wall built by Feyerabend and Kuhn by providing a formal backbone to his argument.

    Further, if we take an historicist approach we must deal with the differing situations not just of Kuhn and Davidson, but of Davidson and Wang. Wang will not be addressing the same paper that Davidson wrote.

    Yes! And no! :D

    Let's see... the historicist approach, as I understand the method, has no need for transcendence as much as situatedness. A historian is aware that they are coming from a perspective so much so that their are multiple theories of history and you choose one to write within. So rather than a transcendent view from outside of history the historian writes from where they are, at least in modern historiography. This is why multiple histories of the same event are important for understanding an event -- there are many points of view which must be elaborated upon in order to get a full sense of that event.

    But, yes! I agree that in adopting the historicist perspective we must look at the situation at the time Davidson wrote, and I agree that Wang is not responding to the exact same paper which Davidson wrote -- the question I have is, why was it necessary to break through the wall of Feyerabend and Kuhn?
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Nor does the idea have any credibility. "One ought not kick puppies for fun" is true; the remainder of your post shows that you agree that it is true. You sensibly wish ethics to work in a way quite different to science, but throw out the babe.

    Indeed, adopting the proposal that ethical statements are not truth-apt is a way not of highlighting ethics but of reducing it so it may be thrown out of consideration. If ethical propositions are not truth apt, they cannot take a place in logic, and hence are outside of rational consideration.

    So, please, reconsider.

    Would that I could! These are genuine doubts on my part, though. I'd say that it's error theory which demonstrates how ethical propositions can be truth-apt, but false. So they can take on logical forms but they cannot form sound inferences. My thought is that if this were not so there'd be a way we could demonstrate moral truths -- but instead it seems to me that we're stuck with simply asserting them. This reminds me of declarations of faith in Christ more than it reminds me of logical inference.

    But I'm not willing to let go of the importance of ethics -- in fact I think it's central. So a lot of my thinking in this area has been to attempt to understand how it is ethics is important, how it's still part of a rational inquiry, and yet does not rely upon truth -- or at least, if it does, attempting to understand the manner in which it does.

    Further I think that by relying upon moral facts, in particular -- maybe truths is better -- we run the risk of scientism. Another part of my motivation is my doubt that a science of ethics is possible, and I think that talking of moral facts gives more credence to the idea of a science of ethics than it should.
  • "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"
    I love that paper. It's so incredibly good.

    But also note how in talking against incommensurability Rovelli does not shy from "conceptual structure" -- that's still a working metaphor in trying to describe knowledge. So he's not exactly a friend to Davidson either.

    It's been a minute since I've read that Davidson paper, and I'm finding myself more able to respond this time around. So I'm going to post first my response to Davidson, then go through Wang as a way of participating.

    Feyerabend is quoted by Davidson:

    Our argument against meaning invariance is simple and clear. It proceeds from the fact that usually some of the principles involved in the determinations of the meanings of older theories or points of view are inconsistent with the new . . . theories. It points out that it is natural to resolve this contradiction by eliminating the troublesome . . . older principles, and to replace them
    by principles, or theorems, of a new ... theory. And it concludes by showing that such a procedure will also lead to the elimination of the old meanings.

    I'd say there is such a thing as Kuhnian loss through meaning change as the scientific practices change -- "phlogiston" doesn't have the same meaning now that it used to because we don't use it as a serious scientific concept, but rather we use it as an example of how science undergoes changes and abandons concepts. We don't need to go along with Davidson's rendition of conceptual schemes as intertranslatable languages, and treating language meaning as something an individual can "check" strikes me as the wrong way since language is a collective practice. But I can't help but note that this "wrong way" is a common way of thinking so there's still something good about the paper's argument -- it forces a person to make sense of conceptual relativism while making the distinction explicit (be it scheme-content, or something else).

    I find historicism adequate to the task of understanding concepts -- it's the historical method, as applied to texts, which allows us to differentiate between concepts, at least (I'm less certain about "schemes", though -- I'd rather talk about the structure of an argument or a philosophy than a conceptual scheme). And rather than Saturnian and English I'd just note that even German and English have problems of intertranslatability, and that this is commonly known among translators as a kind of irresolvable problem. Against the extensional emphasis I put forward poetry translation as a case where we are able to differentiate meanings such that we can partially translate one language into another language, even if we don't know how it is we do this. But then if we have an example of partial translation (and so the case against partial meaning translation can be set aside as being factually wrong), and a method by which we can differentiate concepts, then the question of how it is we're able to make the claim for conceptual-relativism is made explicit and doesn't rely upon an implicit scheme-content dualism: Just as we can learn English and German and translate meanings between languages so we can learn concepts which differ, and it is through that knowledge, rather than a criterion or a duality, that we are able to judge the meanings of sentences. Then it's just a matter of being acquainted with more concepts -- having more knowledge -- which would allow one to make a judgment -- one that could be false! -- that scientists are at least using different concepts (if not inhabiting different worlds -- being-in-the-world, perhaps, but even that doesn't follow by necessity).

    And if we can do that then it seems that Davidson's objections are addressed, albeit not with the conceptual tools he chose to set it out with. We abandon scheme-content, and make the heady and exotic doctrine explicit. The question for me would be whether this still counts as a conceptual relativism, or not? In addressing Davidson's concerns do I, by that addressing, make conceptual schemes and relativism to conceptual schemes moot, or at least reducible to the predicate " true"?

    The problem I feel is that while I doubt schemes, I don't doubt it on the basis of a criteria for translation due to even mundane examples of translation being known to not be able to fully translate meaning. In a way I'm accusing Davidson of having a philosophically pretentious theory of meaning in relation to how we actually use these words.

    But I also doubt our ability to tabulate schemes very effectively such that we can make the relations between the elements of a scheme explicit. It seems to me that each time we try to render such a scheme it comes out slightly different -- or, at least, the meanings of sentences we use in describing such a scheme changes with each iteration, and so the task of articulating a scheme becomes incompletable, or at least artificial as we decide to hold some meanings constant in order to specify relations between them. At which point I begin to wonder-- why even call it a scheme if we are unable to articulate a structure without fiat? Why not just "a set of concepts", rather than a scheme, with the attendant difficulty of specifying what "concepts" means?


    But now onto Wang's paper, which I've never read until now. So it's fresh, and therefore more of a first reaction to the paper (but I didn't want to post before having read the paper, so here it is)

    I'm pleased to find Wang's statement:

    A radical conceptual relativist can respond to Davidson on two fronts: either to defend the translatability criterion or to separate conceptual relativism from the Quinean relativism as Davidson construes it by removing the translatability criterion out of the equation. The first route is a well-worn path that I will not belabor here. The second route, for me, is more effective and will be discussed in detail in section 3.

    Mostly out of vanity as it gets along with how I've managed to think through relativism in light of Davidson, and we seem to agree that separating conceptual relativism from Quinean relativism is an effective strategy for making the case.

    I found this paragraph to be similar to my strategy above talking about English and German:

    However, neither natural languages per se nor scientific languages construed as sentential languages can be identical with conceptual schemes. A natural language per se such as English or Chinese is in no sense a conceptual scheme. Does any conceptual relativist really seriously think that all Chinese would inherit a unique conceptual scheme different from the scheme that all English speakers are supposed to possess simply because they speak different natural languages? A natural language is not a theory. A natural language like Chinese or English does not schematize experience, nor even metonymically predicts, fits, or faces reality. Although part of a natural language, i.e. its grammar, does in some sense determine the logical space of possibilities (Whorf, 1956), it is the theoretical assertions made in the language that predict and describe reality and in so doing assert that which logical spaces are occupied in the world. Furthermore, a natural language is not even a totality of beliefs. It is absurd to assume that people who speak the same natural language would have the same belief system.

    And this line of argument to get along with my notion of historicism being adequate to the task of differentiating concepts:

    My major reservation with the Quinean notion of conceptual schemes is not just about many theoretical difficulties it faces, but rather with its basic assumption QT; for it does not square with observations of many celebrated conceptual confrontations between opposing conceptual schemes revealed in the history of natural sciences and cultural studies, especially those under the name of incommensurability. Examples include: Ptolemaic astronomy versus Copernican astronomy; Newtonian mechanics versus Einsteinian relativistic mechanics; Lavoisier's oxygen theory versus Priestley's phlogiston theory of combustion; Galenic medical theory versus Pasteurian medical theory; and so on. These familiar conceptual confrontations are, to me, not confrontations between two conceptual schemes with different distributions of truth-values over their assertions, but rather confrontations between two scientific languages with different distributions of truth-value status13 over their sentences due to incompatible metaphysical presuppositions. The advocate of an alien conceptual scheme not only does not hold the same notion of truth as ours, but also does not agree with us on the truth-value status of the sentences in question. These scheme innovations, in the end, turn not on differences in truth-values (different truth-schemes), but on whether or not the sentences in the alternative conceptual scheme have truth-values (different truth-value schemes).

    I'd say that these arguments highlighted here are well and good enough in that they highlight an underlying assumption which a relativist does not need to accept, which in turn gives room for the defender of conceptual schemes to come up with a different way to speak about conceptual relativism -- but Wang goes on to articulate a competitor all the same to give some credence to the idea that there are other ways of talking about conceptual schemes.

    I found this potent:

    . On the contrary, it is exactly due to the abandonment of the concept-neutral content and the denial of a fixed and absolute scheme-content distinction that turns Kantian conceptual absolutism upside down and thus makes conceptual relativism possible.

    A good bit of philosophy is accepting the conclusions of another philosopher, but then working out a different or opposite set of implications for that conclusion. His use of a thick/thin-experience distinction is good in that it gives a believable basis for thinking through concepts as relative: it's our thick experience of the world, the very one Davidson seems to care about in his closing remarks, that gives rise to the belief we are "in different worlds" due to the beliefs or concepts which shape our thick experience.

    And I found this insightful:

    Although Davidson realizes correctly that scheme-content dualism could well survive after the fall of the analytic-synthetic distinction, he is wrong to allege, ‘giving up the analytic-synthetic distinction has not proven a help in making sense of conceptual relativism’ (1974, p. 189). On the contrary, it is exactly due to the denial of a fixed, absolute analytic-synthetic distinction that makes alternative conceptual schemes possible. Quine's rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction (Quine, 1951) leads to abandoning the rigid distinction between concept, meaning, or language on the one hand and belief, thought, or theory on the other. It is no longer a novel idea today that all concepts themselves are empirical and none a priori; concepts we deploy upon experience are themselves the products of empirical inquires. In other words, concepts are theory-laden, fact committal, and change with theories. Accordingly, conceptual schemes change and evolve with corresponding theories. Thus, the Kantian absolute conceptual scheme gives away to relative, alternative conceptual schemes.

    In that he's making way for a post-Kantian conceptual relativism that makes sense in light of Quine. That's a great way of rendering the very idea at least coherent.

    ... I find this bit at the end relying upon evolutionary theory odd:

    We can safely assume, based on Darwinian evolution theory, that there are some basic experiential concepts shared by human cultures and societies.16 In this sense, they are global or universal.

    Because I don't think we can safely assume that, nor should we assume it, and even more so I don't think we need this assumption to make the case for a fuzzy distinction between scheme-content. And, even more, it would seem we'd have less reason to believe in conceptual relativism if we had some basic experiential concepts which are shared! If, in articulating a relativism we end up saying there's something the same between us it almost sounds like we're conceding the point to Davidson, that we do share concepts, and its this basis of shared concepts which makes it possible for us to articulate difference? Perhaps the difference here is one of degree, though -- which shouldn't be downplayed because sometimes the degree can at least be intense, and perhaps intense enough to want to use the word "radical" -- but it's at least similar to the notion that we have some kind of agreement from which we can articulate disagreement, putting the conceptual relativist in a shakey position if we want to express ourselves in terms of criteria.

    The section in Wang on WMT vs CMT is by far the weakest in the paper. We could exercise charity ourselves here and agree to ignore it!J

    I'm not so sure, here. One of the things that's nice is that it's an actual example. And differences or changes in meaning are frequently the way this thought works out, and here what's nice is that Wang points out that the difference of meaning isn't one of distributing " true" across sentences, but rather is a different kind of difference. Whether we ought to call this a radical or incommensurable difference I'm still on the fence about -- but I can at least recognize that the kind of meaning Wang is talking about isn't the same as Davidson's project of translation through truth. It's whether a sentence counts as truth-functional at all to a practice that marks the difference, rather than a distribution of truth-values.
  • Perverse Desire
    Well, how is akrasia overcome? I would be surprised if the depraved Epicurean becomes upright without a significant expenditure of effort and will. For example, just because his master tells him to do something, it does not follow that that something will be easy to do.Leontiskos

    The cure!

    The way I understand it -- if the Epicurean master had a brain surgery he could perform on people that would be effective that'd be acceptable. In a way this is, for the Epicurean, a question for medical science. It's not just telling people what to do, but more or less manipulating them for their own good. It's not just a spiritual practice, it's a cure that must be performed on the human soul for their benefit.

    This is what I'd say is the most uncomfortable aspect of the philosophy from my perspective -- but we do practice like this in some circumstances in our society, we just limit it to whether a person can be rightly judged to have agency. The way I'd hodge-podge these two concepts would be to say from the perspective of the Epicurean doctor you don't have agency until you've been cured because people resist the cure. It's just not their will which is being taken into consideration, but rather their happiness. (at least, in accord with the Epicurean notion of happiness)

    Okay, that makes sense. I think I associate Epicureanism with asceticism because Epicureans give up a great many things that most people take for granted. It is a minimalism, albeit not practiced for the sake of a religious end.Leontiskos

    That's true!
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    That one ought not kick puppies for fun is a moral statement.
    It is a true statement that one ought not kick puppies for fun.
    Facts are true statements.

    Therefore there are moral facts.

    If it is a true statement its truth does not share a sense with other uses of "truth". "One ought not kick puppies for fun" is false, in sense of the natural world. It fits the form of a proposition, but it doesn't rely upon any feature of the natural world for its truth. Rather we are using the word "true" in the place of the moral words "good" or "bad", which have no natural instantiations.

    Now this would get along with the notion of non-natural moral facts. A more minimal anti-realist position is simply to note that there are no such facts.

    For my part, though, I'd just say the significance of animal cruelty far outweighs whether there even is a fact to the matter. Animal cruelty is bad is enough for me; it need not be true. And stated like that could it even be true? ""Animal cruelty is bad" is true" -- what does that mean other than to simply assert the first sentence? Then aren't we actually talking in terms of goodness and badness, and not in terms of truth? So what is truth doing here anyways? Making our commitments Real, and thereby more important?

    This is the line of questioning that begins me thinking towards anti-realism on ethics. It seems to me that the heart of the matter isn't the same as the way the sciences work, and so it worth noting that there is a distinction to be made between moral truths -- if we wish to speak that way -- and truths of the natural world. I have a deep doubt of any claim to a science of ethics.
  • Moral Nihilism shouldn't mean moral facts don't exist
    Perhaps "fact" is the wrong word then. Maybe a better word would be "truth", Where there is a best or correct moral ideal, that may not have a burden of proof as high as "fact". Because while "fact" and "truth" may have different levels of burden of proof, they come to the same conclusion, being that there is a correct moral theory.Lexa

    Maybe there is. Changing whether we call it a fact or a truth, though, doesn't change my doubt.

    I would say that the reason why there is so much disparity is because we don't have a language like mathematics to describe these situations. Mathematics is a language where its components always mean the same thing. 2 will always mean 2 no matter what mathematician you talk too, but you talk to two philosophers in your own department they may define things vastly different. So if we could create a language with concrete definitions we could perhaps come up with these truths. Obviously that begs the question of "what should be the concrete definitions be?" and "how do we find them?", but I feel that those questions also have truths to be found.Lexa

    So you would say that no one disagrees, but rather they misunderstand one another. Is that about right?
  • Moral Nihilism shouldn't mean moral facts don't exist
    To be honest at the moment I do not have a concrete argument as to why we should believe in moral facts, which is why I am only arguing that the arguments for moral nihilism doesn't necessarily rule them out. So, the only argument I can posit for is that we should continue to try and uncover them. That argument being that since the arguments for moral nihilism don't necessarily mean that moral facts can't be real.Lexa


    While I don't rule out moral facts by necessity, I remain uncertain of them in fact. I acknowledge that I may be wrong -- my belief is itself true or false, or so I contend -- but I don't believe there is a moral fact in this sense that I'm uncertain what such a fact would be or mean.

    I don't believe in astrology lol, But I would differentiate claims like astrology and something factual by saying that things like astrology don't have any repeatable theories. A factual moral theory would have repeatable outcomes. For example, you would be able to know what is moral and immoral, and how to navigate moral situations. Astrology cannot make repeatable theories. For example, everyone who is a libra will not be extroverted, or possibly most of them will not be extroverted. Therefore, things like astrology cannot be facts.Lexa

    Also cool. We at least agree that astrology is not factual.

    And we agree that mathematics is factual.

    That means there is a question to be asked -- how do we make this judgment, and when? Sometimes we can speak factually, and sometimes we can speak in the same way that looks like it's factual but, as we agree, astrology doesn't quite hit the mark.

    I find the argument from difference persuasive enough to need some kind of response. If morality is real why is the disagreement so disparate in relation to, say, mathematics? What are the conditions under which we should accept a moral proposition as a real one, and a moral proposition as a not-real one, given the disparity of disagreement?

    What are the moral situations that a that we'd be able to navigate?

    These seem like non-trivial, in the sense that they are also ethical, questions. But I don't know of any way to solve them by way of a math.

    And if they're all false that would at least explain why people disagree.
  • Moral Nihilism shouldn't mean moral facts don't exist
    So why does moral nihilism exclude moral facts?Lexa

    I want to focus on your second argument which you address first. (and if you're interested reading more...)

    While I would agree that morality was created by humans and has no other concrete basis, I wouldn't say that morality has no facts. I wouldn't say that morality has the same type of facts that the natural world has, meaning that if intelligent life didn't exist, neither would morality. However, abstract human constructions often do have facts. For example, mathematics is a human construction with inherent facts. The infinite number of primes is an abstract fact of mathematics that has no basis outside of the intelligent mind. You could say that the way we describe a mathematical system is the reason that it can contain facts, meaning that since math as a language leaves little room for subjective interpretation of its findings means that it is an objective practice. However, I would say that is a fundamental problem with how we talk about morality rather than a stark difference between mathematics and morality.Lexa

    I grant the analogy between mathematics and morality. But notice how your argument simply means that moral facts are possible on the basis that we already believe in non-concrete facts, namely mathematical ones, so we can't rule them out just because they are not concrete. What it doesn't do is assert why we ought to believe in moral facts, though. The argument from difference gets along well here because it gives us a reason to believe that there are no moral facts. So I'll pivot to your first argument you address second:

    Furthermore the argument that different cultures have different conceptions of morality doesn't mean that moral facts don't exist either. Just because a different conception exists doesn't mean that there is no facts about a certain subject. People disagree about every subject under the sun, even those that have a concrete basis under them. To say that just because there is different conceptions of an issue means that the issue is subjective would be to say that any metaphysical claim means nothing and the entire practice of reasoning about metaphysical claims would be utterly useless.Lexa

    I agree with your arguments here. But notice how these are reasons to accommodate difference while granting moral realism, and not reasons to believe that there are moral facts. These are addressing the arguments for moral anti-realism, rather than giving reasons for moral realism.

    I swear it's related, even though it sounds like it's out of nowhere: do you believe that astrology is factual? Astrology is a body of sentences that people believe and utilize to understand the world around them, there are different conceptions of astrology and people disagree over what it means. Using your argument above this wouldn't be a reason to believe that astrology isn't factual, just that there are people who disagree on the factual basis -- but surely that's not right because astrology is not factual.

    So the question then becomes: how to differentiate talk which is factual from talk which is not factual?

    What the anti-realist asserts is that moral talk is more like astrology and less like math.
  • Perverse Desire
    I still can't tell. Desire as described in Anti-Oedipus is one of the theories of desire that I have in mind, though. That intersection between Marx and Freud is perfect for the question of the relationship between desire and justice.

    I think that it'd be possible to accept desire as productive and still articulate a difference, though I'm not sure how it'd work out. Like I already admitted I find myself going back to thinking about desire whenever I try to articulate a relationship between desire and justice, so in practice I'm basically in the same boat at the moment.
  • Perverse Desire
    Well, that's kind of the question :D

    If values are distinct from -- not identical to -- desire then it would still be possible to articulate a relationship between desire and at least injustice under the presumption that injustice is the way we talk about competing values within our partisan bubble. So for example if desire is a lack, and injustice is an articulation of competing values, then I think I'd say that the two are distinct such that a relationship could be articulated since at least the articulation of competing values is not obviously desire-as-lack.

    But if desire just is the basis of competing values then the question of desire would "settle" the question of justice, which is as I understand the Epicurean account to be committed to.
  • Perverse Desire

    In an attempt to classify the example within Epicurean desire you've driven me to the Vatican Sayings, which I haven't really braved before.

    If sight, association, and intercourse are removed, the passion of love is ended. — Vatican Sayings 18

    Let's presume she associates with the building, and that this is our maxim of love. Then the passion of love has not ended. The question would then turn to: how do you classify the passion of love? Is love a natural or groundless desire, and if it is natural is it necessary or unnecessary?

    That the passion of love can include association seems to allow for a concept of love that would be natural, and so insofar that her passion is one of love then a case could be made that, though we find this a strange desire, it isn't a bad desire.

    Now could the case be made that love is a good desire? That'd probably be where I'd mark a difference between Christianity and Epicureanism. I think the above quote is meant to point out that love consists of material relationships. So love is a good desire (insofar that it does not become groundless), but love is also "sight, association, and intercourse" -- which, given Paul, love is clearly at least not intercourse.