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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Part C of my meta-ethical exchange with Clear404 [The Joycean acknowledges sensei Joyce before surpassing him]


Part C of my Youtube PM discussion with the theist Clear404. Part B basically set up the boundaries of our debate. From here on out, we mostly stay within Part 2's confines, revising and strengthening our arguments, constructing new arguments for our conclusions in part B, etc. Enjoy:



NoctambulantJoycean, "Meta-ethics discussion", 6/9/12
Hello Clear404.

I appreciate the time and effort you put into your responses. As will soon become clear, I disagree with most of what you wrote. I'll follow my original order scheme and proceed from A to K. This will mean I will answer your responses in the following order: 1st PM from 6/5, 2nd PM from 6/5, 6/3, and 6/12. Hope that makes things easier to follow.

A2) We first need to distinguish between the "conceptual" [C] and "empirical" [E] questions regarding morality (here I'm thinking of the distinction Joyce makes in "Error Theory" or the first page of "The Error in 'The error in error theory'"). I'm sure you're familiar with this distinction. C questions regard what moral concepts are committed to or what competent users of moral terms would agree to, while E questions deal with what actually exists, whether there is any existent thing that matches the concept, etc.

Now a direct quote from you: "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."

The first paragraph of your quote seems to deal with E-type issues. You seem to making a claim about what morality ACTUALLY, in the REAL WORLD, requires of us. This seems to be reinforced in paragraph 2. Now you're right; if I simply asserted (without a supporting argument for my assertion) that morality, IN REAL LIFE, requires us to do things that are not in our self interest, I would be begging the question against you. But that's not what I was doing. I was making C-type points. I was making arguments about what conceptually competent moral speakers think about the concepts involved in morality. For example, my argument in section G was meant to show that most competent speakers think real practical reasons are the wrong kind of justification for morality. Similarly, for the conceptual intuitions points I made in section D. I was trying to show your position was in tension with some conceptual platitudes/intuitions. This would, by definition, make your view COUNTERINTUITIVE.

Now as a matter of empirical fact, it might turn out that, contrary to people's intuitions, the sole justification for morality is real practical reasons. So your view could be counterintuitive, while still being correct (counterintuitive in a C sense, but correct in an E sense). Analogously, evolutionary theory is true even though it's counterintuitive to many people. The theory's counterintuitiveness counts¬ against it, but this ceased to matter once the theory amassed tons of evidence. Similarly, DCT's counterintuitiveness marshal against it until you come up with evidence for its necessary a posteriori identification thesis. In fact, since you offer DCT identification as a necessary a posteriori truth, as opposed to a conceptual truth, you should not be surprised that some of our conceptual intuitions are in tension with your thesis. After all, if all our conceptual intuitions pointed towards God's nature/commands being identical with "morally good" or "morally right", then you would offer your thesis as an a priori conceptual truth, not an a posteriori truth.

Also note that I would not be begging the question against evolutionary theory by pointing out that it's counterintuitive; i.e. I would not be assuming evolutionary theory was false. I would need to make an E claim to do that. So I'm not begging the question against you in my arguments for your view being counterintuitive since both of the following could be simultaneously true: it's a C truth that "morality requires us to do is often contrary to our interests" (and I can prove that via the methods I've outlined: thought experiments, my argument in section G, the experiments is section D, the informal surveys I suggested in paragraph 2 of section E, etc.) and it's an E truth that, "it IS in [always] your interests to do what morality requires." However, though I am not begging the question against you, I am shifting the burden of proof against you. As in the evolution example, your view will need more and more evidence the more and more counterintuitive it becomes. If you're thesis disagrees with enough intuitions, we'll need to begin questioning whether it even counts as explaining MORALITY, as opposed to something else (you obviously know the Joyce-based explanation for this). My Humean subjectivism is in the same position; the more counterintuitive it is, the more evidence it requires and the less likely it is that it counts as a MORAL position. However, I have no problem with this. I'm OK with Humean subjectivism being a morally nihilistic position as opposed to a moral one, though I'm still open to moral realism (see paragraph 4 of section C2b). And I have strong arguments in favor of the Humean view. I just doubt the same is true of your position.

Further on you say, "I take it that you're attacking my position rather than simply offering up an alternative view... 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." No. I'm offering moral reasons externalism (and to a lesser extent, Humean subjectivism) as alternative views. And I'm showing how moral reasons externalism fits well with many of the C claims you're position fails to agree with, and is thus more intuitively plausible (section A, G, etc.). And I tried to show that the E doubts you might have about real externalistic normativity should apply to internalistic practical normativity, thus leading you to Humean subjectivism (I will more of this in section C2b). So no, I was not just attacking your position; I presented alternatives. 

And even if I was just attacking, if I presented an argument for proposition P and showed that your position implied not not-P, I would have provided a non-question-begging argument against your position. I don't need to show a position in internally contradictory to argue against it. Otherwise it would be impossible to argue against positions like "we're all brains in vats" or other such logically consistent views. Under your view of "question-begging", I could assert any random claim I wanted (ex: chickens are peaches) and if anyone said ANYTHING that disagreed with that position I could just retort, "you're begging the question." I could do this even they had an argument supporting their disagreement. See the problem here? I don't see what's so difficult to understand about this. It's actually what you did against my position in your "requirements imply a requirer argument"; you explained why you disagreed and provided an argument for your position. And instead of saying you "begged the question against me", I responded to your argument by explaining why moral requirements don't imply a requirer (as I will do again in this PM).

With this cleared up, I'll move on to your Soma example. I like your example so much I'm going to commandeer it for my own purposes. Assume that you can only get Soma if you lie. If my arguments from my previous PM are correct (sections A, G, and I; and the experiments and surveys of sections D and E), then in response to this scenario most competent speakers would say that this was an EXTREME case. After all, we have an, "overwhelmingly strong and unsheddable desire" for Soma. Since we're usually not morally required to do things that involve an EXTREME sacrifice of self-sacrifice, we would not be morally required not to lie. But, I reiterate, this does not show that morality is justified via self-interested reasons. For example, Peter Singer argues that people think we are obligated to save the lives of others even when that involves a small sacrifice of self-interest on our part. It's a C truth about competent speakers that moral reasons USUALLY outweigh self-interested reasons [I'm not begging the question against you because 1) I did not say this was an E truth and 2) I can support my contention via the methods outlined in sections D and E]. And in section G, I gave you a further argument for it being a C truth that practical reasons are not plausible candidates for justifying morality; instead externalistic reasons are the more plausible option. So if I'm right, then in the Soma scenario, competent speakers would say we have a practical reason, not a moral reason, to lie. 

This conceptual intuition held by competent speakers is compatible with 1, 2, or 3: 1) the practical reason to lie outweighed the externalistic moral reasons for not lying due to the extreme circumstances, 2) the fact that not lying involved such an extreme self-sacrifice means we're not morally required to not lie, though we still have a moral reason to lie, or 3) the extremity self-sacrifice means we don't actually have a moral reason to not lie in this situation. If 1 is true, then moral reasons are not necessarily overriding; they are not "all-considered reasons" [see the footnote on 51 of "The Myth of Morality"]. If 2 is true, then practical reasons can weaken the strength of moral reasons such that we go from "morally required to not lie" to "its moral supererogatory not to lie". If 3 is true, then moral reasons could still be overriding, but we would never have a moral reason to do something that involved an extreme sacrifice of self-interest. I would need to perform variants of the experiments suggested in section D to tease apart which (if any) of these three positions people hold.

B2) You say "there's something incoherent in the idea of sincerely judging something to be right, yet wondering if you have reason to do it." Even if there was, real externalistic reasons could account for this fact. You also say, "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."But as I discussed in last couple of paragraphs of section A2, I'd bet good money that the following is a C truth: what morality requires us to do is often contrary to our interests. This is just as much a part of people's "moral experience," as you call it, as the claim that morality applies to us regardless of our desires; it's a C truth. You then go on to conclude that, "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." No, that does not follow. Your conclusion only follows if internalistic practical reasons were the only real reasons. I'll resist the urge to employ your tactic of saying "you're begging the question" against externalistic reasons. Instead, I'll just reiterate that I've argued (ex: in section G) it's more plausible that morality is justified by real externalistic reasons as opposed to real practical reasons.

Moving on, you say, "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 assume you're asking for people's conceptual intuitions here and thus we're still in the C domain. My answer depends on the nature and commands of that God. If God was cruel, un-empathetic, indifferent, etc. and commanded cruel things, then I believe most competent speakers would say, "no, if morality was just a reflection of the commands/commands of such a being, then morality (as we know it) does not exist." Alternatively, if God was empathetic, loving, compassionate, caring towards sentient life and it's commands reflected this, then people would respond, "yes, if morality was a reflection the commands/commands of such a being, then morality (as we know it) exists." Now this is probably what you wanted me to concede. But, as I'm about to argue, this is not a major concession (the following section is taken from my conversation with the Youtube theist I mentioned on 5/31/12).

I don't believe that God is the foundation of morality (FOM). It's not enough for the FOM to be an omnipotent, omniscient creator. Otherwise, the creator could enjoy pedophilia and demand we all be pedophiles, and that would make pedophilia morally good. Instead the creator needs additional attributes. In particular, we need to specify its character traits. Most people group these traits together as omnibenevolence: empathetic, care about the suffering and well-being of others, just, merciful, etc. I intend to use these traits in a descriptive, non-normative sense where the traits have clear psychological definitions. Imagine a creator who lacked such attributes. Would you really want to describe a being that lacked these traits as all-good? A being who knew that others were suffering, yet felt no compulsion to come to their aid? At best, you could say that being was non-moral. Here's where the problems begin. 

God's status as FOM is completely parasitic on the omnibenevolent properties. So much so that we could separate these properties from God and still have a plausible moral system. When I say parasitic I mean: 1) if God has these attributes, God could be the FOM, 2) if God lacked these attributes, God would not be the FOM (or "God's other attributes are not sufficient to make God the FOM"). But if that's the case, why not just separate the attributes from the being and make those the FOM? For example, instead of saying "action X is morally right because it agrees with the nature or commands of an empathetic God", one could say "X is morally right because X is the empathetic thing to do." You could similarly transform "concern about the well-being of others" into "that which promotes the well-being of others,", and so on for all the other traits. Then you make these the FOM. What I'm trying to get at here is that we all implicitly recognize that morality has to do with things like harm or rights or well-being, etc. (what you say here depends on whether you're a utilitarian, Kantian, pluralist, particularist, etc.). The only reason theists are able to offer their God as the FOM is that they smuggle these properties into their God via its character traits. Unless there are other arguments for thinking that morality requires a God, we should assume these properties (and not God) serve as the FOM.

So let's go back to the concession I made three paragraphs ago. My concession did not imply that your position on the nature of moral reasons (they are justified via practical reasons) was correct or that God was required for morality. Instead, my concession was compatible with the following claims: 1) morality is justified via externalistic reasons arising from the FOMs [harm, well-being, etc.] and 2) the only reason your God scenario implied that morality existed is because you smuggled FOMs into the nature of God. Now you could try to limit your thesis, saying that having a practical reason to X does not imply having a moral reason to do X, and we have a moral reason to do X iff "X is commanded by (or in accordance with the nature of) a God who is loving empathetic, loving, etc." But this does not solve the problem. First, the externalist could still agree with you, but simultaneously say, "your defense only works because you smuggled the FOMs into God's nature. It's the FOMs, not God, that are solely responsible for justifying the moral reasons." Second, in section K I went over the problems with this modification of your position (particularly in my discussion of d4'' and its associated alternatives). I further clarify this argument in section K2 below. So no, it would not be "absurd...to be a naturalist, or a non-naturalist...in such a universe" even if I conceded that an empathetic, caring, etc. God's existence was sufficient for morality in that universe. It would, of course, be absurd to be a nihilist in that universe, but that's only because I granted (for the sake of argument) E truth to people's C claim that we have real reasons to not harm, not lie, etc.

C2a) Here's your definition of normativity: "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." When I first started interacting with you in the comments section of the video "The complete idiots guide to atheism," I asked you to look at my comments from around mid-May on musickle's video "The Moral Argument for the Existence of God 2of2." If you had done this, you would have realized that depending on what you meant by "prescriptivity," I would either accept or reject your definition of normativity. Let me explain (my argument here has some similarities with Joyce's argument from pages 52-57 of "The Evolution of Morality"; strangely, Joyce actually believes in objective prescriptivity as it relates in practical reasons, but not moral reasons [see section C2b]).

Philosophers often speak of normative facts and descriptive facts. On one plausible construal of facts, facts tell us what "is" the case. But normative facts don't just tell us what "is" the case, but what "ought" to be the case. But then there would be no such thing as normative "facts" and normative nihilists would win by default. And this seems like a pretty cheap win. So instead of treating "facts" as "is" claims in a sense of "is" that rules out "ought," we'll treat "facts" as "things one can make true claims about." This leaves logical space for "descriptive facts" that don't involve ought properties (scientific facts, the existence of abstracts objects, etc.) and "normative facts" that involve the existence of "ought properties" ("moral ought-to-be-done-ness" [Joyce's illustrious term!], "moral rightness", "moral goodness," etc.). Call these E facts and N facts, respectively. So what distinguishes E facts and N facts? Well, intuitively, it's the difference between what actually "is the case" from what "ought to be the case". An example might help. Just like there can be facts about what happens in the actual world, there can be modal facts about what happens in other possible worlds. Similarly, there can be normative facts about how the world would be if it was rationally, morally, aesthetically, etc. better (this corresponds to rational, moral, aesthetic, etc. normative facts), even though, unfortunately, the actual world is not like that.

Now, COMPLETELY ORTHOGONAL to this distinction is the distinction between "descriptive" and "prescriptive" uses of language; call this D usage and P usage. In D usage, we use language to describe objects, make true or false claims, etc. For example, I can say "the chair is larger than the box" or "electrons exist" to communicate descriptive claims I take to be true or false. D usage often (and, I would say, always) involves the assertion of propositions. Contrast this with the P usage of the statement "clean your room!" When I say this, I am usually not trying to make a claim that could be true or false, assert a proposition, etc. I am instead telling you or exhorting you to do a certain action. This the emotive use of language, where we use language to express emotions or wishes, as opposed to assert true or false propositions.

So why is the E/N distinction orthogonal to the D/P distinction? Take the statement, "Sara is a whore." This admits of both P and D uses. In a P sense, I could use the statement to express my disdain for Sara or to exhort you to avoid Sara. In a D sense, I could be making the claim that Sara sleeps with men for money and thus be asserting what I take to be a claim about an E fact. I'm arguing that, just as with the claim "Sara is a whore", moral statements of the form "X morally ought to be done" and "Y should be done" admit of BOTH D and P uses. Moral statements can be P used to direct people's behavior, tell them what you want them to do, etc. They can also be D used to make claims about N facts.

Now, I assume you grant that moral terms (good, bad, etc.) are not purely non-cognitive/emotive. They instead (or "also", on Joyce's view) aim to describe N facts. So, at a minimum, moral terms have a D usage in describing N facts. Here's the problem; I think you're confusing P usage with N facts. That was the thrust behind my rebuttal to your "requirements imply a requirer argument."When I said "descriptive prescriptivity" (or "objective prescriptivity"), I was referring to N facts. When I said "morality is committed to moral requirements2", I meant requirements as N facts. I also took claims like "You ought to do X" or "you are required to X" to be D claims aimed at describing N facts. I distinguished this from the sense of requirement you were using (requirement1), which were requirements in the "COMMUNICATIVE" sense. Communication, in this context, was a speech act where one mind tries to get another mind to do as it wishes, directs the actions of another mind, etc. So in this context, "You ought to do X" involves P usage. Your "requirement/requirer" argument only gets off the ground if morality was conceptually committed to requirement1 (or requirement in the P sense). But I FIRMLY denied that. I claim morality is conceptually committed to the existence of N facts, and to making D claims about N facts. I also provided arguments for my denial. For example, I argued that people have the C intuition that a given instance of rape is right or wrong independently of what ANYONE thinks, demands, or commands. This is not just limited to human opinion, but ANYONE's opinion. So we have an instance here where moral requirements2 comes apart from require1. I'll provide further arguments in section E2a.

So I think you're confusing P usage with N facts. In your definition of normativity, if by "prescriptivity" you meant "a communication from an external mind", then I disagree with your definition. Note that I DO think we can use N facts to guide our behavior, i.e. employ the P usage of moral statements. For example, we use moral statements to direct our behavior, tell others how to behave, exhort ourselves to do the morally correct thing, etc. I'm just denying that this P usage shows morality is the command of an external mind or that morality is conceptually tied to the P usage as opposed to the truth of D claims about N facts. If by "prescriptivity" you either meant N facts existed or that we COULD use moral statements in both a D and P sense, then I have no problem with your definition. But if that was what you meant, I don't see how your "requirements imply a requirer" argument gets off the ground.

C2b) I think you're confused about what "Humean" means (most of your confusion could be resolved by reading pages 56-58 of "The Myth of Morality"). The Nazi example should clear up the confusion. Let's say the Nazi says "why should I care" in response to "because Y." When Y is "it's in your interests" you say, "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'." This is exactly the argument Joyce uses to ground his NON-HUMEAN instrumentalism (Joyce flat out says its non-Humean; see pages 57-58 of "The Myth of Morality"). But the argument is faulty. First, the Nazi might not even choose to respond to the claim "because Y." As I noted in paragraph 3 of section F, they just may want to kill Jews and may not be bothered with what anyone else thinks about it. They might not even be in the business of asking for reasons to justify their actions nor care about such reasons. 

Second, if we accept Joyce's definition of "interests," then the response "why should I care" is not nonsensical. Throughout my PMs to you, I've distinguished between desires and interests. Similarly, Joyce argues for "the rational appraisability of ends;" he argues that an agent's INTERESTS can be different from their DESIRES. In "The Myth of Morality" (sections 3.7, 3.9, and page 114), Joyce states that an agent A has a normative reason to do X if A+ would advise A do X. A+ is an ideal version of A and has no false beliefs, has relevant true beliefs, and deliberates correctly. So just because I happen to like chocolate at the moment and want to eat chocolate does not give me a normative reason to eat chocolate. This fits quite well with your Soma example, where the desires we have before we know about Soma are not a good guide to what our INTERESTS are (Joyce uses a similar example on page 73 of his book). Furthermore, in your comments to me on the video "The complete idiots guide to atheism" you wrote, "No, Joyce doesn't say 'independent' of your desires. it is 'regardless' of any desires you happen to have. Now, if a God will make sure that it is contrary to my interests to disobey his commands whatever desires I happen to have, then that God's commands will have practical clout." [By the way, you're still flat-out wrong on this; Joyce holds that morality is conceptually committed to saying you have a moral reason to do X regardless of what you're INTERESTS (not just desires) are, outside of the extreme cases I note in section I. That's why Joyce is an externalist about moral reasons as opposed to an internalist]

Therefore I assume that you endorse the distinction between interests and desires. But the moment you agree to introduce a gap between interests and desires you've become a non-Humean (pages 57-8 of Joyce's book). This gap also implies that we can make sense of the response "why should I care" when Y is "it's in your interests."Because now when the Nazi says "why should I care", they are not asking for a normative consideration or asking you to provide an explanation related to their interests; instead, their asking how your Y relates to the desires THEY CURRENTLY HAVE. They may currently have no desire to avoid punishment from God nor any desire to behave morally nor any concern for their victim (paragraph 3 of section F). So their response, if they choose to give one, no longer looks nonsensical, as long as they mean "how does it relate to my current desires" when they say "why should I care."

You further say, "you keep using terms like 'real normativity'. I don't know what you mean." That's a fair question. I should have been clearer. In the previous paragraph I explained how the non-Humean introduces a different between normative standards and standards based on whatever we happen to desire. If you go the Humean route and deny the distinction then, in a deep sense, we CANNOT BE WRONG. The normative standards for your behavior are whatever you choose to make them based on whatever your desires happen to be. But as Joyce argues on page 57 of his book, "rationality must be something we can fall short of; a person's being rational must exclude certain possibilities." Now Joyce thinks the only normative reasons are the rational, practical reasons (see the previous paragraph), and so here he's saying that normativity must be something you can fall short of. That's what I meant by "real normativity"; the idea that there are objectively CORRECT standards you can fail to meet. You got close to the same idea when in the comments section you said that etiquette does not provide REAL reasons. For the Humean, there really is no such thing as "objectively correct" standards since standards can never be "objectively wrong." At best, they conflict with other standards people happen to hold. To put it another way, you deny that externalistic reasons provide us with correct standards or guides for behavior. The Humean just takes this one step further; there are no reasons, including internalistic practical reasons, which provide correct standards for behavior. To see this distinction in action, see my discussion of the normative realist vs. the Humean subjectivist in section F. 

Given how adamant you were about being a Humean, I suspect you believe there is something wrong with being a non-Humean. Actually, there isn't. There's no shame in being a non-Humean. Most people are intuitive non-Humeans. So it's up to Humeans like me to defend our position. But as I showed in section F of my previous PM, Humean subjectivism is not catastrophic. In fact, depending on how we characterize the C intuitions surrounding morality, it could ground a version of moral realism. This, by the way, is why I'm still open to a version of non-cognitivism or moral naturalism (paragraph 1 of section F).

You also say, "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." I understand your concern, but I beg to differ. First, if we kept the "dodginess [about normative reasons] to a minimum", we'd be Humeans, not realists about practical reasons. Second, you're overestimating the implications of the Humean position. The Humean can still make descriptive claims like "If you want X, you should do Y" where this just amounts to saying that doing Y is the most efficient way of meeting your desire X. You can also evaluate other people's desires based on whether those desires are harmful, fair, cruel, etc. as long as you don't pretend your standards have some incredible, real normative force. In fact, you can still be concerned with whether things are true of false, and justify actions relative to such standards; as I said in paragraph 4 of section F, it's the, "standards of truth that made me [the NoctambulantJoycean] deny the existence of objective normative properties." I also agree with an account of Humean, non-normative reasons (see sections 2 and 3 of Jonas Olson's paper "Error Theory and Reasons for Belief") that also allows for many of the epistemic and every-day benefits of real normative reasons. I am therefore not "a sceptic about any kind of reason." So my Humean position shouldn't make you feel as if you're at sea. Third, unlike you, if I could only choose between real practical reasons and real externalist reasons, I'd go with the latter. If the former was all that existed, we'd still have all the problems I noted (the counterintuitiveness discussed in section A, the motivation issues of section G, etc.). However, if the latter existed, most people would not be misguided about the nature of moral concepts. We'd have real reasons to treat others kindly, respect the environment, etc. and these reasons would not shift with our interests. Instead, the mere fact that creatures suffer, people's ends are frustrated, etc. would give us real reasons to treat others well, and thus justify the moral necessity I discussed at the end of section K. We could also think of the ultimate justification for morality without feeling ashamed of ourselves or losing the ability to act morally (section G). So if you had to be a sceptic about one kind of real reason, you picked the incorrect one.

E2a) Round 15 [or so ;) ] of the "requirements imply a requirer" debate (I'll call this the RR argument from now on). In section C2a I gave one rebuttal to your argument; it confused P usage with N-facts. And in paragraph 1 of section E, I argued that the term "requires" is multiply ambiguous. In this section, I'm going to build on that claim and flesh out my rebuttal. As I mentioned in paragraph 2 of section E, there are at least two interpretations of your RR argument. 1) It could be a CONCEPTUAL argument saying that the moral requirements are conceptually committed to the existence of a mental requirer. Morality can thus only be justified if a mental requirer exists. 2) It could be an EMPIRICAL argument, which states that in everyday life, we feel the presence of an external mind demanding things of us. An externally existent mind best explains this feeling. I'll counter both versions of the argument in turn.

Imagine your Soma scenario, except this time Soma is not given to us by a mind; we instead have to find it. So there is no mind external to humans demanding or commanding us to look for Soma. If normative realism about practical reasons is correct (for example, take Joyce's version I discussed in paragraph 2 of section C2b), it's irrational not to look for Soma. But note how easy it would be for competent speakers (or everyday people who use the term "irrationality") to say "rationality requires that you look for Soma" or "you are rationally obligated to look for Soma" or "it's a rational requirement that you look for Soma," even though we stipulated there is no mental requirer making demands of us. Similarly, when two beliefs J and K contradict one another, competent speakers say, "you are rationally required not to believe J and K at the same time" or "it's a requirement of rationality that you not believe both J and K,' solely because the beliefs contradict. The speakers need not be told that an external mind commands them not to form such beliefs. This was the point I made in parts 4 + 5 of my comments on musickle's video "The Moral Argument for the Existence of God 2of2."

Now you could object that I'm begging the question against you; how dare I say people have normative requirements independent of a mental requirer! But that would ignore the distinction I made in paragraphs 3-5 of section A2. I am making a C claim here when I would be only begging the question against you if I made an E claim without presenting an argument for that E claim. Anyway, there is a relatively easy way to settle this dispute: we can perform the experiments I mentioned in paragraph 1 of section D. Or, on your own time, you can perform the informal surveys I mentioned at the end of paragraph 2 of section E. Tell me what your results are. I'd bet a fair amount of $$$ that most people will give the responses I mentioned in the previous paragraph. This provides a clear example of a normative use of the words "require" and "requirement" where no mental requirer is involved, and thus supports my distinction between require1/requirement1 and requires2/requirement2. I could run a parallel argument with parallel experiments with "moral requirement" replacing "rational requirement" (even you betray this way of speaking when you say near the end of your response to section H: "normative moral theorising involves trying to figure out what MORALITY REQUIRES [emphasis added] us to do") This would provide evidence for my contention that normative realism (both realism about moral and rational normativity) is conceptually committed to requirements2 and not requirements1. But morality needs to be committed to moral requirements1 for your conceptual RR argument to work. Thus I've rebutted the conceptual RR argument without begging the question against it. I've also offered moral reasons externalism as another way morality could be justified while 1) a mental requirer did not exist and 2) our moral conceptual intuitions were not contradicted. So this is another argument against the conceptual RR claim that morality can only be justified if a mental requirer exists.

My rebuttal to the empirical RR should be clear from paragraph 2 of section E. There are much more plausible, empirically confirmed causes for the feeling of an external demand (for example, the moral emotionism in the work of Jon Haidt, Shaun Nichols, and Joshua Greene, which is further developed into a psychological model in Sripada and Stich's paper "A Framework for the Psychology of Norms"; this would then be coupled to a theory of moral projectivism). I provide further arguments in H2b. The external mind explanation does not square very well with the data and should thus be discarded.

E2b) I'll now shift to your claim 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... 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." That's incorrect. Now, in principle, your right; God could serve as an explanation for requirements1 (as meant in the context of the empirical RR argument). But, in principle, ANYTHING could serve as the explanation of our feeling that an external mind is demanding things of us. Moral projectivism could be correct and our projection, and subsequent objectification, of our emotions onto the world could be the cause. The cause could be aliens, or neurological damage, or group hysteria (see sections H2a and H2b). IN PRINCIPLE, any answer is possible. So conceding that your God is a possible answer is not conceding much. However, if we move on to examining the evidence and determining which explanation is PLAUSIBLE, we see your external mind is way down on the list, while moral emotionism and projectivism are further up. So my explanations don't just "match" your DCT explanation is this respect; they flat out out-compete it, providing us with a reason to not accept the empirical RR argument for DCT. And if God is not a plausible explanation for the feeling of requirement1 and DCT proposes God as the explanation for this feeling, we have highlighted "flaw in the DCT characterisation of moral requirements[1]."

I don't need to explain requirements1 (as meant in the context of the conceptual RR argument), because I argued against morality being committed to requiremets1 in section E2a. So it's irrelevant to me that your DCT can account for something morality is not committed to.

Now what about moral requirements2? Again, in principle, God's commands/nature could serve as a basis for moral requirements2. But, in principle, ANYTHING could serve as that basis. Again, we need to roll up our sleeves and examine the evidence to see what the most plausible basis is. This will involve normative philosophy and examining people's conceptual intuitions. And as I've argued on numerous occasions (my FOM point from section B2, my motivation argument from section G, my necessity argument from section K, the intuitions discussed in sections A, etc.), moral realism justified by externalistic real reasons is more intuitively plausible that morality justified by internalistic real reasons that arise from God's punishment of us. So again, I'm not just "matching" DCT; I'm providing an alternative that's more likely to be correct. And I have pointed out "flaw[s] in DCT characterisation." For example, my argument is section G. In fact, explaining why theory X is more likely to be correct than theory Y involves pointing out the limits and weaknesses of Y relative to X. So when I argued for moral reason externalism over your account, I did point out the limits and deficiencies of " the DCT characterisation."

G2) I'd like a response to section G.

H2a) You say, "I [Clear404] 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 [over] our welfare in an afterlife. Now, that -- to my mind -- qualifies this being as a God. But I don't mind about labels." No. I provided you with an example of beings that could punish us, makes demands of us, and still be powerful. Yet I'm pretty sure people would not call those beings "Gods", though we can run the experiments I suggested in section D and the informal surveys of section E to see if people would respond in the way I expect. My example was, "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." Would you call such scientists "Gods"? Our experience of time depends on the mind, so screwing with brain chemistry can make what is actually a moment feel like an eternity. Thus, by messing with our brains, the scientists could punish us for what FELT LIKE an eternity (fictional stories like the manga "Bleach" make gruesome use of such possibilities). But you might say, "couldn't we overcome those scientists, while we can't do the same for God?" Well, no. Like in the Matrix, you could ALREADY be plugged in and thus have no means of escape. 

This has parallels to Nick Bostrum's Simulation Argument (consider reading up on it; it's UBER awesome! Or watch noelplum99's video "The Greatest Argument For God in the World...... Ever!!!"), where the scientists in question are just technologically-sophisticated versions of ourselves. Do humans become Gods just by gaining more scientific knowledge? At this point, you've given up on all the traditional ideas associated with God: it's not worthy of worship, not necessarily omnibenevolent (empathetic, caring, etc.), not immaterial/spaceless/timeless, not omniscient, not omnipotent, not necessarily the creator of the universe, etc. Instead, all we've got is a being making demands and powerful enough to punish those who disobey. But just as we can't call any old thing "morally good" we can't call any old thing "God." There are conceptual platitudes that come with the concept "God" just there are conceptual platitudes that come with the concept "morally good." It's these platitudes we've spent the last few PMs discussing. So you need to meet God's conceptual platitudes before you start calling something God. And I'm not asking you to tell me what "colour his [God's] underwear is" (why think it even has a gender?) when I ask you to meet the conceptual platitude's regarding "God" anymore that in asking you to meet the conceptual platitudes of morality, I demand you to tell me every feature of every moral property. That's insane, as you know it. [ProTip: you consistently spell "color" and characterization" wrong . Don't you know that every country is America?]

H2b) You then go into a long discussion of the nature the being implied by your DCT. I'll rebut these points using the same sorts of argument I used in section E and my rebuttal of the empirical RR argument in section E2a. I believe you when you claim, "I'm not a religious nut. I'm letting the evidence lead me." Then avoid catering the evidence to a pre-determined conclusion (this is a warning, not a charge). Don't say more about than you have evidence for and don't assert P when not-P makes more sense in light of the evidence.

You later remark, "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." Um, no. Your theory provides no evidence that the source of the requirements ONE being as opposed to several (polytheism or my cabal of scientists). Actually, if my arguments in paragraph 2 section E are correct, a cabal of beings would make much more sense than 1. Different beings could choose not to agree with one another and thus given contradictory commands to different people at different times, thus explain people's divergent opinions on what they're morally required to do. You also say, "why you feel the need to point out tot [sic] me that natural selection is not a god is beyond me." My natural selection example was meant to show that in order to show X is God, you need to do more than just show X fills out some under-specified role. In my example, the underspecified role was "explains the diversity of organisms on Earth". In your case the underspecified role is "a mind that is powerful enough to punish people for disobedience." I just provided you examples of beings that could fill that role (ex: my cabal of scientists) and still not be God, so your role is underspecified. You need to strengthen it with some of the conceptual conditions I mentioned in paragraph 2 of H2a. So if you understand why calling natural selection God is a mistake, you understand why it's a mistake to call every mind (or group of minds or computer simulation acting like a mind or...) that fits the role you gave "God."

Furthermore, you assert, "you [me, the NoctambulantJoycean] 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." No, not really. I am "paying attention to the kind of God morality suggests exists." The sociological evidence is clear: different people living at different times have felt morally required to do incompatible things (for example: take the work of Nisbett and Cohen or UniversityofRichmond's video "Living with Relativism" featuring Jesse Prinz). And many of these people have tried to justify these moral requirements via a God. Now I've already argued that a consortium of commanding minds is more plausible than one commanding mind. But let's be serious; I think a non-mind explanation is more plausible than either of these alternatives. We can combine the moral emotionism/projectivism I discussed in E2a with empirically confirmed explanations of religious/moral experience that do not resort to God as an explanation (examples" KnownNoMore's video "Against Religious Experience...", AntiCitizenX's lovely "Psychology of Belief" series, the paper "Believers' estimates of God's beliefs are more egocentric than estimates of other people's beliefs", etc). So the feeling of command is an illusion and people (that includes you) unintentionally confuse what they take to be morally right with the commands of an external being. So it's more plausible that there is be no God communicating to us. Or maybe the teleological and Kalam cosmological arguments are right and there is a mental creator of this world. But this deistic creator is "indifferent" to people and does not interact with us (which fits with the empirical data I just went over). Instead, people correctly reason that a creator exists (through the cosmological and teleological arguments) but incorrectly ascribe their moral beliefs to this non-communicative creator. Please explain why your position, as opposed to any of the others I've outlined, better fits the evidence from both moral and non-moral sources.

Finally, you resort to your favorite catch-all defense: "The rest of what you say in H - the bit about normative moral theorising - is just question begging." *sigh*. Please do the following: 1) tell me exactly what my claim was in that section, 2) clearly explain how what you noted in 1 contradicts your DCT and 3) clearly explain to me how I failed to sufficiently argue to 1. In fact, from now on, do this EVERY TIME YOU ACCUSE ME OF BEGGING THE QUESTION; otherwise, I simply won't take the charge seriously anymore. Note that I gave you the same courtesy in paragraph 1 of section H when I charged you with begging the question. I expect the same in return. 

Anyway, my argument in that section was rather simple. I was making the epistemological point that if moral reasons arise are justified SOLELY because of the physical and mental features of a given situation (as real externalistic moral naturalist's claim), this makes much more sense of moral epistemology than the claim that moral reasons are justified via practical reasons arising from God's punishment. This is because for the naturalist, but not the DCT theorist, knowing the physical and mental properties of a situations is ALL YOU NEED to know for determining what you moral reasons are in that situation (you don't need to know what God commands), while for your DCT, you ALSO need to know what God commands and punishes so you know what you have a real reason to do. Yet when conceptually competent people make moral judgments, they only need to be told mental and physical features of a situation (as plenty of experiments in moral psychology have shown) before forming a moral judgment; they don't need to be told things about God's nature/commands. The naturalist is more than happy to say those people's judgments are justified, while your view (please correct me if I'm wrong) is committed to saying those people's judgments are unjustified because they don't have information on what God will punish. They therefore don't know what the real reasons are in the given situation and thus cannot make a justified judgment on what is morally required. So your position leads to the counterintuitive result that many (if not most) people make unjustified moral judgments. This does not prove that DCT is E false or that "'rightness' is to be identified with the property of being an act that maxmises [sic] happiness." Instead, it shows that your position leads to the counterintuitive result that in practice, most people's moral judgments are unjustified, while the real externalistic moral naturalist's position is not counterintuitive in this way. So, as I discussed in paragraphs 3-5 of section A2, this is another way I can show your position is counterintuitive without begging the question against you. Explain to me where my argument goes awry.

K2) *sigh* This section of your response is the most confused. Please clearly define what you mean by "meta-ethical" and "normative claims," because, for the life of me, I don't understand your use of these terms. I'll explain the distinction as I understand it, once I deal with your perennial claim: "That's question begging. You're not allowed to just help yourself to naturalism." OK. You've officially PISSED ME OFF. I took great care not to beg the question against you in section K. Nowhere in that section did I state that, as an E fact, naturalism was true. Nowhere. I instead assumed, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, that specific kinds of naturalism were true and then I drew out the implications. Then I assumed, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, that specific kind of DCT were true and then I drew out the implications. At this point, if you can't understand the distinction between what I did and begging the question, I just don't know what to say?! I've tried my absolute best to be patient, fairly interpret your arguments, provide arguments for points at which I disagree, etc. And yet you don't do the same. You just start saying "QUESTION-BEGGING" whenever I PROVIDE ARGUMENTS for something you disagree with, without adequately explaining yourself. It's annoying.

Anyway, there are different types of "meta-ethical" typess ranging from naturalism to non-naturalism to non-cognitivism to DCT. At this generalized level, all of these meta-ethical types are compatible with horrible moral results. For example, a meta-ethical non-naturalist could claim that all instances of rape produce the non-natural moral property "morally good," while still remaining a meta-ethical non-naturalist. Now, within each meta-ethical type there are different "normative theories" that offer specific accounts of what the properties morally good, bad, evil, etc. are. For example, the non-naturalist I mentioned before could claim that "moral goodness" is an unanalyzable, basic property (as Moore claimed). Or you could take my toy n4 naturalist from section K, who claimed that:

n4: "morally right = whatever (in the long-term) allows sentient beings to live contented lives."

Now you said the following: "That's [n4] ambiguous between a meta-ethical 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 can't be serious. If you knew anything about necessary a posteriori relations (which you should since you offer your DCT identification thesis as one), you should know that a moral naturalist would offer n4 as a necessary a posteriori IDENTIFICATION. They are not just saying what's on the right side of the equation causally produces what's on the left; they're saying the two ARE THE SAME THING. So the latter of your two readings is the appropriate one. I then went on to explain how IF the n4 naturalist identification thesis is correct, THEN the n4 naturalist can account for moral necessity. 

And then you began complaining again about question-begging. But note that just as I granted, for the sake of argument, that the n4 naturalists thesis was correct, I granted, for the sake of argument, the DCT thesis was correct. In fact, I did this THRICE. I assumed the truth of d4, and drew out the implications based SOLELY ON ASSUMING d4 was true. I then did the same separately for d4' and d4''. I can't see how you don't follow this. In your reply to section H you admit that, "Normative moral theorising involves trying to figure out what morality requires us to do. Does it reuqire [sic] 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 [sic] demand to maximise happpiness [sic] and prevent suffering and so on? These are issues in normative ethics." My point was simply this: after we're done with "normative moral theorizing", the moral naturalist will link up "morally right" with whatever our theorizing showed and offer this as a NECESSARY a posteriori truth (my toy n4 naturalist was just an example of what this result COULD be; I was not claiming that the normative moral theorizing will actually result in this answer; do you know what an example for the sake of argument is?). IF, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, we assume the n4 naturalists identification thesis is correct, this thesis will hold across ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS, and so for this naturalist, IT IS METAPHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE that horrible normative conclusions would result. Horrible results are compatible with naturalism as a meta-ethical type, but NOT compatible with specific normative versions of naturalism (here's where the meta-ethical/normative distinction comes into play).

I then turned things over to DCT. I agreed that, as a meta-ethical type, DCT, like naturalism, was compatible with horrible results. I then assumed that after the correct normative theorizing is done, the DCT theorist could take the results as showing what God's nature/commands are. You agree to this in your reply to H. Again I assumed, FOR THE SAKE OF THE EXAMPLE that this theorizing led to the conclusion that "morality requires us to do whatever (in the long-term) allows sentient beings to live contented lives us So, at this point, I was willing, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, to grant the truth of the DCT theorist's NORMATIVE NECESSARY a posteriori d4 identification. But I was having trouble phrasing the thesis. That's where d4' and d4'' came in:

d4' : "morally right = agrees with God's commands/nature regarding topics such as lying, hurting others, etc."

d4'' : "morally right = agrees with the nature/commands of a God who is not in favor of lying, hurting others, etc.." 

I could phrase the normative DCT thesis as d4'. But, since you don't accept that God's nature is metaphysically necessary, there is a possible world F where God was cruel, vicious, etc. and commanded us to do things that prevented sentient beings from living contented lives. If d4' was the DCT's NORMATIVE thesis, then in world F, it would be morally right to prevent sentient beings from living contented lives. Yet we just agreed that our normative moral theorizing led to the claim that this WAS NOT morally right. Again, don't fall into you habit of complaining "QUESTION-BEGGING" just because my example involved assuming, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, that our normative moral theorizing led to the conclusion "morality requires us to do whatever (in the long-term) allows sentient beings to live contented lives us.". My argument is fully GENERALIZABLE. If correct normative theorizing led us to think that were are morally required to Z, then there is a possible word V where God is vicious, un-empathetic, etc. and commands us to not-Z. The corresponding d4' would take the form:

d4'Z : "morally right = agrees with God's commands/nature regarding topics such as Z"

And it would still be the case IF d4'Z is the normative necessary DCT identification thesis, then not doing Z would be morally right in V, which would be a horrendous moral result. The naturalist's normative conclusion would be:

n4Z : "morally right = Z"

This necessary a posteriori identification would mean than THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WORLD where it's morally right to not-Z and thus there is no possible world where there is a horrendous moral result, unlike the DCT proponent who advocates d4'Z as their identification thesis. Is that clear enough for you?

So the obvious move is for the DCT theorist to opt for d4'' (or more generally d4''Z) as their normative necessary a posteriori identification: 

d4''Z : "morally right = agrees with the commands/nature of a God who is favor of Z"

This will allow the DCT to avoid horrendous moral results since, like for my n4Z normative naturalist, it would not be possible for there to be a world where not-Z is morally right. You seem to take this option when you say, "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." Why did you capitalize God is one instance and not the other? Why the difference? After all, as I discussed in the first couple of paragraphs of section H2b, all that you've specified about "God" is that it's powerful enough to punish people without them escaping and it makes commands. So why are we required to follow the "God" of our world, while the people in V are not required to follow the commands of their "God" (so that it's morally right to not-Z in V)? Why is the God of our world "the specific God" whose commands shape morality?

I spent a WHOLE PARAGRAPH in section K noting the problems with the move you make in the previous paragraph. First, it arbitrarily privileges the actual world's God over the Gods of other possible worlds. Second, it involves you using your moral intuitions to narrow the scope of what we have real reasons to do INDEPENDENTLY of consideration of God's punishment (which you claim we can't do) since d4''Z implies that it's morally right to Z in world V (which means people in V have a real reason to Z), even though the God of V punishes people for doing Z and rewards doing not-Z. Third, if d4''Z is the normative DCT thesis, there is no explanation for where the real reason to Z comes from in V. If d4''Z is correct, then it's morally right to Z in V so there must be a real reason for the people in V to Z. Yet the God of V punishes people for doing Z and rewards doing not-Z, so its punishment cannot provide the real practical reason for doing Z. The God of the actual world, the God who favors Z, is causally isolated from the people of V and thus cannot punish them or give them practical reasons to do anything. And you have already firmly disavowed externalistic reasons as "dubious." So from whence cometh the real reason to Z in V? You say, "but any argument you give is one a DCT can simply help themselves to." No. As I argued in this paragraph, DCT proponents cannot accept your views on the nature of real reasons while simultaneously helping them themselves to the tactics of my n4 naturalist.

This dilemma is FULLY generalizable to EVERY normative account of DCT that denies God's nature/commands are metaphysically necessary. You either end up with the horrendous normative results in metaphysically possible worlds or you end up with paradoxes regarding real reasons. You say, "I [Clear404] think the most horrible, disgusting normative moral theories are compatible with DCT. I think they are also compatible with naturalism and non-naturalism." I've argued you're wrong. "Horrible, disgusting normative moral theories" are compatible with the METAETHICAL types DCT, naturalism, and non-naturalism, but they are not compatible with all NORMATIVE versions of non-naturalism and naturalism. They also are not be compatible with some NORMATIVE versions of DCT, but the only way I've seen of pulling off this incompatibility (while remaining consistent with your position of real reasons) results in paradoxes regarding real reasons and the causal powers of God. Alternatively, theists can try to avoid this dilemma by claiming God's nature is metaphysically necessary. However, I can rebut any argument for that conclusion (including the modal ontological argument) and provide evidence that God's nature/commands are, at best, metaphysically contingent.

Addendum) As I discussed in paragraph 5 of section C2a, "people have the C intuition that a given instance of rape is right or wrong independently of what ANYONE thinks, demands, or commands." I can easily confirm this via the methods of section D and the informal surveys of section E. You mocked some Youtubers for claiming that we can, "alter the rightness of an act by altering our attitudes towards it." I'm mocking you for thinking God can alter the rightness of an act by altering its attitudes towards it. Subjectivism is still subjectivism, regardless of whether the mind it's relativized to is a human mind, the mind of an ideal agent, or God's mind. Don't believe me? Look up any definition of moral subjectivity or subjectivity in general. So no, your view of ethics does not respect the "objectivity that needs to be respected if one is to be giving an account of 'morality'", unless you arbitrarily redefine objectivity so that it's compatible with the mind of a powerful being that punishes and makes demands (which is really all you've really proven about what you call "God"). Kettles should not be calling pots black ;)

Thanks for your response. If you have the time, I look forward to your next thoughtful PM.
NoctambulantJoycean



NoctambulantJoycean, "Meta-ethics discussion", 6/15/12
Hello Clear404.

I need to be honest and reveal the following:

1) TheCartesianTheist may be contacting you soon. I sort of did the opposite of throwing you under the bus in my comments on his video "The atheistic moral problem." Sorry.

2) After thinking about section C2a and reading Shafer-Landau's "Moral Realism", the most obvious point hit me; my position in C2a denies that morality is intrinsically action-guiding (or not anymore action-guiding than any other sort of fact). I have no problem with this. I just didn't realize it while I was writing up my defense. 

My position also implies that moral standards can fail to motivate; i.e. an amoralist could sincerely judge something to be morally good, yet not feel ANY compulsion or motivation to comply. The amoralist BELIEVES D claims about N facts, but lacks the DESIRES necessary to form a motivation (I'm taking the amoralist example from Joyce and Shafer-Landau and running a Humean account of motivation). This is analogous to my Nazi from way back. So again, I have no problem with this. Hope that helps you in your response.

Thanks,
NoctambulantJoycean



Clear404, "Re:Meta-ethics discussion", 6/16/12
I am going to respond to K2 first. 

You ask me to clarify what I mean by metaethical and normative. I would count as a normative moral theory a theory about what is moral. I count as metaethical a theory about what morality is. I do not deny that there are links between the two --it may be that what morality 'is' is essentially constituted by what is moral -- that would be the case if one wanted to respect the supposed necessity of any normative moral truth. I don't, because I don't think moral truths are necessary truths. I think what's distinctive about moral commands is their combination of categoricty and rational clout. That's why even the vilest of moral views is still a 'moral' view rather than something else so long as its requirements are held to apply categorically and have rational clout. 

But anyway, you seem to think that a DCTist cannot respect the supposed necessity of moral truths. Although I deny that moral truths are necessary truths, I don't need to make that case (though I happily will). That's because it is easy peasy for a DCTist to respect the necessity of moral truths, if they need to. For a DCTist can simply take your favourite naturalist account and bolt on 'commanded by god' to that account. So, assume utilitarianism is the correct normative moral view. Then all my DCTist needs to do is say that morality is the utility principle 'commanded by a god who'll punish anyone who doesn't comply with it'. 

Now, there is no possible world in which it is wrong to comply with the utility principle. There are possible worlds in which God commands something else -- but what god commands in those other words is not 'moral'. For according to this view (which is NOT mine -- I'm just playing devil's advocate) it is a necessary condition on a requirement being a moral requirement that it be the utility principle. Necessary, but not sufficient. Similarly, it is necessary that a command be commanded by a punishing god if it is to qualify as a moral command, but not sufficient. 

The resulting view does everything naturalism can do, and then some. For in addition it helps explain the prescriptivity and the rational clout of moral requirements. You don't think so, but we'll come to your arguments against those claims later. The point here is that this brand of DCT does respect the supposed necessary status of moral truths. There are no possible worlds in which the moral truth is otherwise. So, whatever you think of the merits of this view, it DOES make moral truths necessary truths. 

So, to paraphrase you: IF, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, we assume the DCT thesis mentioned above, this thesis will hold across ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS, and so for this DCTist, IT IS METAPHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE that horrible normative conclusions would result. Horrible results are compatible with naturalism as a meta-ethical type, but NOT compatible with specific normative versions of naturalism (here's where the meta-ethical/normative distinction comes into play). 

See? To quote you "is that clear enough for you?" This version of DCT rules out the possibility of any horrible normative views being true. Again, I don't hold this view. But let's be in no doubt- it is easy as pie for a DCTist to respect the supposed necessary truth of moral truths. 

Anyway, you make three criticisms of the above type of DCT view, but none of them work. 

Your first criticism is that this type of DCT view "arbitrarily privileges the actual world's God over the Gods of other possible worlds". No it doesn't. What it arbitrarily privileges is the normative view that seems to be true in the actual world. Any retributive god will do, so long as they make the right commands -- namely the commands constitutive of the correct normative view in the actual world. 

So, you're absolutely correct in thinking that the view has more than a whiff of arbitrariness about it. IT does (remember, I don't hold it!). But it is the same whiff -- EXACTLY THE SAME WHIFF -- that naturalism has. For naturalist views also arbitrarily privilege the normative moral requirements of the actual world. So, yes, the view is arbitrary, but it is arbitrary in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY AS THE NATURALIST VIEW. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. By all means reject this view on the grounds of its arbtrariness -- be my guest, I'll join you -- just make sure you reject the naturalist (and for that matter, non-naturalist) views as well on the same basis. 

So so far you've identified no special problem for this DCT view that doesn't apply equally to their naturalist counterpart. 

Now to the second criticism. You say "it involves you using your moral intuitions to narrow the scope of what we have real reasons to do INDEPENDENTLY of consideration of God's punishment (which you claim we can't do) since d4''Z implies that it's morally right to Z in world V (which means people in V have a real reason to Z), even though the God of V punishes people for doing Z and rewards doing not-Z". 

Here you seem to have conveniently forgotten what the view is that you're addressing. The view is not that 'having an real reason to do X' is SUFFICIENT for rightness. This is a NECESSARY condition -- and thus that's why a God is needed -- but it is NOT sufficient on this view. I mean, that's the whole point! It is naturalism plus -- it is naturalism with added God. So this criticism is just not relevant -- you're attacking a different view with this criticism. In those possible worlds where god punishes people who comply with the utility principle that god's commands do not constitute moral commands. Yes, you have reason to comply with them. But according to this DCTist that is not sufficient for a command to qualify as a moral command. To qualify as a moral command it must be a particular command -- namely the utility principle -- commanded by god. 

Now to your third criticism, which seems to me to make exactly the same mistake. You say that there is no explanation for where the real reason comes from. Yes there is -- it comes from the fact you'll be punished if you don't comply. A moral reason is a real reason to comply with the utility principle (assuming that's the correct normative moral theory in the actual world). In other possible worlds there may well be real reason to comply with a different principle. But so what? On this view 'having a real reason to comply' is not SUFFICIENT for a requirement to qualify as a moral requirement, it is merely necessary. 

The naturalist has to say exactly the same things here. 

Again, you seem to be conveniently forgetting the nature of the view you're attacking. 

So anyway, like I say, anything the naturalist can do, the DCTist can do too, anything the naturalist can do, the DCTist can do better.



NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: Re:Meta-ethics discussion", 6/17/12
Hello Clear.

Don't feel any pressure to respond to this PM until you've finished up your response to my previous PM. It's just easier to get my responses out in sections so I don't have to spend hours writing everything out as once.

K2) You say, "according to this view (which is NOT mine -- I'm just playing devil's advocate) it is a necessary condition on a requirement being a moral requirement that it be the utility principle. Necessary, but not sufficient. Similarly, it is necessary that a command be commanded by a punishing god if it is to qualify as a moral command, but not sufficient." Well this certainly addressed my first critique of this position, since you're not just basing morality on whatever God's nature happens to be or what God commands are. Instead, our normative intuitions play a large part in LIMITING what counts as moral. So God's nature/commands are not ontologically sufficient for moral properties, unless it includes concern for the utility principle/commands about utility. Awesome. If you agree to that, then I agree you've avoided my first two criticisms.

But the third criticism looms; and it's the real dagger. Again, this DCT proponent offers their identification as a necessary a posteriori truth. It's not just that "there is no possible world in which it is wrong to comply with the utility principle." The naturalists corresponding claim was stronger than that; in every possible world, it is morally right to follow the utility principle. I'm assuming that's the claim your DCT proponent is trying to emulate. So in every possible world, even world F where God commands people not to obey the utility principle and God's nature despises the utility principle, it's morally right for people to follow the utility principle. Now you agree that in world F, people have "a real reason to comply with a different principle [i.e. don't obey the utility principle]. Now, I'm going to lay out my reasoning to make it quite clear, with my evidence in parentheses:

1 : In every possible world, it is morally right for every person P to follow the utility principle.
(DCT proponent's imitation of the naturalist's a posteriori necessity claim)

2 : In every possible world, if it is morally right for P to follow the utility principle, P is morally required to follow the utility principle. 
(DCT proponent's imitation of the naturalist's claim that moral requirements apply across all possible worlds)

3 : In world F, P is morally required to follow the utility principle. 
(from 1 and 2)

4 : In F, God punishes P for following the utility principle and rewards P for not following the utility principle.
(stipulation about metaphysically possible worlds, your claim about "those possible worlds where god punishes people who comply with the utility principle", and your denial that God's nature is metaphysically necessary)

5 : If P is morally required to follow the utility principle, then P has a real reason to follow the utility principle.
(your claim that, "'having a real reason to comply' is not SUFFICIENT for a requirement to qualify as a moral requirement, it is merely necessary")

6 : In F, P has real reason to follow the utility principle.
(from 3 and 5)

7 : If God punishes P for following the utility principle and rewards P for not following utility principle, it is in P's interests to not follow the utility principle and it is not in P's interests to follow the utility principle.
[partially based on your claim that "in those possible worlds where god punishes people who comply with the utility principle that god's commands do not constitute moral commands. Yes, you have reason to comply with them," where this will also be extended to support 10; your claim in the comments section of "the complete idiots guide to atheism" that "a punishment must harm your interests (otherwise it is not a punishment). So another way to put it would be to say that God will make sure it is not in your interests to disobey"]

8 : In F, it is not in P's interests to follow the utility principle. 
(4 and 7)

9 : If it is not in P's interests to follow the utility principle, then P does not have a real practical reason to follow the utility principle. 
(your account of real practical reasons; your claim in the comments section of "the complete idiots guide to atheism" that "if a God will make sure that it is contrary to my interests to disobey his commands whatever desires I happen to have, then that God's commands will have practical clout... God's commands have inescapable rational authority")

10 : In F, P does not have a real practical reason to follow the utility principle. 
(from 8 and 9)

11 : If P does not have a real practical reason to follow the utility principle, then P does not have a real reason to follow the utility principle.
(your denial of real non-practical reasons as "dubious")

12 : In F, P does not have a real reason to follow the utility principle (from 10 and 11)

Contradiction between 6 and 12.

The externalist moral naturalist can avoid the contradiction by denying 11. An internalistic moral naturalist who believed morality was justified via practical reasons could deny 7 and claim that our interests could be partially independent of what God punished us for. Or they could deny 9 and claim we have real practical reasons to do X, even if X is not in our interest. It should also be clear that I did not make the mistakes you attributed to me in your response. For example, as premise 5 shows, my argument always assumed that real reasons were necessary, not SUFFICIENT, for moral requirements.

Thanks.
NoctambulantJoycean



Clear404, "Re: Re:Meta-ethics discussion", 6/17/12
Hi, 

I'll respond to your latest response to my response to your K2 as K2 is fresh on my mind and I'll respond to the rest of your earlier reply in bits as and when replies occur to me. 

The type of DCT I outlined (in my capacity as a devil's advocate) would reject premise 1. For it is not 'every possible world' but 'every possible world in which there are moral truths'. The existence of morality is not rendered necessary on this DCT view. But 'if' morality exists, it necessarily consists in the utility principle (say). So 4 cannot be true. 

Anyway, I agree that there will be differences between the DCT view I outlined and their relevant naturalist counterpart. 

But I take it that the important point about moral necessity -- the intuitive tug of the idea -- is that moral properties cannot be differently arranged from how they are arranged. So, if X is wrong here, there's something preposterous in the idea that there could be a possible world in which Xing is right. That's because - supposedly -- the wrongess of X is in some strong sense due to its possessing the natural properties it possesses (being an act that won't maximise happiness, say). The point about the DCT view I outlined is that it respects this -- it recognises that an act gets to be wrong, if it is wrong, partly (and obviously the 'partly' is important) because of the type of act it is. And thus it is acknowledged that there cannot be a possible world in which an act of that type, in those circumstances, could have different moral properties from those it actually possesses. 

I suppose you might object that the DCT view I outlined doesn't fully respect this sort of intuition because this DCT view (and not its naturalist counterpart) still allows for possible worlds in which act x is neither right or wrong. In other words, this DCT view allows for the possibility of metaethical nihilism. 

But I would see this as a virtue in this DCT view and a vice in its naturalist counterpart. Your own sympathies with metaethical nihilism means that you must as 
well. 

To bring this out I take it that you would not consider the following to be a stunning argument against nihilism: Metaethical nihilism must be false because it would have the upshot that there could be possible worlds in which act x is wrong, and others in which it is right and where the two worlds are identical non-morally. 

Perhaps you will object that I have overlooked the possibility that a nihilism might claim that morality is impossible. Yes, I have. But if morality is impossible then the naturalist and my DCt counterpart are no more or less confused than each other -- for both positions allow that it is 'possible' for morality to exist. 

So anyway, it seems to me that 'necessity respecting' brand of DCT respects the type necessity that moral truths are plausibly thought to possess, and in this respect does as well as the naturalist. 

But anyway, I don't actually hold that brand of DCT as I reject that moral truths are necessary truths. I see no problem in the idea that what is right here could be wrong in another possible world. 

It should be underlined that I am as confident as the next person that rape etc, is wrong here, in the actual world. But I think it possible for it to be right. I believe there are possible worlds in which it is right. 

If someone -- some idiot on one of these youtube thingies -- were to declare that raping an innocent was a morally praiseworthy deed, I would think them confused. However, I would not consider them to be incompetent with the concept 'moral' (of course, they may be that too). I am sure they know what they are saying -- they are saying that raping an innocent is a deed that is required to be done, and that there is real reason to do it, regardless of one's desires otherwise. Rather, I would -- and I assume this is what anyone else would do too -- ask them for their reasons for thinking such a deed right given that we have such powerful moral intuitions to the contrary. If their 'reasons' appeal to weaker intuitions, or intuitions that virtually no-one holds, or intuitions about cases that are relevantly dissimilar to the rape case in hand, then I'd simply point this out and take this to be enough to have shown them how ridiculous their view is. But presumably you'd want to say not that their view is unjustified and silly but that it is utterly inconceivable that such acts could be right in the same way that it is inconceivable that a circle could be square. I think that's way, way, way too strong. 

So in short I see no reason to think that moral truths are necessary truths. I see no reason to think it metaphysically impossible for a world to exist in which a horrific normative moral theory is true.