Translate

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Part B of my meta-ethical exchange with Clear404 [Clear404 and NJ take off the kiddy gloves]


Part B of my meta-ethical discussion with the theist Clear404. He/she was quite well-versed in meta-ethics, so I had to pull out the big guns! And then they pulled out even bigger guns. The arms race will continue in the subsequent parts



NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: PM?", 6/3/12
Hello Clear404.

In future PMs, please number, letter, or in some way demarcate your points so they are easier for me to refer to. Thank you. I'll also be referencing arguments made in other PMs so I don't have to waste time and space repeating arguments.

A) First, some distinctions. When I say moral reasons don't depend on long-term self-interest, I could mean any number of things: 1) moral reasons can be justified without reference to self-interested practical reasons (i.e. justified relative to non-internalistic, real reasons), 2) moral reasons are not identical to self-interested reasons, 3) moral reasons apply to you regardless of what is in your self-interest; this is a claim about the SCOPE of moral reasons (i.e. you can't get out of them by responding, "but it's not in my long-term interests," except for in the cases of EXTREME self-sacrifice I noted in section C of my previous PM).

Now, when I said, "if we substitute 'but it's not in my long term interests' for 'but I really want to' this is counterintuitive," you seem to think I was making a 2 claim since you said, "this is now a point about the type of reason that moral reasons are, as opposed to the scope of moral requirements." But I wasn't making a 2 claim; I was making a 3 claim about scope. That's one part of real reasons externalism: there are some real reasons that apply to people regardless of their enlightened self-interest (for a perspective on real reasons externalism, see the end of Russ Shafer-Landau's paper "Error theory and the Possibility of Normative Ethics.".) Reasons externalists would also deny your claim that, "moral requirements only apply to us if we have some desire, or disposition to acquire the desire, to do as they bid," and they present intuitive arguments for denying this (ex: see page 116 of Shafer-Landau's paper) [By the way, how do you square your statement here with your claim that, "the point about moral requirements is that they apply to us even if we're not naturally inclined to want to fulfil them." For instance, say a psychopath was born without the empathetic disposition necessary to consistently care about the well-being of others, generate feelings of concern towards others, or be motivated to act for reasons that involve concern for others. Would moral requirements still apply to the psychopath? Your claim about natural inclination implies the answer is yes. Yet your claim about "some desire, or disposition to acquire the desire, to do as they bid" implies the answer is no, which would be counterintuitive since we generally hold psychopaths morally responsible for their actions. Or am I misinterpreting your position?]. So you need to address those arguments and intuitins before you provide a different account of the scope of moral requirements.

You also claim that my substitution involves shifting the goal posts, but it actually doesn't. On every explication of internalistic practical reasons I've seen (from Bernard Williams to Joyce to Shafer-Landau to Michael Smith, etc.), these reasons have included BOTH reasons based on desire and reasons based on interest. People then CONTRAST these internalistic reasons with categorical externalistic reasons, and say that this is the sense of categoricity involved in morality. I'm not moving the goal-posts; you're just arbitrarily moving interests from internalistic reasons to categoricity and thus saying you've accounted for categoricity when, intuitively, categoricity does not involve justifying norms relative to self-interest. So contrary to your position our moral intuitions don't JUST imply that imply that moral requirements apply to us regardless of our desires, but also imply that they apply to us regardless of our interests and need not be justified relative to our interests.

B) In your 3rd paragraph you ascribe a fallacious argument to me. However, to do this, you seem to be interpreting me as making a 2 claim ("moral reasons cannot be reasons of self-interest") when I was making a 1 claim and a 3 claim. People do intuit and argue (as Joyce and Shafer-Landau both do via different methods) that if morality has an ultimate justification (a 1 claim), then this justification must include non-internalistic real reasons. My argument was not, "the answer 'but it is not in my interests' does not cancel a moral obligation and thus moral reasons cannot be reasons of self-interest." My point was instead that "the answer 'but it is not in my interests' does not cancel a moral obligation, therefore the justification for moral reasons (i.e. the justifying real reasons) and the scope of moral reasons must be independent to self-interest (except in the extreme cases I noted in section C of my previous PM)". In contrast to what you wrote, this argument does not imply that if something is in your interests, it is moral. It instead claims that morality's justification does not depend on solely on self-interest (except for the incidental, rare cases I noted in section C of my previous PM) and can depend on externalistic real reasons. This is compatible with morality also being justified by real, self-interested reasons; it's incompatible with saying that self-interested reasons are the sole real reasons justifying morality.

C) I am a Humean in my denial of real normativity. Joyce is a non-Humean in his acceptance of real normativity (he just says only internalistic reasons have real normativity and thus only they count as real reasons). Since you believe in real reasons, you are not a Humean. And as I noted in section A, a real reason externalist would deny that, "a desire has to enter the equation at some point for a reason to be generated." So you're wrong when you say we all agree on this. Your thesis is only generally agreed upon when applied to motivating reasons (discussed in section G), not real reasons. You also say that it's nonsensical to ask, "'what reason do I have to do what it is in my interests to do?" If by "reason" you (roughly) mean an internalistic hypothetical of the form, "doing X would best (or most efficiently) meet your interests," and "interests" are given a Humean subjectivist reading that's not committed to real normativity, then I agree that the question is nonsensical. But that's not the sense of reason you or I (in the context of this argument) mean. However, the question is not nonsensical if "interests" are given a subjectivist reading while by "reason" we mean an objectively justified, objectively prescriptive consideration with real normativity. But this is actually what you and I meant by "real reason." So if you're trying to use the nonsensicality of this question to argue against my denial of real reasons, then I don't think your argument works (for more on this see Jonas Olson's paper "Error Theory and Reasons for Belief", particularly sections 2 and 3). If both "interest" and "reason" are both normatively-committing, then the question could be nonsensical, but they then Humean would simply denying the existence of these kinds of reasons and interests, so the nonsensicality of the question would still not serve to rebut the Humean's position.

You further say, "[the statement:]'because it is in your interests' brings to an end the 'why?' questions." In one sense you're wrong: a person could ignore the considerations provided. For instance, a person (call her Lucy) could just as easily respond to "'because it is in your interests" with "why should I care?" Lucy could choose not to care about her interests [this is where Joyce and I break ranks; our responses here are what make me a Humean and Joyce a non-Humean]. For the proponent of real prudential reasons, Lucy is ignoring a real normative, prudential consideration and thus, under their definition, Lucy is being irrational. But Lucy's response is not incoherent; being irrational, for the proponent of real prudential reasons, just amounts to failing to meet the standards of real normativity. In contrast, a proponent of real non-prudentially justified moral reasons would say that there is nothing irrational about Lucy responding to "because you have a moral reason to do it" with "why I care?" [NOTE: many externalists think moral reasons are externalistic; I am granting them that claim for the sake of exposition, so don't again immediately jump to the conclusion that I'm begging the question against you in this example]. Instead, Lucy would be in error because she failed to pay attention to a real normative consideration that lay outside her interests. So both reason internalists and reason externalists can fail to bring an end to why questions, while still providing an explanation for why Lucy is in error. But in another sense your initial claim was correct: a person could accept the considerations provided. They could recognize the normative force of the considerations provided by the externalists or internalists (i.e. they could care about morality or their interests), and thus take the considerations as sufficient for answering their "why should I care?" question. So both reason internalists and reason externalists can (in this sense) succeed in bringing an end to why questions, while still providing an explanation for why Lucy is in error. Therefore your initial statement does not martial in favor of real practical reasons over real externalistic reasons.

Finally, you find the notion of real, non-prudential reasons "controversial and dubious." I do, too. I just extend my skepticism (really, my position is stronger than mere skepticism) to real prudential reasons. And as I noted in section A of my previous PM (and in this PM, discussed in section A paragraph 2 and section B paragraph 1), the same class of normative intuitions that argue against my position (i.e. lead people to think there are real prudential reasons) militate against your position (i.e. lead people to think there are real, non-prudential reasons that can justify morality).

D) As my distinction in section A paragraph 1 showed, I understand that you are not arguing that moral reasons are identical to practical reasons. It turns out we both already agree on 2. So I was not arguing for 2, but instead for 1 and 3 and thus addressed your skepticism about 1 and 3. For example, your, view is that, "moral reasons reduce to prudential reasons. If it is moral to do x, it is in your interests to do x." If 1 is true, your view could be false since we could have a justified moral reason to do X even though it's not in our interests to do X. That's what I spent a large part of my previous PM arguing. And, "the intuitions you are ignoring," are the intuitions supporting reasons externalism: again, people think you can have a real moral reason to do X even if X is not in your long-term self-interest. If you doubt that this is a real intuition, go and ask anyone you know if it would be morally wrong to rape someone even if rape was in your long-term best interest. Scientifically rigorous surveys that probe people's responses to such queries help us determine people's conceptual intuitions (lookup the experimental philosophy of people like Stich, Turiel, Haidt, Nichols, Greene etc.). And I would bet good money that most people intuitively believe in both real external reasons (ex: moral reasons) and real internal reasons (ex: rational reasons). So if you ignore the former and only focus on the latter, then yes, you're cherry-picking intuitions.

You go on to say that it's rational to follow moral requirements. If by "rational" you mean "in your best interests" this could be true, but this is NOT why moral reasons are justified (see the last paragraph of section B and section C of my previous PM). If by "rational" you mean "not violating epistemic norms, not insanely self-sacrificing, etc.," then again sure, moral requirements could be rational in that sense (as I discussed in section C of my previous PM); but again, that WOULD NOT imply that the moral reasons are justified solely because of epistemic norms, etc. as opposed to real externalistic reasons.

E) You bring up the "requirement implies a requirer" argument again. I've addressed that point to death. But will you at least admit the term "requirement" is multiply ambiguous? We can say that "Bob's situation required that he do X" or "A requirement of being good at a sport is practice." These senses of requirement don't imply a requirer. Of course, they are non-moral uses of the term "require," but they at least show the term is multiply ambiguous and can have non-equivalent meanings. So when I pointed out a relevant distinction between how the term is used when discussing a communicative act done by a mind vs. when it's used to describe a normative consideration, you can't just blow that off as a meaningless distinction. You instead need to show me how these two different senses/uses of the term imply one another.

You also suggest that I can't explain the "requiryness" of morality. First, if the distinction I argued for in the comments section and discussed in the above paragraph holds, I don't need to explain "requiryness" in the communicative sense in which you mean it. Second, if you're talking about the psychological experience of an external source demanding things from us (for the sake of argument, I'll assume we have such an experience), then your position is empirically impotent. God-based explanations for phenomena are notoriously vague and hard to confirm; hence there beinf unceremoniously kicked out of science. We have moral projectivism along with different emotionist (not emotivist) psychological accounts that are making progress in explaining the nature of our moral experience. Yet God makes little sense of moral experience (I discuss this more in section H). For example, if God communicates its commands to people and this is where the feeling of requirement comes from, it's strange that societies have different, incompatible positions on what's morally required. It's almost as if God is so incompetent (or non-existent or unwilling) that it can't (or won't) make its requirements clear. It's almost as if the feeling of moral requirement in different societies arises not from a source that's common to all societies (i.e. what God requires), but instead something that varies with societies (people's emotional make-up, their environmental context, what information they have, how much time they devote to moral thought, etc.). Third, you could be making a claim about justification; only a God could justify our feeling of requirement. If this is what you mean, you're wrong. Again the distinction I argued for in my comments section showed that there is a sense of requirement tied to normativity that was completely independent of what ANYONE (including God) demanded of us. Furthermore, people's intuitions about externalistic real reasons show that there is real normativity that is not connected to God's punishment of us. So the normative component of requirement could be explained and justified without God, and I deny there is any remaining communicative aspect of moral requirement in need of justification because no such communicative aspect exists (again, do the test I suggested in section D: ask people "what if God changed its mind and required we rape; would we still be morally required to not rape?" and "does God need to require us not to rape in order for us not be morally required not to rape?," Unless an individual has already gone through the explicit theological training that results in being philosophically-committed to the moral argument for God, then I expect they will answer: yes, no).

F) To help answer your point about Nazis, I'll briefly summarize my meta-ethical views: There are only 3 plausible meta-ethical positions (from most plausible to least plausible). 1) Moral nihilism (or moral error theory): moral properties do not exist in the real world. 2) A posteriori moral naturalism: moral properties are identical to some natural property and this is not a conceptual truth. 3) Moral noncognitivism: moral properties aren't really objective properties; moral statements are complex ways of endorsing certain actions or norms of behavior.
Now if Joyce is right about what moral realism requires and the function of moral statements, then I'm an error theorist. However, I'm still holding out for a sensible account of morality that links up moral properties to some natural properties or makes moral terms ways of communicating endorsement/some complex conative state. For the sake of our argument, I'll grant your claim that morality is committed to more than just claims about harm or disapproval. So I'll be a moral nihilist.

But it's incorrect to say, "if you're a nihilist you cannot condemn others without being arrogant and self-important." That's silly. When a normative realist points out to the Nazi that what they're doing is morally wrong, they are just pointing out a feature of the Nazi's behavior: namely, the objective property of wrongness. Same thing when the DCT proponent cites God's commands, authority, punishment of us, etc. (TheoreticalBullshit makes the point beautifully from 25:10 to 26:40 of his "Treatise on Morality", and from 26:02 to 26:10 he makes the central point that I'll be applying to the Nazi: the Nazi has a choice in accepting the considerations offered the realist or nihilist in favor of acting in a certain way). But, just as in your discussion of me and the Nazi's, the Nazi might NOT care that what they're doing is wrong (again, see section C paragraph 2) nor care that they're being irrational nor care that their hurting others nor that their action has "wrongness [that] has nothing to do with us". So when you suggest that I might fail to change the Nazi's mind or fail to point out standards that they hold which they are violating, you fail to realize that the same thing could happen to the normative realist. And I'm no more arrogant than the normative realist. They are advocating consideration of some properties they care about (objective normativity, wrongness, etc.) and I'm doing the same for properties I care about. They can defend their properties by noting their objective moral force, but that would just be another way of pointing to some property they care about. I too would care about such normative properties, but my commitment to truth has led me to believe normative properties don't exist. So I instead reference properties that do exist, such as harm, suffering, frustrating the preferences of sentient entities, destruction of nature, etc and standards related to those properties. I would either try to get the Nazi's to see their commitment to such standards is implicit in their other behaviors, or present them with different hypothetical scenarios to guide them in selecting their commitments, or apply any of the other methods used in moral philosophy to determine what standards one will accept. As a nihilist, I would just do this without believing any of these considerations have objective normative force. So if my application of these methods to the Nazis is arrogant, then all normative realists are arrogant when they apply those same methods, since we're all just advocating properties and standards we care about.

If the Nazi's still won't be convinced by both me and the normative realists, then like the realists, I'll have a choice. I could allow the Nazi's to do as they please. Just as moral realists recognize a normative value in letting other's live as they please, I choose to respect the space of other people and other societies because that's how I would want to be treated. This is where your arrogance point should come in. Micromanaging people is arrogant. However, there are certain lines we won't let people cross. For normative realists this results from concern about objective normative properties like excessive badness, while for me it results from concern about actions that result in too much suffering, excessive frustration of people's non-harmful preferences, etc. For both of me and the realists, the Nazi's crossed the line, so we won't allow the Nazi's to do as they please. And if I'm arrogant for doing that, so are the normative realists, since my example stipulates that just as the Nazi's don't accept my standards, they don't give a damn about the realists "objective normative properties or normative reasons" and, like Lucy in section C, they don't give a fuck about how God's punishment affects their interests. They just want to kill Jews. Period. We're both applying our standards to an unwilling target.

But isn't the normative realist better off than me? Can't they say that people who ignore normative considerations are making a REAL mistake? Sure they can, just like someone who gives the wrong answer on a test has made a real mistake. But that's just to re-iterate the realist's commitment to certain standards of truth-following (ironically, the same standards of truth that made me deny the existence of objective normative properties). They judge people by how well they meet certain standards of normative rightness, truth, etc. And when someone fails to measure up those standards, they say they made a mistake, just as we say someone is irrational when they fail to meet the guidelines we have for rationality. Similarly, I could point out that the Nazi's behavior was cruel or harmful or vicious where this involves failing standards I care about (ex: taking an interest in the well-being of others, not being a jerk, displaying virtues, etc.). But again, the Nazis might not GIVE A DAMN about being called cruel, irrational, or mistaken. Normative realists and moral nihilists are still stuck in the same boat. We both just look out into the world and make decisions while constraining ourselves with guidelines and standards that make sense to us. It's just that normative realists believe in an extra set of properties that nihilists deny exist.

G) You note the paradox in your position but don't feel it indicates a problem? Please explain why. Also, your love example seems irrelevant. It might be true that, "the best way to find love is to not look for it." But in order for this point to rebut my argument, it needs to parallel my argument. But it fails to. I was not saying you need to keep moral reasons out of mind in order to find moral reasons. I was arguing that under your theory, you have to keep morality's real justification out of mind in order to behave morally (again this relates to 1 in section A). For your love analogy to parallel my argument, you would need to say, "we need to keep the real justification for love out of mind in order to behave lovingly." But instead of rebutting my argument, this analogy highlights exactly the problem I was trying to point out: there must be something incorrect or wrong about your justification for love if you need to hide it from yourself to behave lovingly. For example, suppose Linda's real justification for loving her wife Beth is that Beth's a freak in the bed and Linda needs to hide this justification from herself in order to behave lovingly towards Beth. This suggests Linda's loving behavior may either just be a fa├žade (analogous to "psychopath acting morally" example from section A paragraph 2 and my PM from 5/31/12) or Linda may have the wrong kind of justification for loving Beth (analogous to justifying morality via the wrong class of reasons [i.e. self-interested, internalistic reasons dealing with punishment]). Linda may instead need to justify her love for Beth via another class of considerations, such as those based on concern for Beth or appreciation of the way Beth treats Linda (analogous to externalistic reasons). These are the sorts of reasons Linda can keep in mind while loving Beth, and thus they make better candidates for justifying Linda's love.

Another example might clarify my argument and further establish the generality of its conclusion. Let's say a general orders a soldier named Roy to kill a group of bad men. Roy trusts the general and plans to follow the general's orders. However, before Roy can go through with the killing, he finds out that the general only wants these bad men dead because the bad men insulted the general (note that the men are still bad and deserved to be killed). Furthermore, the general will dishonorably discharge Roy and ruin Roy's life if Roy fails to go through with the killing. Now Roy can't get himself to kill the men when he thinks about the general's motives or the general's threats against Roy. He couldn't live with himself if he just blindly followed the commands of a jealous jerk or just acted from petty, self-interested fear. In the language of my PM from 5/31/12: he feels that acting from such a motivation would be an affront to his practical identity (Korsgaard FTW!). So instead, Roy decides to kill the bad men because they deserve it. This is his motivating reason he uses to direct his action, not concerns about self-interest or concern about what the general wants.

Now, we have at least two possible justifications (in the sense I describe in 1 in section A) for Roy's choice to kill: a') the self-interested reason based on what the general will do to Roy if Roy disobeys and b') the fact that the bad men deserved to die (this is independent of Roy's concern for his own self-interest). What I'm suggesting (and suggested in section B of my previous PM) is that Roy's discomfort with a' and his inability to use reason a' as his motivating reason shows that there is something weird about a'. And since Roy has no problem using b' to motivate his action, we should favor b' over a' [NOTE: originally written as "a' over b'", though this was an obvious typo; 7/27/2012] as the justifying reason Roy would intuitively accept for his action. I'm making a similarly point about people's morality. It's strange that if self-interest is the real reason justifying morality, we cannot reflect on this and act morally at the same time. Like Joyce has argued, it feels to most people like this is the WRONG kind of justification, just like Roy thinks that concern about punishment or the general's ego is the WRONG kind of justification for killing bad men. So you need to contend with this intuition and not just set it aside.

We have no problem with thinking about internalistic rational reasons when determining what job to take, what food to eat, what socks to where, etc. We're OK with thinking self-interest is the real reason justifying our interest in such things. So my argument is fine with us using internalistic reasons to justify our choices regarding such things. Morality, however, is different. We don't feel comfortable reflecting on self-interest (except in the extreme cases I discussed in section C of my previous PM) when caring for the sick, determining whether or not to rape, etc. Instead we settle on reasons involving care for others, rights, empathy, suffering, etc. So isn't it more plausible that its externalistic real reasons grounded in these sorts of things, that justifies our morality (in accordance with 1), as opposed to self-interested reasons? So, along with the intuitions I discussed in sections A + D and my previous PM, this provides further evidence that people intuitively believe that morality is justified via externalistic, non-self-interested real reasons.

H) I have repeatedly argued that moral requirements don't not imply a mental requirer, so I did not arbitrarily beg the question against you. Furthermore, I noted in my previous PM that YOU pointed out a paradox that ONLY EXISTS if a meta-ethical theory like YOUR's is correct: your original comments were about how irrational it would to care about something that was not "concerned" with your self-interest (call this claim "X")when this charge had no bearing on meta-ethical systems that did not make morality the commands of a mind. So this was a problem for YOU to deal with, NOT ME. This is what happens when you assume (as you have done on occasions too numerous to count) that when someone gives reasons for denying your position and then asserts the denial of position after arguing for this, they've somehow "begged the question" against you. In this specific case, ironically, it's YOU who begged the question against ME by assuming my meta-ethical position had a problem X when my meta-ethical position EXPLICITYL DENIED the presuppositions of X. Good God man! Get yourself together! Anyway, even if moral reasons were justified solely by real practical reasons provided by a mind, then moral properties, moral standards, moral obligations, etc. would still be inanimate non-mental entities. They could not be "concerned" with you.

Just out of curiosity, what do you mean by "God"? So far all you've said about God is that it's the mind making requirements of us and transmitting the feeling of requirement into our minds. But as I discussed in sections C and D of my previous PM, all kinds of different beings with different natures could make requirements of us and threaten to punish us. "God", in this sense, could be an alien, a powerful intergalactic Nazi, a punishing flying spaghetti monster, Cthulhu the Omni-malevolent, etc. If the being threatens punishment and has the power to punish, we have (according to you) a real practical reason to obey. So unless you have some further theological arguments for the nature of this being, I don't think it's fair to treat your current argument as a version of "divine" command theory. Instead, it's an argument for the existence of some punishing mind external to us (or at least external to me; who knows, there might be a secret cabal of scientists transmitting the feeling of requirement to us and willing to put our brains in vats after we die and thus keep us in pain interminably if we disobey) that makes demands. Until you can argue for other features of this being, please stop calling it God. It's like theists saying God is "whatever explains the diversity of organisms on Earth," before we reached our current biological understanding; natural selection is not God. Neither is an alien or Cthulhu.

You suggest arguing for "God"'s nature based on what the correct moral theory is. But it's sort of strange that your "God" supposedly threatens us with punishment, but decides not to be explicitly clear about any of the following: a) whether it exists, b) whether it will punish us, c) what it will punish us for d) what its nature is, e).... On these all-important topics that impact our long-term self-interest and our treatment of others, your "God" leaves (at best) only minimal, contradictory evidence for itself (for example: see TheoreticalBullshit's videos "Non-belief & Peek-A-Boo" and "Free Will and Lazy Deities", KnownNoMore's two part "Response to JP Holding", etc.), while simply leaving it to humans to sort out their confused, conflicting moral intuitions. It's almost as if this "God" does not care about our predicament, does not know of our predicament, is not in a position to help, or simply does not exist. While people suffer and make incorrect moral judgments, your "God" does not take strong definitive steps to correct the mistakes. And yet you want me to believe that morality is a reflection of this "God"'s nature as opposed to an imperfect human attempt to grasp normative features in the world. Really?! You expect me to take that seriously! What kind of incompetent, lazy, or uncaring "God" do you believe in! This is one of the many reasons why the number of atheists is growing. Theists can make all the abstract arguments they want about morality requiring a God or the universe requiring a designer or..., but when it comes to the real-world, nitty-gritty task of squaring their picture of God with empirical reality, things quickly break down (again, see section E paragraph 2).

Furthermore, instead of "normative moral theorizing" being about figuring out what this "God" demands of us or determining this "God"'s nature (which is what you'd expect if your version of DCT was correct), moral philosophy more plausibly involves figuring out what harms sentient life, what violates rights, etc. and determining what features of the world give us real, externalistic reasons to act. For example, when we reflect on an instance of rape instead of trying to determine "what 'God' requires of us" or "what we'll be punished for," we instead notice that the harm caused to the victim and the unnecessary frustration of the victim's ends makes the action bad independently on what anyone thinks and regardless of whether our acting against the rape is in our long-term best interest, i.e. the instance of rape gives us a real externalistic reason to be against that instance of rape. And no, I'm not begging the question against you: I'm ASSERTING a conclusion I spent pages and pages ARGUING for with numerous premises that did not presuppose the falsity of your theory! So my account of moral epistemology and moral philosophy makes much more sense than your's, which is a mark against your "D"CT. And if a "God" were to happen to punish us for not raping, then [as in my Roy example from section G] we'll either a) be cowards and rape while reflecting on our self-interest, b) rape and not be able to look at ourselves in the mirror, while trying our best not to think about the self-interested reason that's justifying our action, or c) not rape, and be proud of ourselves for following externalistic reasons and affirming our practical identity as we suffer unending torment (existential freedom and Sisyphus FTW!). Thank you "God."

I) Your "morality paying" point makes no sense. Of course I'm disturbed when virtuous people are exploited. That's why, as I discussed in section C of my previous PM, we normally don't say people are morally obligated to do things that involve an EXTREME sacrifice of long-term self-interest. But I've consistently argued that this does not imply that what's moral will not require SOME sacrifice of long-term self interest and it certainly does not show that we always have a self-interested reason to do what's moral or that (contrary to 1) morality must be justified via reference to self-interest or that my scope thesis in 3 is incorrect. And even if morality required you sacrifice to help others, it would also require that others sacrifice to help you when you need it (all other things being equal). So, contrary to your claims, under my account, morality would not imply that, "people who have lived virtuous lives are exploited and harmed precisely because of their virtue, and die uncompensated." Morality does not require ridiculous self-sacrifice even if claims 1-3 from section A are true. Do you think otherwise?

J) So you agree that if God told us to do impossible action Q and punished us if we did not, we would not have a moral reason to do Q? Even though I agree, that's not what I was arguing. My claim was about real reasons (which for you means "practical reasons" as discussed in the last paragraph of section C), not moral reasons. Specifically, in your second PM from 5/31/12 you said, "I'm not sure how I can have a real reason to do something impossible. Ought implies can. I cannot have practical reason to do something impossible. Or so it seems to me." In your PM from 6/2/12 you said, "you [i.e. me, NoctambulantJoycean] say God 'could' command us to do impossible things. Yes, but we'd have no reason to do those things. So such commands wouldn't be moral commands." So you agree that a God 'could' command us to do impossible act Q [6/2/12] (and presumably punish us for not doing Q), yet you deny that we thus have a real reason to do Q [5/31/12] (see: your point about moral reasons at the end of the 6/2/12 quote was, as I said, irrelevant to my content). You just denied that God's punishing us for Q is sufficient for giving us a real reason to not do Q. Yet in your PM from 5/29/12 you contradicted this claim by saying, "provided God will punish us if we do not do as he commands then we are all provided with a real reason to do as he commands regardless (with qualifications) of any desires we may have." So...yeah. In a long debate like this where both sides are revising their positions in light on new critiques, it's to be expected we'll eventually contradict ourselves (for example, in section A paragraph 2). So what is your revised position on practical reasons and punishment? Or am I misunderstanding you?

You've also decided to constrain morality to only a subset of practical reasons with categoricity. OK. My point in section D of my previous PM was that I suspected you were doing more than that; I thought you were also constraining what we have real reason to do without reference to God or punishment, which you can't do since you hold there are no real externalist reasons (last paragraph of section C). For example, as discussed in the above paragraph, you constrained the domain of real reasons by saying we never have a real reason to do the impossible, even if God commanded it. Yet this introduces a constraint on what counts as a real reason that seems to have nothing to do with God's punishment. In the second to last paragraph of section K, I discuss another instance where you might be tempted to do this (though you have not yet done it). Here's another example: what if, while doing moral philosophy, we think we've determined that a given action V is morally wrong even though God has not EXPLICITLY told us he'll punish us for doing V (no, I'm not begging the question against you; I'm not assuming V is actually wrong, I'm just applying the method you hint at when you say, "this is normative moral theorizing. And it seems to me that the requirements consist, for the most part, in requirements to be not cause pain, to promote pleasure, to not lie, to keep our promises, and so on. These, it seems to me, are the kind of requirements someone pretty nice and benevolent would make" [again, see the epistemological point I made in the last paragraph of section H]). We would thus think we have a real reason to not do V, even though we don't know if we'll be punished for doing it. This seems to be constraining the domain of real reasons without reference to self-interest. And that was exactly my point.

K) You're right that there are all different sorts of naturalistic theories with different normative implications. Each naturalistic theory (N1, N2, N3,...) can assert a different necessary a posteriori identification (n1, n2, n3,...). Similarly, each DCT (D1, D2, D3,...) can assert a different necessary a posterior identification (d1, d2, d3,...). Based on your claim that, "morality seems to consist not just in requirements that have categoricity and rational authority but also to consist in THESE commands (don't tell lies, don't hurt others etc)," I assume your particular d (call it "d4") will involve linking up morally right with God's commands regarding these. My toy naturalist has the n (call it "n4") where:
n4 : "morally right = whatever (in the long-term) allows sentient beings to live contented lives."

You say, "It is possible that the most horrific normative moral views are true... it is epistemically possible that they're true -- and so I see no problem in saying that it is also metaphysically possible that they're true. And I see no way in which someone holding a different metaethical view can say any different." But that's false. My toy naturalist has offered a necessary a posteriori thesis that applies across all metaphysically possible worlds. So for this naturalist, it's not even metaphysically possible that morally right will not relate to contentment and thus it's not even metaphysically possible that there will be a horrific normative moral result where morality comes apart from the contentment of sentient beings. Similarly, how can you say it's metaphysically possible for a horrific normative view is true if you intend to offer d4 as a necessary a posteriori truth? Do you deny d4 is a necessary a posteriori truth? I'll avoid going that interpretative route, because on other occasions you've explicitly asserted you mean d4 to be a necessary a posteriori truth. Or you may instead be keeping d4 general enough that it's possible for God to command horrific crap? For example, by d4 you might mean d4' where:
d4' : "morally right = agrees with God's commands/nature regarding topics such as lying, hurting others, etc."
where d4' allows for a God in a metaphysically possible world F to command that we lie. This certainly agrees with your suggestion that it's metaphysically possible that horrific normative views could result from God's being shitty. But this leads to problems I'll note below. Alternatively, you imitate my toy naturalist (and thus steal the benefits of necessity that I note in the next paragraph) in order to make it metaphysically impossible for horrific normative moral results to occur. For example, as I noted in section E of my previous PM, you could use a rigid designator to make d4 something like d4'', where:
d4'' : "morally right = the commands of a God who is not in favor of lying, hurting others, etc ."
As in the case of my toy naturalist, d4'' tries to make it metaphysically impossible that there will be a horrific normative moral result. But there are problems here as well (for more context on what I'm about to discuss, see "The Modal Vulnerability Problem" section of Joyce's paper "Theistic Ethics and the Euthyphro Dilemma;" Joyce seems to disagree with what I'm about to argue).

Since you agree God's nature is not metaphysically necessary, in other possible worlds (call the actual world "A") God could have a different nature and thus made different commands. For example, in world F, God could command lying, hurting others, etc. and punish people for doing otherwise even though the physical and mental attributes of F were the same as in A (this is my "R" argument from my PM on 5/31/12 and the comments section). In you PM you agreed that this is all metaphysically possible. Now here's the dilemma: is lying morally right or morally wrong in F? You could say lying is morally right in F (which is what you seem to be agreeing to when you say, "it is possible that the most horrific normative moral views are true"). You could do this via the methods I noted in the previous paragraph, including asserting d4' as your necessary a posteriori truth. But then, unlike my toy naturalist, you're allowing for the metaphysical possibility of horrendous normative results. And this is MASSIVELY counterintuitive. Most people have the intuition that if you fix all the mental and physical properties of an instance of rape (along with the causal history of that world, etc.) [call this "S"]], then it's not possible for S to sometimes be morally required [right in some possible worlds] and sometimes morally forbidden [wrong in some possible worlds] just because a subjective mind (ex: God) has different commands/judgments about S in different worlds. This is why moral theorists spend so much time trying to grant moral truths necessity. It's why the discovery of necessary a posteriori truths was such a big deal for meta-ethics. It's why most theistic ethicists who ground ethics in God spend so much time defending the metaphysical necessity of God's nature and commands. People want moral truths to be necessary. When you don't account for this, you end up with a counterintuitive position like your own.

Now you could take the alternative pathway and argue that lying in F is morally wrong. For example, you could take d4'' as your necessary a posteriori truth. But this leads to further problems. First, it looks incredibly arbitrary. The God of world F is not the God stipulated in d4'': d4'' is using the God of world A, who does punishes lying, while the God of world F punishes not lying. But what makes the God of world A so special that it's commands are binding not only in world A (where it exists) but even all worlds where it does not exist? Why do the commands of a non-existent God trump the commands of the God actually exists in that world? Why does the God of A ground what's morally right, while the other Gods do not? Couldn't it be the case that in A it's actually the commands of our existent God that are irrelevant and a correct DCT would instead apply the commands of a God from a different possible world (like F) to our world A? Second, as I suggested in paragraph 2 of section J and section D of my previous PM, it looks like you're using our moral intuitions to limit the scope of real reasons INDEPENDENTLY of considerations of God. Even though the God of F punishes not lying and thus provides the denizens of F with practical real reasons to lie, in this version of your response you would disregard that and use your own intuitions about what we have real reasons to do to limit the scope of what the God of F can provide us real reasons for via punishment. But doesn't that show your applying real reasons that are justified independent of self interest, in accordance with 1? Third, building off the second point, if lying is wrong in F, then (by your own theory) the people in F have a real reason not to lie. Yet where does this reason come from. The God of F will punish them for NOT lying, so it can't be what grounds the real reason. The God of A is causally isolated from F, so it cannot punish the people of F for lying, and thus it can't provide the people of F will a real practical reason not to lie. And you think its "controversial and dubious" that there are externalistic real reasons. So what options are left to you for the real reason behind the claim that lying is wrong in F? Making the justification of ethics intimately tied to the whims of a being whose nature is not metaphysically necessary sure is a problem?!

The aforementioned dilemma (which my n4 naturalist avoids beautifully) gives the moral realist an argument against your version of Divine Command Theory in particular, since your account fails to adequately account for the necessity that's so important to ethics. My n4 naturalist can avoid the dilemma because they avoid grounding real reasons for ethics in a subjective mind's (call it "M") decision to punish. So the n4 naturalist does not have to worry about how to scope their claims over different instantiations of M with non-equivalent nature in different worlds. Instead, the n4 naturalist links moral properties to a property or role ["whatever (in the long-term) allows sentient beings to live contented lives "] that is easily differentiated in each world in which it appears and is easy to scope over it's different instantiations since all the roles share the same nature (though the metaphysical nature of what happens to fill the role could be different in each possible world [as a side-note, this fits nicely with the "intrinsic/extrinsic" or "intrinsic nature/role" distinction that Chalmers and Kripke use to differentiate plausible candidates for metaphysical a posteriori necessary identities from implausible candidates]). So your account of DCT has another issues to address.

Thanks for your time. I look forward to your next response.
NoctambulantJoycean




NoctambulantJoycean, "Addendum to previous PM", 6/3/12
Tack this on to the end of section K:

Making the justification of ethics intimately tied to the whims of a being whose nature is not metaphysically necessary sure is a problem?! As you noted on 5/31/12 on the video "Who Says Science has Nothing to Say About Morality?": "You're an idiot. If you think morality is subjective then you must think you can make something morally right just by changing your attitudes towards it." And you make ethics intimately tied to God's subjectivity. Oh, the irony!
[NOTE: emphasis added, 7/26/2012]


The aforementioned dilemma (which my n4 naturalist avoids beautifully) gives the moral realist an argument against your version of Divine Command Theory in particular, since your account fails to adequately account for the necessity that's so important to ethics. My n4 naturalist can avoid the dilemma because they avoid grounding real reasons for ethics in a subjective mind's (call it "M") decision to punish. So the n4 naturalist does not have to worry about how to scope their claims over different instantiations of M with non-equivalent nature in different worlds. Instead, the n4 naturalist links moral properties to a property or role ["whatever (in the long-term) allows sentient beings to live contented lives "] that is easily differentiated in each world in which it appears and is easy to scope over it's different instantiations since all the roles share the same nature (though the metaphysical nature of what happens to fill the role could be different in each possible world [as a side-note, this fits nicely with the "intrinsic/extrinsic" or "intrinsic nature/role" distinction that Chalmers and Kripke use to differentiate plausible candidates for metaphysical a posteriori necessary identities from implausible candidates]).

Many theists try to imitate the success of the n4 naturalist by arguing that God's nature is metaphysically necessarily and thus there are no problems involved with scoping their moral claims different instantiations of M since all versions of M have the same nature and thus would make the commands in any specific context S (see two paragraphs above). But I can easily dismantle the well-known versions of the modal ontological argument and provide arguments against the metaphysical necessity of God's nature. With this final option closed, I don't see how any account of ethics that grounds the justification of ethics in God's nature/commands/role as punisher, could ever explain the necessary truth of certain moral propositions. So DCT has some serious issues to address.




Clear404, "Re: PM?", 6/3/12
I'm going to try and address all of your points. However, I am going to do so in a rather ad hoc manner due to time and thinking constraints. So this won't be systematic I'm afraid.
I'll say something about E.
You say that you've addressed the 'requirement implies a requirer' argument to death. No. What you did is suggest we shelve it. You haven't refuted it at all -- not from my perspective. As far as I'm concerned that argument is alive and well and I'm going to keep using it. And by just assuming -- as you did -- that you'd refuted my argument I am having the question begged against me. The question has not been resolved.
I have several reasons for using it. First, for me I consider naturalist and non-naturalist metaethical views absurd mainly because they cannot capture the prescribing nature of morality. Despite what you say, situations do not issue commands. But if someone wants to insist they do, that's fine -- I will simply deem them to have taken a metaphor literally.
But anyway, to make progress here I think you should recognise that there is no way for you to dismiss my argument here. The absolute best you can do -- and I do not think you can do even this -- is to match it.
You'd accept, I take it, that requirements -- or perhaps 'prescription' is better as 'requirement' has the idea of a reason built in (which moral 'requirments' do too -- but how they get to provide us with a reason is a different matter on my view) can come into existence through agents creating them? I mean, that's one sure fire way of getting a prescription. So even you should accept that this is A way in which a prescription can come into existence and thus one possible way in which moral requirements could come into existence (given that moral requirements are prescriptions).
Pointing out that requirements can come into existence in other ways will at best offer an alternative to DCT characterisation of moral requirements. It will not highlight any kind of flaw in the DCT characterisation of moral requirements.
Rather than debate whether there are other ways of getting requirements -- about which I think we're just going to flat disagree as it is utterly beyond me how anything can be a real requirement without a requirer -- we should both accept that DCT is on strong ground here.
The DCT account of the prescriptivity of morality is very straightforward: morality consists in the prescriptions of an agent (God). Of course, it consists in more than this. But you can't deny that's a very good account of how morality gets to be prescriptive!
By all means offer alternatives. I think they'll fail. But recognise that DCT has a blinder of an account here. And recognise also that your alternatives do not refute the DCT account. If you have an alternative the most you can say is that there is an alternative to the DCT way of understanding the prescriptive nature of morality.
Of course, DCT can do a lot more than explain the prescribing nature of morality. It can also explain the categorical nature of moral prescritiptions and their rational clout. But we can get onto those things later.

I'm now moving on to H.
You ask what I mean by 'God'. You correctly say that I've said God -- the God I'm saying morality presupposes - is a mind who has desires and plans etc and who issues us with commands that we sense and refer to as morality. I'd add that he must have the power to be able to guarantee that it is in our interests to fulfil his commands and he'd also have to exercise that power. You say that for all I've said this mind could be an alien or a flying spaghetti monster. Yep. Call it what you want. Say it isn't a god if you want. I'm not in the least bothered by the label. I think most people would say that such a being deserves the title 'God'. After all, this being must have incredibly power -- for this being must be able to see to it that it is always -- always -- in our interests to do its bidding. The only way I can conceive of how a being could have that kind of power is if it has complete control ove our welfare in an afterlife. Now, that -- to my mind -- qualifies this being as a God. But I don't mind about labels. Let's call him Steve instead. I'm a Steve command theorist.
But anyway, I am going to continue to call it a God, because that's a perfectly acceptable use ofthe term 'God'. Telling me not to refer to it as a god is a bit like telling me not to refer to digestive biscuits as 'biscuits' because there are lots of different sorts of biscuits -- some have fillings and some have chocolate on and some have chocolate bits in and so on. Yes, there are lots of different sorts of biscuit, but the term 'biscuit' is quite properly applied to a digestive. There's absolutely nothing strange in my usage. The being that morality presupposes is --according to my theory -- an agent who has incredible (and I'd say exclusive) power over our welfare in an afterlife. That's a 'god' in my book.
Why you feel the need to point out tot me that natural selection is not a god is beyond me. You seriously think I would describe natural selection as a God??
So anyway, I'm using the word 'God' perfectly sensibly and if you think I need to tell you what colour his underwear is before I'm entitled to us the term then I'm afraid you're the one who has rather strange ideas about what the term 'God' can be used to refer to.

You then say that it is odd that this Goddecids not to be clear bout whether it exiss, what it will punish us for etc.
Yes, that's odd. If I'm right that morality presupposes a God, then the fact it is often unclear what we're morally to do is evidence that the God in question lacks any high degree of control over this realm -- that he is trying to communicate with us, but his communications are unclear for one reason or another. And so on. That's what we'd have to conclude -- that's what I DO conclude.
You then go on to make some standard points about God not caring etc. No, the God of morality clearly cares otherwise he wouldn't make any kind of command at all. The fact terrible things happen here, and the fact God's own commands to us are often unclear, is evidence that the God morality presupposes doe s not have control over this realm.
Remember: I'm not a religious nut. I'm letting the evidence lead me. I'm not deciding -- as you seem to have done -- that God must have a certain nature and must have created us and must have created this realm. I'm looking at morality and asking what it would require for this to really exist. And it seems to me -- following reasoned argument alone -- that what it would take for morality to be 'real' is for a certain sort of God to exist who is trying to communicate with us and whose communications morality consists in.
As the communications -- the commands -- appear to be ones that enjoin us to be altruistic to one another I infer that this being is probably altruistic and cares about us. I infer that such a being would not have created this place.
Perhaps this God is lazy and incompetent. But that's not a very reasonable assumption to make. The evidence doesn't support it. Assume I'm right about what morality presupposes and assume that morality really exists. Now, given that the most plausible normative moral theories are theories that make caring for others a moral requirement, how reasonable is it to conclude that the being issuing us with these requirements is a complete shit? Not very. Utterly perverse, in fact. So I don't. Why do you?
How reasonable is it to conclude that this being has designed this world -- a world in which terrible things happen -- things that only someone who didn't really care that much about us would have created? Not very. Wholly unreasonable in fact. Perverse. So I don't. Why do you?
How reasonable is it to conclude that this being currently has complete control over us, given that he regularly allows us to do absolutely terrible things to one another while at the same time telling us to stop people doing terrible things to one another? Not reasonable at all. Utterly perverse again. So I don't. I don't make that inference. Why do you?
How reasonable is it to hypothesise that he created this world but was completely incompetent? Not very. For an incompetent God would not be able to guarantee that following his commands would be in our interests. Thus an incompetent God's commands would not have the categorical rational clout of a moral command. The kind of God morality presupposes -- and that we're supposing to exist at the mo -- is not an incompetent God.
So I'm afraid your criticisms here don't touch me at all. You're just wheeling out the standard criticisms of traditional conceptions of God rather than paying attention to the kind of God morality suggests exists.
If you want to reserve the term 'God' so that it refers only to the kind of God about whose existence the above criticisms would be good ones, then fine. But you're just talking past me. I describe the being that morality presupposes as a God because he is an agent who has incredible power over us. But like I said earelier, I don't want to get into a semantic debate about the correct use of the term 'God'.

The rest of what you say in H - the bit about normative moral theorising - is just question begging. Normative moral theorising involves trying to figure out what morality requires us to do. Does it reuqire us to maximise happiness or are there limits to this demand? Is there also a demand to respect an individual's autonomy that we must balance against hte demand to maximise happpiness and prevent suffering and so on? These are issues in normative ethics. Whether 'rightness' is to be identified with the property of being an act that maxmises happiness is a metaethical question and to just assert that it is - or that it is 'more plausible' that it is is to just assume the very issue under debate. How plausible or otherwise that is can only be determined once the plausibility of the case for DCT has been assessed.

Anyway, time pressures mean I must address your other points later. I will say that I'm a Humean however!




Clear404, "Re: PM?", 6/5/12
Hi,

a reply to some more bits. This is a reply to your 'a'.

In your section A you say that when you say moral reasons don't depend on self-interest you meant that moral raesons aply to you regardless of what is in your interest.

Let's look at the evidence though . The evidence is that moral requirements often require us to do something despite our having a desire not to do it. I often sense that I ought to do x, despite not wanting to do x. And I think I'm not alone in that.

I also often sense that I ought to do x, despite xing not seeming to be something that it is in my interests to do.

Now, what is actually in my interests is a matter I am not an infallible guide to (whereas I am a virtually infallible guide to whether or not I am currently desiring to do something).

So the evidence is that a) moral requirements often require us to do something despite us not wanting to do it and b) moral requirements often require us to do something that does not appear to be in our interests.

Imagine there's something that we will all want in the future, regardless of any desires we currently have. Imagine, in other words, that it just a fact that next week we will all -- all - acquire an overwhelmingly strong and unsheddable desire for a substance called Soma. Not everyone is aware of this, however.

Now, imagine that telling an untruth anytime between now and then will result in your not getting any Soma.

I am one of those who is ignorant about the transformation that is going to take place next week. I have no current desire for any Soma and I do not believe that acquiring Soma is in my interests. I am also in a situation where lying appears to me to be something that it is very much in my interests to do. You say to me 'you have reason not to lie'. I say 'but I desire to lie'. That doesn't cancel the reason. You wouldn't think 'oh, well, then he does have reason to lie then after all'.

In the situation I have just described it is irrelevant what I currently desire. I have reason not to lie, and I have this reason because of desires I am going to have. But because I am going to desire Soma in the future, regardless of what I desire now, I have reason not to lie 'regardless' of my current desires. This is the same for everyone else. It seems true to say that eveyone has reason not to lie regardless of their desires.

I say 'but it appears to be in my interests to lie'. This doesn't cancel the reason either. That's because believing something to be in your interests, and it actually being in your interests are two different matters. It is actually in my interests not to lie, and my belief that it is not is just false.

So, my saying 'but I desire to lie' doesn't alter the fact I have reason not to lie and that your statement 'you have reason not to lie' is true.

My saying 'but it is not in my interests to avoid lying' doesn't alter the fact that I have reason to avoid lying.

In the circumstances I've just described I have reason not to lie, and this is unaffected by whether I realise this, by whether I desire to lie, or by whether I deem it in my interests to avoid lying.

Imagine you do not explain why I have reason not to lie. Instead you just keep saying to me 'you have reason not to lie'. To my every attempt to show that I do have reason to lie (by pointing out that I desire to, or that I deem it in my interests to) you just keep replying 'you have reason not to lie'.

Well, you'd be saying something correct. I'd be puzzled. I'd be thinking 'well, this person is adamant I've got reason not to lie -- but for the life of me I can't see why'.

Well, in my view that's analogous to how things are with our conscience or moral sense or faculty of moral judgement. Our conscience says 'don't lie, you have reason not to lie'. And we wonder how -- we think 'but I want to lie' -- yet it continues to tell us 'don't lie, you have reason not to lie'. We think 'but it is in my interests to lie' -- yet it continues to tells us 'don't lie, you have reason not to lie'.

Now, the situation I have described is a situation in which it is correct that you, me, and everyone else has a reason not to lie.

So, I have outlined a situation in which everyone has a reason not to lie regardless of their current desires and regardless of what they 'take' to be in their interests.

Moral reasons are like this. We have reason to do our duty regardless of our current desires (or rather, regardless of any desire to do otherwise) and regardless of what we 'take' to be in our interests. (Note though that this is not sufficient for a moral requirement - the scenario I outlined is not one in which one has a 'moral' reason not to lie - to infer that would be to commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent).

No doubt you will want to say that intuitively we have reason to do our duty even if is ACTUALLY not in our interests.

But what evidence do you have for that?

I take it that you're attacking my position rather than simply offering up an alternative view. Well, if you're attacking my position then I want non-question begging evidence for your claim. You mustn't just assume my position is false. You must assume it is true and try and show how its truth is untenable given its implications. Unless you do this, you're just begging the question against me.

If you point out that what morality requires us to do is often contrary to our interests, you will be begging the question. If DCT is true then it IS in your interests to do what morality requires. Doesn't follow from this that it will APPEAR to be in your interests.

So, to avoid begging the question all you can do is point out that what morality requires us to do is often contrary to what we TAKE to be in our interests. But that's something I accept. For it is not evidence that morality requires us to do what is ACTUALLY not in our interests.

So, here's what I think the evidence shows. The evidence is that moral requirements apply to us even if we desire to do otherwise. And the evidence is that moral requirements apply to us even if what they bid us do seems contrary to what is in our interests.

That's what the evidence shows. The DCT account I'm offering respects that evidence. Under DCT moral requirements do indeed apply to us even if we desire to do otherwise. And under DCT moral requirements do indeed apply to us even if what they bid us do appears to us to be contrary to what is in our interests.

So, the DCT is consistent with the evidence. Under DCT moral requirements have exactly the kind of categoricity that the evidence suggests they have.




Clear404, "Re: PM?", 6/5/12
More responses.

To your B.

I assume that what I have already said in reply to A should suffice here too.

The evidence is that moral requirements apply to you even if you desire not to fulfil them and even if you do not think it is in your interests to fulfil them.

That's true of the commands of a God, provided the God has the power to, and has resolved to, punish you if you disobey.

If 'x is wrong' refers to the fact that God wants me to not x, and will punish me if I x, then I have reason not to x even if I desire to x, and even if it strikes me that it is in my interests to x. What appears to me to be in my interests, and what is actually in my interests are two separate matters.

My own moral experience is that when I sense that something is wrong, I sense that I have reason not to do that thing. It is -- to use my earlier example -- as if someone is saying 'do not do this. You have reason not to do this'.

I think this is why there's something incoherent in the idea of sincerely judging something to be right, yet wondering if you have reason to do it.

Anyway, that's how things seem to me. I think it is legitimate to wonder how it could be that I could have reason to not to do this thing. If it is necessarily not in my interests to do that thing, then that is a reason.

At the moment the question 'why be moral' is a live one. That's because we are presented with conflicting appearances. On the one hand it often appears to be contrary to our interests to do what is right. In other words, we appear to have reason NOT to do what morality requires. But at the same time, to recognise that something is right, is (in part) to recognise that one has reason to do that thing.

So we are faced with an apparent contradiction. It is a puzzle. The appearances cannot all be veridical. Either we do not have a reason to do what is right, in which case rightness does not really exist and it was simply an illusion that we had reason to do x. Or, alternatively, we do have a reason to do x and the apparent fact that doing x is contrary to one's interest is an illusion.

Here's a thought experiment. Forget whether DCT is true as a metaethical account. Instead, imagine that the God I've been saying morality presupposes, actually exists.

So, forget whether morality does or does not presuppose such a being. Just imagine he exists. So, there does exist a God, who is issuing commands to us and who has the power to punish us if we do not obey, and who has resolved to use that power to punish us if we do not obey.

Imagine that he is trying to communicate with us and that his communications are what we refer to as moral requirements. So, that sense of 'to be doneness' and 'not to be doneness' really is a communication of a command from God. Forget whether that is the best way of characterising our moral sense. Just imagine that, causally, God is trying to communicate his commands to us and this communication manifests itself as our moral sense.

Now, are you still a nihilist if you find out that all that is true? Or would you accept that if all of that is true, then we have discovered what morality 'is'?

Do you think other people would -- upon discovering that there is a god of the kind I've described and who is trying to communicate with us -- would conclude that morality does not exist. Or do you think that upon the discovery of all these things they'd conclude that morality really does exist and now it is clear what it is?

I think most people would conclude that morality exists if everything I've said is true. If the universe truly does turn out to be that way (and I'm not saying it is) then to continue to maintain that morality does not exist would be considered by most to be absurd.

If the universe is as I have just asked you to imagine it, would anyone ever ask 'why be moral?' anymore? No. It would be clear why there was reason to be moral.

Continue to imagine that the universe is as I have described it and now imagine a metaethical naturalist trying to sell their theory. Would it work? Would anyone take them seriously? No, it'd already be clear what morality 'is' and somebody who suggested that morality could continue to exist even if the God didn't would be considered a fool. The poverty of their view would be abundantly clear.

In effect what I'm asking you to do -- albeit imaginatively -- is to try out the kind of worldview I'm saying morality requires. I'm not asking you to agree that morality requires it. I'm just asking you to imagine the universe is as I say morality needs it to be. And then I'm asking you to recognise just how absurd it would be to be a naturalist, or a non-naturalist, or a nihilist in such a universe.

TO your C.

Normativity. This word keeps coming up. I will be clear here: for me moral normativity is not one single thing. It is two things. First, it is prescriptivity. Morality tells you what to do -- it instructs. Second, it is the reason-giving character of the prescription. One can prescribe without giving reasons. Take your hat off. There -- that's a prescription, but its mere existence doesn't necessarily provide you with a reason to take your hat off. Moral prescriptions do.

Now, I am a Humean about reasons. What do I mean? First, motivating reasons. I believe you oly have a motivating reason to do x if you desire to do x.

Now, what I think you'd call 'real' reasons. You have 'real' reason to do x if doing x will satisfy a desire of yours at some point. I'm not sure of the details -- perhaps you have 'real' reason to do x if you'd desire to do x if you were fully informed and reasoning properly. Anyway, I'd say this is still broadly humean because I'm saying that it is your desires that set your goals rather than anything independent of your desires.

Now, you keep using terms like 'real normativity'. I don't know what you mean.

I mean by 'real normativity' the existence of prescriptions that provide us with reason to do their bidding.

The commands of a god have 'real normativity' in this sense.

You say someone wcould respond to the 'because it is in your intersts' point with 'why should I care?'. Yes, if you mean they could utter those words. But they couldn't grasp what the words 'in your interests' mean and also grasp what 'why should I care' means and respond 'why should I care'. That's because in asking 'why should I care' they're asking for a reason to care. If, as a Humean, you have a reason when doing x would serve your interests, then this person's question -- 'why should I care' has been answered by 'because it is in your interests'. If they continue to ask the question they can't really understand what it is they're asking. But yes, they could utter the words. You say she is not being incoherent. On the contrary, she is.

You tell me that many would accept that the answer 'but why should I care' is not irrational as a response to the 'you have moral reason to do x'.

But we face a conflict of appearances where moral requirements are concerned. It is possible for something to appear right, but for a different act to appear to be in your interests, and thus for us to face an apparent contradiction. It is always open to someone to opt for what I'd say is the nihilist option. When someone says 'but why should I care' to the 'it is wrong to do x' point they are either asking for an explanation of how it could be that they could have a reason to be moral (in which case the DCT provides such a reason), or they are effectively denying that the moral reason really exists.

I think there is something incoherent about sincerely believing something to be right, and yet wondering if you have reason to do it.

You seem to be a sceptic about any kind of reason. But I can't really argue against that. Even you'd surely have to agree that it is better to stick to one type of reason than to have lots. If any kind of reason is dodgy, let's keep the dodginess to a minimum. Well, that's what DCT does. But if you don't allow that prudential reasons exist, then I'm a bit at sea. But I'm not too worried because, well, everyone is if that's the case, and I'm not as far out as my rivals.




Clear404, "Re:Addendum to previous PM", 6/6/12 
This is a reply to your K. I think that's everything.

I'm entirely unclear how your 'toy naturalist' avoids the dilemma I presented you with.

The dilemma is this: either a horrific normative moral theory is compatible with naturalism, or it is not. If it is compatible with naturalism, then similar compatibility with DCT cannot be considered a special problem for DCT. It is a problem for everyone.
Alternatively, horrific normative moral theory (let's call it H) is not compatible with naturalism. But this would only happen if you just stipulate that the requirements constitutive of some alternative normative moral theory -- such as utilitarianism, say -- are also constitutive of the correct metaethical moral theory.

Well, nothing stops the DCT making exactly the same move.

Basically, anything you can do, I can do too. Anything you can do, I can do better.

Why better? Because a naturalist view won't be able to account for the prescriptivity or practical clout of morality, whereas DCT can.


Take your claim that

morally right = whatever (in the long-term) allows sentient beings to live contented lives."

That's ambiguous between a metaethical or a normative claim.

Either you mean that whatever allows sentient beings to live contented lives has rightness -- in which case you're offering a normative moral view -- or you mean that moral rightness literally 'is' whatever allows sentient beings to live contented lives.

If the former, then you may well be correct. But so? The normative claim is compatible with DCT.

If the latter, then you are just asserting the truth of naturalism. That's question begging. You're not allowed to just help yourself to naturalism. And anyway, the minute you make a normative claim into a metaethical one all you're doing is saying that this requirement is essential to morality. Fine -- but a DCT can do that too, and what results will be a lot more plausible than your view.


Here's the point made a different way.

Let's say you're a naturalist and so identify moral properties with natural properties.

Well, lots of things are natural properties. What if I criticised your position by saying 'but size is a natural property. So is rightness 'size' now? That's absurd. The property of 'being an act that will cause others immense suffering' is a natural property. Are such acts 'right'? That's absurd' etc. How would you respond? Would you consider this a good criticism?

Let's consider why you might consider it a rubbish criticism. When you identify moral properties with natural properties you don't claim that moral properties are identical with just ANY old natural properties. You identify moral properties with specific natural properties. In your case, you identify moral properties with the property of being an act that will allow other sentient creatures to live contented lives.

Now consider the DCT. I identify moral requirements with the requirements of a god.

What if someone criticises my position by saying 'but god could require us to hurt each other for the sake of it. Would that be right? No, that's absurd' etc.

Do you consider that a good criticism of DCT? Yes, it seems. But if the previous criticism of naturalism was rubbish, then this is a rubbish criticism of DCT. For the DCT can make exactly the same point as the naturalist. The DCT needn't claim that moral requirements are the requirements of just any old God, nor that they are just any old requirements that a god might make. They can claim that morality consists in a specific requirement or requirements commanded by God.

A DCT who makes such a claim (and note, I don't make such a claim -- I don't think the correct normative moral theory is 'necessarily' correct) has respected the fact (a fact I dispute) that morality cannot be different from what it is. There is no possible world in which hurting someone or the sake of it is 'right'. Because although there are possible worlds in which a god might command such things, those commands won't constitute moral commands because moral commands are specific commands, commanded by God.

Note: my actual view is that moral truths are not necessary truths. My actual view is that if God commanded us to hurt one another, it would be morally right for us to do so. That's my actual view.

I think the most horrible, disgusting normative moral theories are compatible with DCT. I think they are also compatible with naturalism and non-naturalism.

I think it is FALSE that we are required to hurt one another etc. But I believe it is possible for such acts to be right.

Perhaps you don't. Well, fine -- I'm open to persuasion. But any argument you give is one a DCT can simply help themselves to -- or I reckon that's the case anyway.


IN your addendum you go on to say this:

Making the justification of ethics intimately tied to the whims of a being whose nature is not metaphysically necessary sure is a problem?! As you noted on 5/31/12 on the video "Who Says Science has Nothing to Say About Morality?": "You're an idiot. If you think morality is subjective then you must think you can make something morally right just by changing your attitudes towards it." And you make ethics intimately tied to God's subjectivity. Oh, the irony!

But you're just wilfully ignoring what I said. I said this: if morality is subject then you can make something right just by altering your attitude towards it.

Now, is that true? No. We cannot alter the rightness of an act by altering our attitudes towards it. Therefore subjectivism is false.

Now can I alter what God has commanded me to do by altering my attitudes? No.

So where's the 'irony'? Morality has an objectivity that needs to be respected if one is to be giving an account of 'morality' rather than something else.

Subjectivist views of morality do not respect this objectivity at all.

DCT does.

Note: my criticism was NOT that if morality is subjective any old thing 'could' be right or wrong. I think any act -- any act -- could, in the metaphysically possible sense of 'could' be right. And I think all my rivals have to accept this as well - and if they don't, I want to know how they avoid having to say this and when they explain that to me, i will avoid it as well by employing the same argument.