• A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    I think I agree, but with one caveat. It's not the believing that "one ought not kick puppies for fun" that renders it true.Banno

    Sure. I would have to revisit our conversation on belief, but what I meant is that Moliere holds the proposition to be true. Thus in the following sentence, "Moliere believes some moral propositions are true..."
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    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.Moliere

    I'd say you need to think about yourself instead of displacing the question out onto others, such as astrologists. The claim is that, "there are statements that we think of as true or as false." This does not hold of astrology.

    The crux here is that you hold to moral truths. You believe, "One ought not kick puppies for fun." The idea that <Moliere believes some moral propositions are true, therefore Moliere should accept moral realism>, is a very, very strong argument. :grin: I don't mean to discount your consideration of error theory, but I think the argument is often dismissed because it is thought to be too simple. I say the simpler the better. Our simple certainties are generally much more reliable than our intricate and complex theories ().

    You seem to want to say, "Well, not enough people agree with me, so it probably isn't true." If you really think this is a good argument, then the rational course is to throw out all of your moral convictions. Throw out your prohibitions against kicking puppies, executing the innocent, treating people unjustly, etc. I think the reason it is so hard to take this step is because, among other things, it is highly irrational.

    I think morality maps to other sciences more closely than is often admitted. Most people know that 2+2=4, even if they do not know <more complex mathematical truths>. Most people know that we should not execute the innocent, even if they do not know what is supposed to happen in the Middle East. Although it is easier to corrupt our moral intelligence than our mathematical intelligence, a lot of the opposition to moral realism is purely academic. Is there really much disagreement on things like, "One should not kill their newborn infant," or, "One should not lie without reason"?
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    I added an Updated 2 section to the OP. Let me know what you think.Bob Ross

    Okay, thanks. Honestly, my sense is that you are somewhat new to philosophy and/or logic, so I am trying to do little more than give you nudges in the right direction for the better development of your ideas.

    P2-A*2*2: There are no known subject-referencing prescriptive statements which are facts.Bob Ross

    This sounds to me like, "There are no moral facts."* Presumably if there are no moral facts then the moral realist is wrong, but this is still question-begging because it is asserting the very issue at stake. It is not conceivable that any moral realist would respond to your assertion by saying, "Oh, I see now. There are no moral facts. I am wrong after all!" Banno already addressed this issue in his very first post:

    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.

    You responded:

    technically “one ought not kick puppies for fun” is non-factualBob Ross

    But why is it non-factual? (enter )

    What's happening in this thread and in your threads generally is a shifting of the burden of proof. What begins as, "I am going to argue for moral antirealism," always ends up in, "Prove to me that moral realism is true!" I am not convinced that it has progressed beyond, "Moral facts don't exist." "Sure they do: here is a moral fact." "That's not a moral fact."

    * Or, "There are no moral statements that are factual," where a 'moral statement' is a "subject-referencing prescriptive statement."


    - :sweat:
  • Reflections on Thomism, Kierkegaard, and Orthodoxy: New Testament Christianity
    - Interesting story at OpenAI! Yes, Aquinas is rather optimistic about the power of reason, so I haven't encountered this idea as much in my own religious setting.

    - Thank you! I downloaded a copy.
  • Spirit and Practical Ethics
    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

    The latter, obviously. Most of the replies haven't managed to hold "all things equal," and are evading the question.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Yes, we need at least P2-A*1i and P2-A*1ii...


    Shit, I'm going to need to grab my wristband pretty soon. (link) (link)
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    I'd say that it's error theory which demonstrates how ethical propositions can be truth-apt, but false.Moliere

    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?Banno

    Right. I sketched a thread related to this idea and used part of it in <this post>.

    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?Banno

    Additionally, it is widely recognized that in epistemology there are simple truths and complex truths (e.g. Locke's simple and complex ideas). I don't see why this shouldn't also be the case when it comes to morality. It seems that Anscombe took things like, "Do not harm the innocent," to be something like simple moral truths, and I see no problem with this approach.

  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    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?Banno

    This strikes me as an important point in these conversations.

    P2-A* (fucksake!) is not an argument, it is an assertion. As has already been explained.Banno



    Sure, you should try to defend P2-A*1 if that is how you wish to defend P2-A. Give us a persuasive reason to accept your thesis.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    - This is interesting but I sort of feel like it deserves its own thread. I mean, age-old questions at least deserve their own thread. :razz:
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    P1: If Hume’s Guillotine is true, then ‘what one ought to do’ is determined by a set of non-factual prescriptions.

    P2: Hume’s Guillotine is true.

    C1: Therefore, ‘what one ought to do’ is determined by a set of non-factual prescriptions.

    P3: ‘What one ought to do’ is the subject matter of morality.

    P4: ‘what one ought to do’ is determined by a set of non-factual prescriptions.

    C2: Therefore, morality is determined by a set of non-factual prescriptions.
    Bob Ross

    So this could have been summed up by, "I agree with Hume." Yet the forum is filled with critiques of Hume. I thought you were attempting to go beyond Hume in one way or another.

    I think I see what you mean: technically, I did not provide an argument for my conclusion (in a valid syllogistic form) but, rather, just explained it in english. So I amended my OP with the full argument at the bottom. Please let me know which premise you disagree with.Bob Ross

    Okay, thanks. That is clear enough.

    As I said in my first reply to you, you are begging the question. P2-A is the contentious premise, and it receives no defense/justification. You responded to me by setting out an interpretation of what a fact is. Now what you need to do is use that interpretation to flesh out an actual argument in favor of P2-A. Only once you do that will moral realists have something to interact with.

    Edit: This seems to be your argument in a simplified form:

    1. Anything which depends on non-facts is a matter of taste.
    2. Moral claims depend on non-facts.
    3. Therefore, moral claims are a matter of taste.

    (2) needs to be defended by something more than a mere appeal to Hume.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism

    I'm basically arguing for 's claim. I don't think it has anything to do with the OP (). Again, I think your arguments against the OP are sound. What I am doing here is tangential. All of the interesting parts of this thread are tangential.

    Oh, OK, so you meant that "T is a normative fact" is a non-normative fact.J

    ...Or to be a bit more precise, I would say that we can reasonably speak about normative realities in non-normative ways.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    S1: Walking the dog is a normative fact.
    S2: All normative facts are volitional.
    S3: Therefore, walking the dog is volitional.

    H1: One ought to walk their dog.
    H2: Fred is Hanover's dog.
    H3: Therefore, Hanover ought to walk Fred.

    I'm repeating myself, but I don't see how what you have set out addresses what I have set out.Banno

    Let me clarify the post you were responding to. Consider the original proposition and two inferences:

    • P2: T is a normative fact.
    • I1: T is factual.*
    • I2: T is normative.

    Now we agree that P2 implies both I1 and I2 when considered in itself. But with reference to <my previous post>, H involves both I1 and I2, whereas S really involves only I2. S2 and S3 depend not on the facticity of S1, but rather on the normativity of S1. This is why I said in another post that one is "prescinding from one or more implications in favor of a different implication" (). Again, the key is that, "S1 differs from H1 vis-à-vis normativity, and this is seen by looking to the conclusions..." ().

    Similarly, we could have a premise, "Lightning McQueen is a red car." The predicate of course involves two notions (red+car). An argument could utilize this premise on the basis of both notions simultaneously, but it could also leverage only a single notion in a way that prescinds, partially or wholly, from the other one. <Lightning McQueen is a red car; Red cars look like apples; Therefore Lightning McQueen looks like an apple>. Even though all red cars are cars, this syllogism has very little to do with cars per se. Presumably it has more to do with redness than carness, and the second premise could have equally been, "Red things look like apples" (or, "Red things that are rounded and shiny look like apples").

    Just because something is a fact or a car does not mean that every piece of reasoning about that thing must be based on its facticity or carness. Bringing this back to the original question, the same applies to normativity. Something which is normative can be thought and reasoned about in non-normative ways (e.g. even though S1 implies H1, H1 is at best accidental to the conclusion S3).

    * Note that I do not accept the idea that 'truth' and 'fact' are exact synonyms. The word 'fact' has a long and interesting history, but it has never been simply equated with 'truth', or 'individual truth'. Nevertheless, I am going to ignore this tangent for the moment.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism

    Okay, that is somewhat helpful, but the other problem is that you don't seem to present any arguments for your position in the OP. Your whole thesis rests on a single sentence:

    This implies, even if it is conceded that normative facts exist, that what informs the individual of ‘what they ought to do’ is a taste: not a normative fact.Bob Ross

    This is really just an assertion. Else, what rule of inference are you using to arrive at this conclusion? What in the OP supports such a conclusion? The word "taste" appears exactly once in your OP, and this in itself is evidence that your conclusion is not the result of an argument.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    So we could, following this idea, quantify either over the universe of space/time objects, or over a different set, in this case the set of statements, or facts.J

    I was considering this possibility as well, but I decided not to run with it. I tend to think there is something subtly mistaken about it, but I cannot put my finger on it.

    I think the example often given of this (I’m taking it from Copi & Gould’s Readings on Logic) is: “Sentences having ‛ghosts’ as a subject-term are not really about ghosts . . . but about some people’s statements about ghosts, or perhaps certain ideas about ghosts.”J

    I think this is also slightly off, but working from the idea:

    G1: Anyone who sees a ghost gets an eerie feeling.
    G2: Those who experience an eerie feeling often get goosebumps.
    G3: Therefore, those who see a ghost often get goosebumps.

    The point here is that the syllogism works whether or not we put "ghost" in scare quotes and make it overtly perceptual. That is, one will agree with the syllogism whether or not they believe ghosts exist. Technically we might say that G is overdetermined, and works whether we are talking about objective states of affairs or subjective statements. It seems to me that is much the point: prescinding from one or more implications in favor of a different implication. "But I don't think ghosts exist," isn't necessarily a legitimate objection to G.

    For <me> such an ambiguity could be resolved not only by further specifying the terms, but alternatively by understanding the syllogism's conclusion and form. As I said earlier, one could leverage a normative claim in a non-normative manner.

    But it is worth noting that Banno's objection to the OP is definitive insofar as the OP was not trading in any of these more complicated things we are now discussing.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    - Yes, I very much agree. I think these ethical debates result in a great deal of tail-chasing that in the end substitutes highly reliable beliefs for highly implausible theories.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    No ambiguity. If it is a fact, it is true. If it is not true, it is not a fact.Banno

    Okay, but this would be an implication of the assertion of P2, not its primary sense. Getting away from the OP for a moment, consider two syllogisms. The first is of <this form>, the second is explicitly Humean in form:

    S1: Walking the dog is a normative fact.
    S2: All normative facts are volitional.
    S3: Therefore, walking the dog is volitional.

    H1: One ought to walk their dog.
    H2: Fred is Hanover's dog.
    H3: Therefore, Hanover ought to walk Fred.

    I think there is an important way in which S1 differs from H1 vis-à-vis normativity, and this is seen by looking to the conclusions. S is not a practical syllogism, for it prescribes no course of action. H is a practical syllogism. This remains true even once we admit that S1 implies the truth that dogs ought to be walked. It is not necessarily the same thing to say, "It is true that dogs ought to be walked," and, "Walking the dog is a normative fact," even if the latter implies the former.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    "One ought not pick one's nose" has six words... not morally binding.

    "One ought not pick one's nose" is true... then you ought not pick your nose.

    Yes, but the claim of the OP is not that it is true, but rather that it is a normative fact, hence the ambiguity. This goes back to that tricky question of intention, for we can speak about normative propositions in a non-normative manner.

    Edit: part of that error may be the antirealist thesis that normative statements do not have a truth value. But if that were so then they would have no place in a truth-functional syllogism.Banno

    I don't really disagree with you in the end, but there are some subtle differences between practical syllogisms and speculative syllogisms, and there is an interesting question about whether one knows them both in the same manner. I think some of that is coming into this as well.

    In any case, at the end of the day I think your argument about the truth or falsity of moral statements is sound.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism

    I think the OP meant something like this:

    1. All normative facts are Y.
    2. X is a normative fact.
    3. Therefore, X is Y.

    The middle term is meant to be descriptive, not normative.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    No, it makes sense. The claim would be that the statement "T is a normative fact" states something non-normative, something factual, because it's a claim about a statement, not the reality the statement refers to. It's about normativity, not itself normative.J

    To say of some normative statement, that it is true, is itself to make a normative statement, isn't it?Banno

    I think there is a legitimate ambiguity here. "T is a normative fact," could be read as, "T is normatively binding," in which case Banno would be right since this is equivalent to the claim that the normative statement is true. Yet, "T is a normative fact," could also be read as a description or categorization of a fact at a meta-ethical level, in which case the claim is not itself normative. I think this is how the OP intended it, but I sort of agree with Banno again at this point.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    Thoughts?Bob Ross

    I think you are begging the question again, and, like in the past, you very much need to define what you mean by 'fact'. All of your arguments depend on your premise that there are no moral facts, and yet you never end up saying what you mean by a fact such that your statement could be reliably assessed.
  • A game of sameness and difference
    - Yes, I think that's right.
  • A Case for Moral Anti-realism
    "You shouldn't pick your nose" and "It is true that you shouldn't pick your nose" arguably do say two different things.J

    I'm with @Banno on this one. Even if we accept that they are different in subtle ways, I don't think they are different vis-à-vis normativity.

    Edit: Yet the problem is that P2 is a (descriptive) predication of normative facticity, not a per se predication of the truth of a normative statement. So now I agree with @J. :grin:
  • A game of sameness and difference
    But just as there are many difference between things and phenomena, there are also similarities.
    The coin has two sides.

    The classic Aristotelian definition of a definition is genus + specific difference. Namely, understanding something involves understanding both its likeness to other things and its unlikeness to other things. Without this, we are unable to pick things out at all. If one does not understand its likeness they will not be able to contextualize it, and if they do not understand its unlikeness they will not be able to individuate it.

    So I think we need both, and I think we tend to have both.
  • Reflections on Thomism, Kierkegaard, and Orthodoxy: New Testament Christianity
    On a deeper level, surely the 'corruption of the intellect' due to man's fallen nature is a factor? There's an interesting scholar, Peter Harrison, who's book The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science, 'shows how the approaches to the study of nature that emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were directly informed by theological discussions about the Fall of Man and the extent to which the mind and the senses had been damaged by that primeval event. Scientific methods, he suggests, were originally devised as techniques for ameliorating the cognitive damage wrought by human sin.'Wayfarer

    I am not familiar with that thesis, so I can't really comment one way or another, but it sounds interesting. Looking at the table of contents, the trajectory he traces seems like a plausible support for the argument.

    'Scientism' would recognise no such thing, as it's plainly a theological rather than scientific conception.Wayfarer

    Which is to say that Scientism is a great deal more optimistic about the possibility and accessibility of scientific knowledge? I could definitely see that. I think now, post-Covid, some pessimism is setting in again, and this also flows from things like John Ioannidis' “Why Most Published Research Findings are False.”

    But it's also the sense in which 'revealed truth' has epistemic as well as simply moral implications. 'Fallen man' does not 'see truly' so to speak, because of that corruption. (In Eastern religions, the term is 'avidya' rather than 'sin' and has a rather different connotation, in that it's associated with the corruption of the intellect rather than the will, which is especially the case in Reformed theology. But there are overlaps.)Wayfarer

    Right, and I would agree that the intellect is fallen. Also, I would say that the interdependence of moral and speculative knowledge is still operative in our fallen world. But you are right that there has been a strong separation.
  • What is love?
    - Yes, indeed. Good points. :up:
  • What is love?
    For Aristotle and Aquinas, love (of friendship) involves 1) Willing another's good, for their own sake, and 2) Being in union with the other, via concrete affections and circumstances, such that (1) exists in a reciprocal manner.

    I think love is tricky because it is so ambiguous. Aquinas distinguishes love in the sensitive appetite versus love in the intellect/will, and natural love versus supernatural love. For the Greeks you had eros, agape, philia, and perhaps storge. So I think it is easy to talk past one another on this topic, and maybe that is one reason it is often avoided.
  • What are the best refutations of the idea that moral facts can’t exist because it's immeasurable?
    I'm with Nagel on this -- moral thinking is sui generis, contentful, and argues from reasons rather than "desires" in the Humean sense. By appealing to reasons, it situates itself in the objective world, or perhaps something a bit more Peircean and intersubjective.J

    This seems like something I could get on board with. I actually think the general idea here is crucial if law and society are to (continue to) exist. If there is no objective grounding for law then it is hard to see why it would be binding (assuming for the moment that "social contract theory" is largely a fiction).
  • Reflections on Thomism, Kierkegaard, and Orthodoxy: New Testament Christianity
    It's also interesting to see the distinction Aquinas makes between "faith" and "articles of faith." If I'm reading him rightly, he says that objections to faith itself can be replied to argumentatively -- they are "difficulties that can be answered." Whereas any particular article of faith is precisely that -- a belief held on faith -- and the only way to reply to the doubter here relies on first finding an agreement that faith is even possible, and then pointing out inconsistencies in the doubter's position using other articles of faith. This is quite subtle.J

    Well, I think what is going on is slightly different. For Aquinas faith is always related to a proposition. My understanding is that when he speaks about "objections against faith," 'faith' is something like a superset of the articles of faith. An article of faith would be akin to an axiom in the sphere of revelation, whereas 'faith' would include not only the axioms but also the conclusions inferred from the axioms. This is a simplification, as Aquinas' treatment of faith is rather subtle, but it seems generally true. Some Protestants are known for speaking about faith in an entirely non-propositional sense, but for Aquinas this would be a kind of hope (i.e. hoping and trusting in God or his promises).

    So in that quote, with respect to faith, Aquinas is saying that faith-propositions can only be known by revelation and not by natural reason. For someone who holds at least one faith-proposition, that proposition can be leveraged in order to infer and argue about other faith-propositions. For someone who holds no faith-propositions, there is no possibility of demonstrating (strict scientia) the truth of a faith-proposition. All the same, if someone says, "X faith-proposition is false, and here is a proof for why," Aquinas thinks the proof can be addressed and refuted, even though no contrary proof for the faith-proposition is possible. Or in simpler terms, when it comes to unbelievers Aquinas thinks it's all defense and no offense (although this is complicated because certain things we take to be faith-based Aquinas thinks are accessible to reason, such as the existence of God).

    Does it generalize to other overarching world-views? I think it might, though Aquinas seems to be saying that "metaphysics" is in a unique position in this regard.J

    Aquinas certainly thinks it generalizes to other sciences, and I think he would also affirm this of other worldviews. Granted, as you say, metaphysics is in a rather unique situation, as it seems to be able to establish itself in certain ways (and this goes back to our conversation about whether one could actually deny something like the law of non-contradiction).

    But wouldn't scientism, for instance, also be able to speak about a similar distinction between "whether scientific knowledge is possible" and "the truths of science"? No one who denied the former could be convinced by the latter. But once scientific knowledge is granted, the specific truths -- the articles of faith, by analogy -- can be argued pro and con, using some truths to demonstrate or refute others.J

    I think this is right, but I should add that for Aquinas one of the easiest ways to show that scientific knowledge is possible is simply to show a scientific truth. If we know a scientific truth then obviously scientific knowledge is possible.

    I think the relevant difference is that scientism holds to scientific truths, and these really are demonstrable from natural reason, whereas faith-propositions (and fundamentally the axioms, the articles of faith) are not. The error of scientism lies in holding that the truths of the hard sciences are the only truths.
  • Reflections on Thomism, Kierkegaard, and Orthodoxy: New Testament Christianity
    - A common thread in all of these positions is the idea that knowledge is not merely cerebral and abstract (e.g. the Hebrew, Indian, Platonic, and Christian traditions). If you consider our modern landscape from that point of view it is highly idiosyncratic, and in fact there is something very odd about the way we conceive of knowledge. If someone from the past visited our time they would be utterly baffled until we showed them the historical genealogy of how we got here.
  • Reflections on Thomism, Kierkegaard, and Orthodoxy: New Testament Christianity
    I don’t know if you’ve read Walker Percy. He makes an interesting distinction between “knowledge” and “news.” Knowledge would be the sort of thing that, broadly, science investigates. News, on the other hand, is information that you can’t deduce or discover for yourself; someone has to tell you. This would include religious revelation, for Percy. And he says that the “credentials of the news-bearer” are important evidence for whether to trust the news.

    This may be too black-and-white, but I see what he’s getting at and I think it’s a valuable insight. I wonder what Aquinas would say, getting back to the OP. He made a distinction between natural and revealed religion, didn’t he? And I'm sure Kierkegaard, that champion of subjectivity, would agree.

    I really enjoy Walker Percy, but it's been a few years since I've read him. Recently I have been reading Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Johann Georg Hamann: three nice counterbalances to the rationalism of this forum. Here is a characteristically polemical utterance from Hamann, haha:

    Christianity believes, that is to say, not in the doctrines of philosophy, which are nothing
    but an alphabetic scribbling of human speculation, and subject to the fluctuating cycles of
    moon and fashion! – not in images and the worship of images! – not in the worship of
    animals and heroes!
    – not in symbolic elements and passwords or in some black figures
    obscurely painted by the invisible hand on the white wall! – not in Pythagorean-Platonic
    – not in the passing shadows of actions and ceremonies that will not remain
    and not endure, which are thought to possess a secret power and inexplicable magic! – –
    not in any laws, which must be followed even without faith, as the theorist somewhere
    says, notwithstanding his Epicurean-Stoic hairsplitting about faith and knowledge! – –
    No, Christianity knows of and recognizes no other bonds of faith than the sure prophetic
    as recorded in the most ancient documents of the human race and in the holy scrip-
    tures of authentic Judaism
    , without Samaritan segregation and apocryphal Mishnah.
    — After Enlightenment: Hamann as Post-Secular Visionary, by John R. Betz, p. 283

    (The context here is a metacritical response to Moses Mendelssohn’s Jerusalem.)

    I wonder what Aquinas would say, getting back to the OP. He made a distinction between natural and revealed religion, didn’t he?J

    Aquinas is more or less in agreement with Percy. Here is the body of an article on whether theology (sacred doctrine) is a matter of argument:

    As other sciences do not argue in proof of their principles, but argue from their principles to demonstrate other truths in these sciences: so [sacred doctrine] does not argue in proof of its principles, which are the articles of faith, but from them it goes on to prove something else [...] . However, it is to be borne in mind, in regard to the philosophical sciences, that the inferior sciences neither prove their principles nor dispute with those who deny them, but leave this to a higher science; whereas the highest of them, viz. metaphysics, can dispute with one who denies its principles, if only the opponent will make some concession; but if he concede nothing, it can have no dispute with him, though it can answer his objections. Hence Sacred Scripture, since it has no science above itself, can dispute with one who denies its principles only if the opponent admits some at least of the truths obtained through divine revelation; thus we can argue with heretics from texts in Holy Writ, and against those who deny one article of faith, we can argue from another. If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections — if he has any — against faith. Since faith rests upon infallible truth, and since the contrary of a truth can never be demonstrated, it is clear that the arguments brought against faith cannot be demonstrations, but are difficulties that can be answered.Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia, Q. 1, A. 8

    For Aquinas an article of faith cannot be demonstrated or refuted by natural, philosophical reasoning. Thus someone who denies an article of faith cannot be argued into the position, even though their positive objections can be met. The difference between Aquinas and Percy would seem to be that, for Aquinas, revelation ("news") is not restricted to things that are in-principle indemonstrable. For example, Aquinas believes that "the universe had a beginning" is a revealed truth. Aristotle argues from natural reason that the universe had no beginning, and so Aquinas sets himself to meeting and nullifying Aristotle's arguments.

    Aquinas also makes a distinction between natural and revealed religion, but his distinction between natural and revealed knowledge seems more appropriate. I tend to agree with him that, in the broad sense, 'religion' is not primarily a matter of knowledge.
  • What are the best refutations of the idea that moral facts can’t exist because it's immeasurable?
    Because this won’t work for almost all of our uses of “objective”. It’s objectively true, I presume, that water is composed of H2O. Do we want to describe this statement as a “bias shared among a normative community” -- of scientists, presumably? What would motivate us to call this a bias?

    What we want in moral realism, then, is a sense of “objective” that at least resembles what we find in science – or daily life, for that matter. And those who deny moral facts are indeed saying that the best we can do is “biases more or less shared.” But I don’t think that’s a reasonable synonym for “objective.”

    Quite right and well said! :up:
  • How to define stupidity?
    Maybe? Can you think of an example which isn't culpable?fdrake

    Well, I think the thread branches into those two conceptions: one where stupidity is conceived as inherently culpable and one where it is not. I think Kant's description prescinds from culpability, and hence would equally apply to people with natural mental handicaps. "Stupid" seems to be one of those words that was once used to signify an actual physiological malady, but eventually came to be used as a term of opprobium. Others would include "imbecile," "retarded," etc.

    What do you think?fdrake

    It sort of depends on what we are intending to talk about, but in general I would say that stupidity is a consistent failure to act rationally, or to achieve the average level of mental function. More simply, it is the opposite of intelligence. Strictly speaking, I would simply say that the stupid person is prone to err. The question is interesting because eventually one is forced to give their account of intelligence, rationality, or healthy mental functioning. For Kant it is the ability to shape sensory impressions into concepts of reason, and therefore he identifies a malfunction at that juncture as stupidity.

    If this is right, then you are committed to the idea that intelligence is fundamentally a willingness to try to learn.

    So generally speaking I am claiming that stupidity is a negative or privative concept, and that one must therefore ultimately provide an account of proper mental functioning if they are to give an account of stupidity.
  • Perverse Desire
    I feel doubt at the proposition that injustice would solve itself.Moliere

    I tend to agree. In my opinion injustice creates a residual disorder in the individual and society, and this residual injustice is very hard to rectify after the fact. As an analogy, an alcoholic might get sober, but if they don't change all sorts of things about their life and their circumstances they will easily fall back into alcoholism.

    I think this would depend upon how we'd read the history, honestly. Which facts are we going to emphasize in telling the story of ancient philosophy? In thinking through desire I have reasons to want to find differences -- I'm not really settled on a theory of desire so the differences stand out as important to me as a basis for judgement.

    I mean, this is why I emphasize that there's more than one way to read these texts -- my rendition of Epicurus and my rendition of Aristotle definitely disagree :D . Though that does make sense of some things like that they had different schools, rather than Epicurus attending the Lyceum. I had to look up dates on the Lyceum because I wasn't sure, so I thank you for the prodding. Another thing I completely missed is that Cicero's On the Ends features a peripatetic as distinct from both Epicureanism and Stoicism!

    So there are some reasons aside from my emphasis to at least think they must be different in some ways.

    That's fair. To simplify it, as an Aristotelian I tend to think in terms of virtue, and it seems to me that Epicurus would accept some of Aristotle's virtues but reject others. Specifically, they seem to more or less agree on the goodness of temperance (moderation in food, drink, sex, and externally acquired pleasures in general). But I don't think Epicurus will necessarily follow Aristotle when it comes to other virtues, such as courage, or truthfulness, or generosity. So my first impression is that Epicurus is like something of a subset of Aristotle; a simplified scheme.

    Cool. So a point of agreement would be that the temperate man does not need a strong will.Moliere


    But a strong will is not necessary to overcome a disordered soul in the Epicurean philosophy.Moliere

    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.

    Aristotle thinks in terms of 'habits', and anyone can see that changing deeply embedded habits takes effort and will.

    In part this is probably due to my emphasizing the concepts and how they fit together from the perspective of Epicurus himself; almost always the way ethical concepts fit together and the practices they inspire are not the same. I know there are more cosmopolitan Epicureans who lived after: Diogenes of Oenoanda was rich enough to have land and build an inscription which details the Epicurean philosophy because, so it claims, it lays the path to salvation. So the concepts would lead one to practice a certain way -- a way in which Epicurus did -- but later practitioners found benefit in the philosophy in spite of not following the ascetic way of life that the ideas clearly outline too. My thought on this is that there was a distinction between The Doctors -- like what Epicurus was -- and the people who learn and live the Epicurean philosophy, in a similar way that many religious communities have at least two social layers with different social rules depending upon how much influence you wield within the social organism.Moliere

    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.
  • How to define stupidity?
    A pervasive refusal to try to learn.fdrake

    I think this is a good sense of culpable stupidity. Is all stupidity culpable?
  • When Does Philosophy Become Affectation?
    If that's the case, though, why purport to think, or believe, otherwise, i.e. contrary to the way in which you actually live your life? Those who say we should act in one way, and then act in another way, are called hypocrites. I don't say certain philosophers are hypocrites, or even that they're disingenuous when they contend that what we see and interact with every day without question isn't real, or can't be known, but when what we do is so contrary to what we contend, or what we contend is so unrelated to what we do as to make no difference in our lives, I think we have reason to think that we're engaged in affectation.Ciceronianus

    Yes, great point. This is why I prefer philosophers like Aristotle to philosophers like Kant. As others have noted, it is perhaps more common on philosophy forums than among "professional" philosophers. With that said, I think it is also present among professionals, except there it occurs in more subtle ways. For example, Aristotle is quick to remind us that not all matters are susceptible of the same level of certitude, and I think the violation of this maxim is one clear way that philosophers tend to fall into 'affectation'. For instance: the idea that all legitimate knowledge must possess an apodictic kind of certitude, or must be known via the same means as the physical sciences, etc.
  • Perverse Desire
    I've thought about it, but my thoughts aren't any deeper than what's been presented so far. The best interpretation of Epicurean justice I can muster is that it comes about because people are living happy and tranquil lives -- but that's a lot like an eschatology to my mind which amounts to the thought: if everyone just followed the same ethical creed then everyone would live in harmony and then justice would prevail! But it seems like a weak theory of justice to me because it sort of begs the question in its own way -- it's not exactly a surprising conclusion that if everyone agreed to what is ethical and lived ethically then they'd agree and continue to live a just life. That's pretty unsatisfactory.Moliere

    It seems to me that the deeper idea here is not that ethical homogeneity produces harmony, but rather that injustice is a consequence of unhappiness, and that if people were happy then the problem of injustice would solve itself. This is not such an uncommon idea, nor is it so implausible. Epicureanism always faintly reminds me of Indian religion, and I sometimes hear this idea from that subcontinent.

    Then there's the fact that while I think Epicurean desire is an interesting theory of desire I'm uncommitted to it as a universal theory of desire -- basically I'd say I'm still stuck on the structure of desire and describing desire, and anytime I try to think the relationship between desire and justice I find myself thinking about desire again.Moliere

    That makes sense to me. It does represent an important facet of desire, but I'm not sure it captures the whole picture. This is more or less why I said above that Aristotle would accept and incorporate Epicurean premises into his thought as a subset, but Epicurus would probably reject many of the Aristotelian add-ons.

    The Epicurean would hold that it is better to have an ataraxic rather than depraved soul...Moliere


    I think the uncertainty of the world we inhabit also gives justification to pursue the ataraxic soul over the depraved soul with the means to satisfy them: only the ataraxic soul can say and mean "What is good in life is easy to obtain", where the depraved soul must strive to continue to satisfy their many desires. As you noted above about scarcity: if we lived in a world of infinite resources then perhaps the ataraxic soul would best be seen as a kind of quaint attachment to an ascetic existence, but given the vagaries of a world composed of nothing but atoms and void moving in accord to the swerve it makes sense to want the kind of soul which is happy with anything.Moliere

    Okay, good points.

    I'd think that for the working Epicurean administering the cure they'd say that the incontinent man is on a path to the cure, but is still not tranquil and so needing the cure. But this brings out another point of contrast here between Aristotle and Epicurus: it's not willpower which brings about the continent man, but a master who prunes your desires such that you desire to and are able to live tranquilly.Moliere

    Well, for Aristotle the incontinent man is "weak-willed" and the continent man could be considered "strong-willed," but the goal is to be temperate, and the temperate man is well-ordered, not strong-willed. A strong will is only necessary to overcome a disordered soul and disordered passions.

    But the centrality of a master might be a difference. Mostly, I'm not sure if anyone—ancient or modern—really understands how to make people virtuous. It seems to always be a haphazard and uncertain endeavor. Aristotle even highlights the problem of the inadequacy of ethical treatises towards the end of the Nicomachean Ethics.

    There are lots of things you've said that could be a topic of conversation. Fishing out one of them:

    Now if there is truly no human nature then the philosophy is a bit of a fib. If one believes that the Christian way of life will transform people to be better than they are born to be -- or any variation on that theme, which is common enough (It's the warped wood theory of human nature combined with a notion of a cure for the soul) -- then the Epicurean philosophy is anathema as well. In fact I think this could go some way to explaining how it became so unpopular. Stoicism, with its emphasis on the life of the mind, could be married to Christianity, but Epicureanism -- with its emphasis on the human life here and now -- brings about more conceptual tensions.Moliere

    I think there are two distinctions at play, here. The first distinguishes between a focus on earthly life and a focus on the eschaton. The second distinguishes between a conception of human nature and a conception of fallen human nature. I think the second distinction is going to be a bit harsher for Epicureanism, although the first is also significant.

    It strikes me that Epicureanism coincides to a large extent with the ascetic traditions of Christianity, particularly the tradition of the desert fathers and the monasticism that grew up out of that. In those traditions exists a Platonism that is agreeable to Epicureanism, whereas the later more Aristotelian strand of Christianity is in many ways more urban and cosmopolitan, and less agreeable to Epicureanism. The irony here is that Epicurean asceticism in certain ways coincides with the more extreme forms of Christian practice, despite lacking some of the motivations.
  • Reflections on Thomism, Kierkegaard, and Orthodoxy: New Testament Christianity
    - Good post :up:

    This sort of universalist self-confidence has been badly damaged though. You still see it in later figures though, Erasmus, Cusa, Boheme, Zwingli, Hegel, etc.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Yes, but I think Islam and Protestantism were just precursors to the inevitable pluralistic religious setting we now find ourselves in in the West. Presumably there is a natural ebb and flow between polytheism and monotheism over the millenia, and now the information age has shifted us back towards a more polytheistic orientation. What was once a cultural-religious whole has now become increasingly fractured.
  • Reflections on Thomism, Kierkegaard, and Orthodoxy: New Testament Christianity
    I've become sceptical of Western Buddhism - that is, Buddhism as practiced and propogated in modern culture. And while I have considerable respect for the teaching and principles I don't feel as though I've been able to successfully integrate into them or with them. I did have some real epiphanies associated with meditation earlier in life, but then it's been like a 'seeds and weeds' scenario in the subsequent years.Wayfarer

    Same here.

    I get the sense that Buddhism is parasitic on Hinduism, and that trying to attach oneself to Buddhism without the benefit of Hindu culture is something of a non-starter. Similarly, I find interreligious dialogue between Catholicism and Hinduism to be more apropos and compelling than interreligious dialogue between Catholicism and Buddhism. Much like Protestantism, there is something incomplete about Buddhism. It is a religion working from a borrowed culture, and one which is founded on a critique of the more comprehensive religion which is properly attached to that borrowed culture. In both the Buddhist and Protestant cases there is the implicit claim that the cultural divorce is a feature and not a bug, and that's a rather difficult subject to query, but in the end I'm not so sure. I think religion and culture must ultimately go together, and that all attempts to indefinitely separate them are unrealistic.

    What follows is that Buddhism and Protestantism do not transplant well. They do not possess the wherewithal to endure a foreign environment without becoming subsumed by it. Or if they do manage to survive, they do not possess the resources to produce and sustain a robust culture of their own. Thus such movements are short-lived on foreign soil.

    ...Also, in general I am wary of religions started by a single individual (e.g. Buddhism, Islam, Protestantism). Jesus is the exception if we accept the premise that he is divine, although we could also argue over whether he was, strictly speaking, a founder. There is something more organic, comprehensive, and compelling about religions like Hinduism, or Judaism, or even Taoism. But also more messy and unwieldy.

    I also realise that I have been very much influenced by Christian Platonism - I think it's a kind of inborn cultural archetype.Wayfarer

    There seem to be a growing number of agnostic intellectuals who favor Christian culture and a Christian worldview, but who remain a step removed from Christian belief. Roger Scruton, Douglas Murray, and Tom Holland come immediately to mind. Part of this seems to be a backlash against the dull iconoclasm of the New Atheism, part of it a response to Marxist ideologies, but a lot of it seems to be a legitimate appreciation of the Christian patrimony and inheritance. This is all rather interesting to me, because Joseph Ratzinger often argued precisely in favor of such a move ("veluti si Deus daretur"). I always found the argument awkward, but apparently it has some purchase. Supposing religion and culture are inextricably linked, it makes sense that some would defend a religion for the sake of a culture.

    I just wish there were an association or teacher - not an online one! - that I could associate with in that genre.Wayfarer

    This strikes me as a ubiquitous and perennial difficulty, namely that we are bound by our geography. The ideal of a strong 'guru' figure must often be foregone on account of this.