Translate

Friday, April 26, 2013

Part E of my meta-ethical exchange with Clear404 [Humea subjectivism =/= Reasons Internalism, Denying Supervenience Comes at a Price]


Part E of my Youtube PM discussion with the theist Clear404. At the moment, this is as far as our debate has gone, though this does not necessarily mean our discussion has concluded. In this section, I distinguish between reasons internalism regarding normative reasons and Humean subjectivism regarding reasons. I also explain why apologists cannot deny the supervenience of the moral on the natural; i.e. that once you fix the natural properties of a situation, then the moral properties follow as a matter of metaphysical necessity. During the discussion, I reference certain portions of my blog-post, which linked to my (then current) draft of my meta-ethics paper here. Enjoy:


NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: My Rebuttal of is/ought and theistic moral arguments", 12/20/12
Hello Clear 404.

It's been awhile. I'll respond to your PMs in the order I received them. Same format as before: I quote you and then reply, though I'm going to start labeling my sections again for ease of reference. Let's get to it.


A1) The following four-way distinction should help clarify matters, especially why the position you and Joyce advocate applies reasons to an agent that can fail to motivate them and fail to connect to their desires:

"1) Reasons Internalism: There are real reasons (intrinsically normative considerations), and these reasons are connected to an agents desire's, but they need not be equivalent to the agent's CURRENT desires. So the agent could end up having a reason to do something that does not match their current preferences. Example: an agent has a reason to do what an ideal version of themselves (fully rational, no false non-moral beliefs, etc.) would advise them to do.
2) Reasons Externalism: There are real reasons and these reasons can remain unconnected from an agent's desires. Ex: some readings of moral reasons where they ground moral oughts for a person regardless of their desires. Kant's view and Shafer-Landau's.
3) Humean Subjectivism1: There are real reasons and they are just hypothetical reasons based on whatever the agent CURRENTLY happens to desire. Ex: some versions of ethical egoism, or egoism in general.
4) Humean Subjectivism2: There are no "real reasons" for action; it's either a malformed notion or such things do not obtain. Instead there are various reasons based on various considerations. For instance: the agent's desires (what are typically construed as "hypothetical reasons explicitly referenced to one's desire", though hypothetical reasoning may be used to apply to all means-end reasoning in general), concern for natural properties (moral naturalism; I've argued elsewhere that moral reasons are assigned relative to concerns for natural properties), concern for following the rules of logic and reliable reasoning (epistemic reasons), aesthetic concerns (aesthetic reasons), etiquette, reasons arising from one's role or position (Jonas Olson, "Error Theory and Reasons for Belief"), etc. None of these are anymore "real" or "intrinsically normative" than the others in the way reasons internalist and externalists treat it. Just as morality can be rational with respect to one set of reasons, it can be irrational to another. But given our considerations and concerns as humans, when we apply moral claims to people we judge them from the standards and reasons with respect to moral properties (i.e. certain natural properties) and epistemic concerns (i.e. that the moral claims are true, based on sound reasoning, etc.). Morality does not require any notion of intrinsic normativity or real reasons.

I advocate 4, and I think of the remaining three options, 2 is the most plausible (at least in the case of morality). We apply moral reasons to people irrespective of whether they care about them (i.e. irrespective of their preferences), but I don't think this commits us to saying morally reasons have some sort of intrinsic normativity nor that people will always have a hypothetical desire-based reason to comply. We do much the same thing when we apply other reasons to people irrespective of their preferences, including epistemic reasons, scientist's discussing their colleagues' reasons, etiquette, etc.. I think Philippa Foot made a similar point in her paper "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives" (before later retracting the point), and others like Steven Finlay have continued on with it.

I've distinguished between Humean subjectivism1 and Humean subjectivism2 to help make things clearer. Joyce's arguments against Humean subjectivism1 is that it does not allows one to be wrong about what one's reasons are (one can either just modify one's desires, in the case of involuntary desires, one will just be compelled to desire what one has a reason to do anyway), and if one cannot be wrong, there is no sense in which the relevant considerations are normative; they are not something one can fall short of (I'll elaborate on this in section F). Since the Humean subjectivst1 cannot even allow for normativity, they cannot allow for real normative reasons. So their position implodes. Since Joyce thinks there are intrinsically normative considerations that one can fall short of (unlike Jonas Olson and myself), he opts for reasons internalism as opposed to Humean subjectivism2.


B) "But it doesn't matter, for if 1 is true it is just as difficult to explain how it could be that it is always rational to do what is right! It isn't difficult if you make recourse to a god. But it is if you don't, and that's the point." The core point here relates to "rational"; we could mean "rational" in the epistemic sense (irrational beliefs, failing the basic strictures of logical reasoning, etc.) or broadly construed as relating to all types of reasons. On the latter reading, something is rational when it is allowable by one's all-considered reason or by a particular type of reasons. I think you meant the latter reading since I've yet to see explicitly bring up epistemic reasons. But either way, the non-divine command theorist can easily respond to your question.

Suppose you meant epistemic reasons by "rational" (i.e. what most people mean when they use "rational" in everyday discourse; ex: "an adult who believes Santa exists is irrational"). Then moral beliefs are not epistemically irrational, given the evidence we have for them (see section III-E-1 of my blog post, for example). The non-DCT reasons internalist, reasons externalist, Humean subjectivist1, and Humean subjectivist2 can accept this.

Suppose by "rational" you meant reasons in general, and not just epistemic reasons in particular (the modern usage of "rational" in normative philosophy). The reasons externalist will hold that it is always rational to do what is morally right given the externalistic, desire-independent moral reasons. They can say these reasons trump all of one's other reasons. And the Humean subjectivist2 will say that from the perspective of moral reasons and epistemic reasons, the right action is rational. And that's the perspective relevant to morality; it's the set of considerations from which we assign moral reasons. A given action might be "irrational" based on reasons assigned from a different set of considerations (ex: those based solely on self-interest, or those based solely on personal desires), but that seems largely irrelevant because these are not the considerations on which moral reasons are assigned. 

It's analogous to how when a scientist says to a creationist colleague, "there is overwhelming evidence that the earth in not 10,000 years, so you should not be going around telling people that the Earth is that old," the scientist will not retract their claim if the creationist says, "well, it's in my best interest to say the Earth is that old. And I have a current desire to say the Earth is that old." In this case, the scientist does not assign reason to their colleague based on the colleague's desires or interests. Instead, reasons are assigned based on considerations of truth, epistemic rationality, evidence, the role of scientist's in spreading only information they have evidence for to the public, etc. 

Anyway, as I'll discuss below, if you do think it is a problem were a problem to assign people reasons that do not depend on their current desires, then that's just as problematic for your own view.

So that leaves the Humean subjectivist1 and reasons internalist. Since humans often desire to do the morally wrong thing, then under this account of "rationality," the Humean subjectivist1 can freely admit that sometimes it's irrational to do the right thing. Now the reasons internalist has a couple of options. Non-relativists like Michael Smith could argue that we have real internalistic, moral reasons to do the right thing. These could arise from considerations like our desire to treat others well, our fear of punishment from other people for mistreating others, the fact that when we do the wrong thing this could set up a habit that could bite us in the ass later (ex: Hume's knave), our practical identity (Korsgaard), etc. Now the relativist internalists like Joyce will respond that someone may not care about any of this, and their ideal version may not advise them to care. So we then end up with a sort of relativism that is supposed to be incompatible with moral realism. 

Now you might agree with all of this...until you see that the same exact sort of reasoning rebuts your claim that God fixes the problem. A person might not care about whether God punishes them and thus, according to the Humean subjectivist1, they have no real reason to care about what God commands. Now you might side-step this by committing to reasons internalism and the claim that one's ideal aversion will always advise one to follow God's commands and do what is right. But why think your ideal version would advise this? We can't have a DOUBLE-STANDARD where we think the ideal version won't give advice based on the desires noted in the previous paragraph (including the ones relating to punishment from other humans), but will for punishment for God. Someone might genuinely care more about the pleasures in this life as opposed to punishments in the next (people can be notoriously short-sighted in their desires, after all). If so then you're going to need some argument for saying they have a real reason to go against their desire. And this will need to be an argument the atheistic real reasons internalist cannot use to defend their position. I address one attempt at this argument in part G.

Pointing out that the action is not rational from a hypothetical desire-dependent reasons perspective is beside the point and would only bother the Humean subjectivist1, given their account of real normative reason.


C) So here's the CRUCIAL point: someone might not care about whether God punishes them (for whatever reason). So if we go with Humean subjectivism1, that would mean that even under your DCT, that person would not have a real reason to act in the way God commands. Now you can try and avoid this point by making a move analogous to Joyce's: INTRODUCE A GAP between what one has reason to do and one's desires, by saying that it's not one's CURRENT desires that provides one's real reasons, but instead what best meets one's interest, or an ideal version of yourself would advice you do, or... But (and this is crucial) the moment you've introduced that gap you've accepted that someone can have a reason to do something even though they don't desire to do (they might not care what the ideal version of themselves advices, they might not care about punishment, they might not care about their interests, etc.). And if you accept that, it would simply be special pleading to criticize the reasons externalist for assigning people reasons to do things they have no desire to do. Similarly, it would be special pleading to criticize the Humean subjectivist2 for doing that. The only way for you to keep a person's reasons connected to their desires in Humean subjectivism1. But as I've said:
1) Humean subjectivism1 does not provide normativism reasons b/c it's impossible for one to fall short of them
2) Your DCT would still not necessarily provide people with real Humean subjectivism1 reasons since people could desire not to follow God, they might not care about God punishing them, might not care that you find their lack of concern about punishment irrational, etc.

Now you could say that someone has a real reason to do something only if they have a current desire to do it; I'll discuss the problems with that later on in this reply.


D) "Indeed, that's precisely why Joyce thinks you can't have moral requirements, because moral requirements - to be real moral requirements and not some cheap substitute - have to combine inescapability with rational authority and this is, apparently, impossible if rational authority is ultimately derived from what will serve your desires. I buy Joyce's view about reasons." And that's where we differ. In previous posts you said reasons externalism sounded dubious to you. Well, Joyce's talk of "rational authority," "practical clout," and "really normative reasons" sounds metaphysically queer to me. It goes above and beyond the position of the Humean subjectivist2 by positing something that need not be part of our ontology. Furthermore, Joyce's view involves introducing a gap between a person's desires and what they have reason to do (what they have reason to do is based on the desires of the IDEAL version of themselves, and they might not CURRENTLY) have those desires. But as I discussed in C, once you open this gap such that you can assign someone reason to do something though they have no current desire that is met by doing that thing, it would be special pleading to criticize the reasons externalist and Humean subjectivist2 from doing the same thing.

"That's why, in my view, you can only have reason to do X if you have a current desire to do x. Having a current desire to do x is a necessary - but not sufficient - condition on having a reason to do x." In saying this, you fell to your own argument from your previous PM: "Rather than trying to change our meat-eating practices etc, this 'moralist' -- if they're at all sensible -- will try to change their desires. They will try to care less about animals and the suffering we do to them and so on. Yet that's crazy. This is an implication of this view that renders it every bit as silly as simple subjectivism." You can escape moral reasons just by changing your current desires. So either that previous argument was faulty and your current position is saved. Or your current position is faulty and that previous argument is saved. 

Furthermore, this would not be Joyce's view on reasons, as you acknowledged before. And given what I said before about it being possible for someone not to care about God punishing them, not care about what God commands, actually desire to disobey God, have no interest in obeying God even if they thought God existed, etc., on your account you would not be necessarily able to provide someone with a reason to do what God commands. Pointing out what their ideal version would advise or what they would want when under the grasp of God or... would not be enough without your necessary condition: that they CURRENTLY cared or had a CURRENT desire.


E) " I read 'normative' as 'instructional'." As I've discussed elsewhere (ex: section I-B-2a of my post "Morality: Realism, Nihilism, and God"), I do not take this view. In a subsequent post I'll fully elaborate on my view on normativity, though you already know much of it already in the form of Humean subjectivism2. I view "instruction" as communication from a mind. Now you might treat desires as "instructional" because that one can act in accordance with them. But I think that's mistaken. A desire does not TELL you to act in accordance with it; instead you choose/decide (or whatever incompatibilists will say on this topic) to act in a way that fulfills your desire or gets you want you want. 

It's difficult for me to be clear on this until I know what account of motivation you accept. But if you accept the usual Humean account (belief plus desire equals motivation) then the desire is not instructing you. Assume I have a desire for cake and decide to go get some cake from the fridge; i.e. I'm motivated to get cake. So I have a desire for cake, a belief that there is cake in the fridge, and NO OTHER OVERWHELMING desires or inclinations that are strong enough to stop me from acting on my desire. So I am motivated to get cake. So was my desire "instructional"? No. We can see this more clearly with another example:

So I have a desire for cake, a belief there is cake in the fridge, but another desire not to get fat and stay on my diet. So I choose not to get the cake from the fridge. Now did the desire for cake instruct me on what to do. No. I simply considered it, and then disregarded it based on another desire . Now did the desire not to get fat instruct me on what to do? No. I simply recognized the desire and chose to follow through on it. There is no sense of "instruction" here; it's simply me choosing stuff. And in choosing stuff I am not "instructing" myself; I am just taking certain information into account when making a decision. And some of that information includes my desires. And when I consciously decide to X and go through with it, we can then say my beliefs, combined with my desire to do explain my motivation to do X. No need to mention instruction in this account. That was my whole point with the "Sara is whore" example from section I-B-2a: almost anything can factor into our choices, even if they are not explicit communications from a mind. They are just information we consider in making choices.

So my question regarding instruction is this: how broadly are you construing "instruction"? If you construe it broadly enough to cover desires, then you're basically just including stuff we factor in when making decisions. And as I discussed in section I-B-2a, that makes tons of stuff instructional. Or you could construe instructional more strictly to be something like communications from a mind. But then I've already explained why moral normativity is nothing like this sense of instructive; this involves P usage, which amounts to moral non-cognitivism, not moral objectivism or moral realism.


F) "So, if an agent is morally required to do x, the agent has an overriding reason to do x. Also, if an agent is morally required to do x, the agent must have a current desire (or disposition to acquire the desire) to do x." We can use the second cake example from above to distinguish between "all-things-considered" and "pro tanto desires." In the example, my desire not to get fat and stay on my diet (or more generally, my desire for X two paragraphs back) was the motivating desire since it was the desire for the action I conscious chose in the end, while my desire for cake was a pro tanto desire that was overridden by the other desire. Let's apply this to your claim.

If by "current desire" you meant an agent must have a current, all-things-considered desire to do the right thing, then you made the same mistake I noted in the 2nd paragraph of this section C: someone could escape moral requirements simply by changing what they have an all-things-considered desire, and thus changing their motivating desire. Though not all of our desires can be changed voluntarily, our all-considered desires [or the desires that are reflected in our voluntary choices] can be. After all, one's desire to do X can over-rule one's other desires. For instance: one might desire sex with another person, but one can voluntary think "screw it; though I have an involuntary desire to have sex with that person, I want to control myself. So I'm not going to do have sex with that person." And so one's voluntary desire to control oneself produces an all-things-considered desire not to have sex with the other position. Furthermore, the whole "all-things-considered" aspect of the desire implies that voluntary control through considering the relevant information, plays a role in what the resulting desire is.

Anyway, you said it was unacceptable that someone could escape moral requirements simply by changing their desires. But the "current desire" interpretation of your current position leads to just this unacceptable result.

Moreover, this commits you to saying someone only has an overriding reason to do something if they choose to do that thing. And that's simply one type Humean subjectivism1; there is no sense in which someone could fall short of the normativity you've then ascribed, as Joyce notes. Normativity involves being capable of being incorrect or falling short. But if one has normative reason to do something only if one has a current desire to do it (i.e. "having a current desire to do X" is a necessary condition for "having a normative reason" to do X), then there is no chance of falling short, no chance of error. It's sort of like saying: "well, it's possible for you to be incorrect about what the answer to the test is. It's just that the answer can only be incorrect only if you want it to be incorrect." Well, no. Then there's no sense in which you can be incorrect because you can always say, "well, I don't want it to be incorrect." That was Joyce's point: if you say someone has a normative reason to do X only if they have a current desire to do X, then there's no way for them to fall short of their reasons. If they don't have a current desire to X, then that cannot have a reason to do X. And if you can't fall short of your reasons, there is no sense in which they are normative.

However, I noticed you added the clause "or disposition to acquire the desire" which allows you to assign a person a reason to do something for which they lack a current desire. And I think your subsequent claims regarding current desires not being the sole determinant of what one has a reason to do were also aimed at doing this. OK. But then you run afoul of your version of "ought implies can argument"; someone may have a disposition to acquire a desire, even though they currently lack the desire.

You said that, "and I think that ought implies can, and thus that if an agent is morally required to do x, they 'can' do x, and that they only 'can' in the relevant sense if they have a current desire to do x (or disposition to acquire a desire to do x -- we don't need to sweat the details)." But the details are actually extremely important, especially the distinction between "currently having a desire" and "having the disposition to acquire the desire." It's, roughly, the difference between one type of reasons internalism and Humean subjectivism1. It's the difference between "one will always have a desire to do what one is morally obligated to do", and "one might lack a desire to do what one is morally obligated to do." If you go with the "disposition" account, your "ought-implies-can" defense is in trouble because dispositions are dependent on the stimulus conditions (pages 7-9 of http://www.victoria.ac.nz/staff/richard_joyce/acrobat/joyce_accidental.error.theorist.pdf). For a given disposition to form a desire, you need to give me a rough idea of the conditions under which those desires are produced. Problem is, those conditions might not be the conditions under which you said the person has a moral obligation (if they were the conditions, you would be talking about the person's actual current desires, as opposed to their "disposition to form a desire"), and thus the person might have no motivation to do what they have a moral obligation to do. And that would cause your own argument to run afoul of your "ought-implies-can" argument.

When you say, 
"what you have reason to do is what an informed version of you would instruct you to do. If you do x in defiance of god's command then god will make sure -- when you come under her control -- that you acquire a desire not to be punished, and a strong one at that. And then she'll punish you. She has the power to do this. She has to have the power to do this -- if she has anything short of this power her commands will lack practical clout of the kind moral requirements have." 
You're again introducing the gap between what the agent feels motivated to do (which is influenced by their current desires, not what the ideal version of themselves would want them to do), which is what you need for your version of the "ought-implies-can argument," and the agent's real reasons (as based on what the ideal version of themselves would recommend, or as based on what they desire when under God's grasp).

I think the core issue here is that you think it's irrational for someone not to care about what will happen to them under God's grasp. But that's just the point: you're citing something ("irrationality", "their desires when under God's grasp", etc.) that the person simply might not care about. And as if you've already admitted ("it is necessary -- though not sufficient -- that one have a desire to do that which one has a reason to do."), their lacking that current desire would be enough for them not to have a reason to be rational, do what God has commanded, etc. You might be able to cite what the person might later desire, but that's not what the person desires NOW (maybe they are short-sighted, maybe they prefer current pleasures over future punishments, etc.). And it's now, not later, at which you are saying they are morally obligated.

Thanks for the responses,
NoctambulantJoycean




NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: My Rebuttal of is/ought and theistic moral arguments", 12/20/12
Hello Clear 404.

This is a reply to the 9/10/12 post on necessity.

My reply will explain the price of denying the supervenience of the moral on the natural. This will largely be taken from section IV-D-2 of my post "Morality: Realism, nihilism, and God." Here we go:

Let's return to the moral conditional I offered in section IV-A-1 for Haguro's brutal assault of Chiba:

N2 : If Haguro brutally assaults Chiba in context C (where C includes every mental, physical, and divine fact about the reality in which Haguro exists), then Haguro did something morally forbidden.

But as per my discussion in section IV-D-1c-ii, we can trim N2 down to N2b:

N2b : If Haguro brutally assaults Chiba in context C (where C includes every non-divine mental and physical fact about the reality in which Haguro exists), then Haguro did something morally forbidden.

N2b removes any mention of an existent God while keeping all the non-divine physical/mental properties, causal history, and context (i.e. the natural properties) exactly the same. So Haguro acts from the same motives, the history of the world before and after Haguro's assault is the same, Chiba's suffers the same pain, the earthly consequences of Hagura's action are the same,... I am arguing that N2b's consequent follows as a matter of metaphysical necessity. Call this the necessity thesis. There is no way the world could have been such that the exact same non-divine physical/mental properties, causal history, and context were instantiated while different moral properties resulted. To put this another way: take two physically + mentally identical worlds W1 and W2 where Haguro brutally assaults Chiba in both W1 and W2. W1 and W2 must have precisely the moral properties including the same moral requirements. No moral differences without non-divine non-moral differences. Period.

So in the language of section III-D: moral properties supervene on natural properties (see Almeida for an attempted defense of synthetic DCT against supervenience arguments). If it is conceivable that different moral properties could obtain in physically/mentally identical worlds, then in W1 Haguro's action was wrong (or morally forbidden or...) while in W2 it was not. But this is inconceivable: how could the exact same act done in the exact same context not result in the same moral properties? Note that I am not denying moral particularism nor tacitly accepting moral absolutism/generalism. Both generalists and particularists can agree that fixing the non-divine physical + mental features fixes the moral features.

Theists might object that God interacts with humanity and this affects our motivations, the consequences of our actions, and so on. Thus if God is not present then the non-divine physical and mental properties would be different. So in moving from N2 to N2b I changed the non-divine physical and mental properties without realizing it. However these theists forget that even if God did not exist, theists could still have the same beliefs, desires, motivations, and so on. Just as unicorns need not exist for me to believe they do, God need not exist for theists to think God does. So we can keep all the non-divine mental and physical properties precisely the same even if we remove mention of an existent God. If theists wish to say otherwise then I hope they provide an argument for that claim [if they opt for semantic externalism regarding theistic beliefs...]. Gone are the days when theists could just slip God in as a causal explanation without any supporting evidence, and still expect to be taken seriously. In section III-E-1 I presented my empirical evidence for thinking that non-divine natural properties played a crucial role in causing people's moral judgments. And in sections IV-D-3b-ii and IV-D-3c-iii I will explain how most, if not all, the phenomena theists use God to explain can be explained even in the absence of God, including theist's belief in God's existence, people's supposed interactions with God, etc. Again, if theists wish to disagree then I hope they provide evidence. Otherwise they cannot say the non-divine physical and mental properties in N2b would change if God did not exist.

So how will the God-grounded proponent address the necessity thesis? The moral naturalist and non-naturalist can easily account for this metaphysical necessity via conceptual truths, identity relations, or causal laws linking N2b's antecedent and conditional. Even moral non-cognitivists can accept the necessity thesis and offer their own explanations for why the moral supervenes on the natural (ex: Blackburn 1993, 114-129. Of course, non-cognitivists will not characterize this in terms of moral properties and natural properties. Normally they argue something like "one must make the same moral expressions regarding two situations with identical natural properties."). In fact, the supervenience of the moral on the natural is almost taken as a given in contemporary moral philosophy. So God-grounded meta-ethicists can either accept or deny the necessity thesis.

Some theists will deny the necessity thesis. I know Clear404 denies it, though he/she does not explicitly endorse the MF argument (see sections I-B-1b-i and I-B-1b-ii). Denying the necessity thesis results in numerous problems; for instance: it undercuts moral responsibility and blameworthiness. We blame people for failings for which they are responsible. So we afford blame and adjust its intensity based on the features of someone's action. For example: a thief who was brainwashed into committing their crime will be judged differently than a thief who steals for the lulz since the former's action is mentally different than the latter's. The difference in physical + mental context explains the difference in our moral appraisal of the thieves and thus the type of blame placed upon them. So if Haguro's action has different moral properties in worlds W1 and W2, then, as per the God-grounded meta-ethicists denial, we will need to adjust our blame for Haguro accordingly. Yet Haguro can only directly control the non-divine mental and physical properties of his action and these properties are precisely the same in W1 and W2. What more could Haguro affect?! So the God-grounded meta-ethicists denial leaves us in the paradoxical position of adjusting our blame for someone due to differences they were not responsible for. To put it succinctly: we should not assign differing standards of blame to people who do precisely the same thing in precisely the same context. Since blame partially reflects our moral appraisal of a person, we should not assign different moral properties to people who do the same thing in precisely the same context. Since the God-grounded proponent's denial entails that we do the opposite, the God-grounded proponent should retract their denial.

Furthermore, denying the necessity thesis undermines our ability to morally plan for the future. When doing moral philosophy people often imagine ways the world could have been and make moral judgments about those situations. These thought experiments play a central role in everyday morality. For instance: the golden rule involves imagining yourself in another person's position and determining how you would like to be treated. This applies on even larger scales. When (or even if) politicians and military leaders determine the morally correct course of action during a war, they use empirical information to construct mental models of the different actions their nation could take, the probable responses of other nations, and so on. They then make moral judgments about the merits of each imagined course of action. This goes back to my train-station thought experiment in section IV-C-1: we imagine the mental + physical properties of possible worlds (usually relatively close to the actual world) and use that information to plan for the future. Empirical evidence suggests that people determine the moral features of a situation based on what they think the natural properties are. I suspect theists will respond that God somehow transmits knowledge of its divine nature/commands to us such that we can morally plan. I argue against this claim in sections IV-D-3b-i, IV-D-3b-ii, IV-D-3c-iii. For now, let's simply note that if the non-divine physical + mental properties do determine the moral properties via the necessity thesis, then we have a clear explanation of how we engage in sound moral planning and reasoning: we need only know the natural properties in order to figure out the morally correct course of action. Conversely, even as the God-grounded proponent denies the necessity of N2b, they can only offer only offer an explanation riddled with the subjectivist, ontological, causal, explanatory, epistemological, referential, and motivational problems I discuss throughout section IV.

Also, if theists now need to deny that some moral statements are necessarily true in order to defend their theology then they should not be surprised when, under the inspiration of the MF argument, some atheists run moral-necessity-focused arguments against God-based ethics. Moreover, denying the necessity thesis involves rejecting much of the evidence provided by our moral faculty, since we judge physically/mentally identical situations as morally identical (see section III-E-1, especially Wainryb [http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/1131181.pdf?acceptTC=true]).). And even moral nihilists can judge a position based on how well it fits our pre-theoretical judgments (ex: Joyce 2001, 68-69, 120-121). But surely apologists such as William Lane Craig would follow the output of our moral faculty and thus agree to the necessity thesis? After all, they claim to defend moral realism from non-realist/relativistic atheists and misguided realist atheists (ex: Youtube, adamXcore's "William Lane Craig's Moral Argument.flv"). Just kidding: we know they would!

I could advance further objections to the God-grounded meta-ethicist's denial. But why bother? The dialectic can again change. The counter-apologist should now turn the tables on the MF proponent. Many theists opine that atheists cannot defend moral realism while theists can. So truly self-aware atheists must renounce moral realism in favor of non-realist relativism or moral nihilism, the world grows ever more depraved as it turns away from God and its gift of the conscience, and so on. *Yawn*. But the God-grounded proponent can no longer make such haughty pronouncements: they lose that privilege once they start claiming situations can be physically + mental identical, but morally different, and thus undermine moral epistemology. They lose that privilege once they start advocating moral subjectivism and deny, ad hoc, the judgments produced by the moral faculty simply because those judgments conflict with their theological pre-commitments. As I suggested near the end of section I-B-2c, atheists need to stop conceding moral realism to apologists who choose this path of denial: we are arguing with people who think rape's harm, its disrespect of the victim's preferences, the violent characteristics displayed by the perpetrator, etc. are not sufficient for saying rape is morally wrong and one is morally required not to rape. But somehow including God fixes this problem (see my fourth epigraph that began this paper).

And still these apologists preach to atheists about moral realism's implications? Or about how atheism leads to implausible meta-ethical results?! No atheist need respect their arguments when the apologist's own position leads to implausible meta-ethical results. So if an apologist advocates massively counterintuitive moral subjectivism or denies plausible meta-ethical theses simply to defend their God's existence, stop taking them seriously. Their moral pronouncements count for nothing. Atheists and their non-God-based theistic counterparts (Morriston 2012, 29-32) have the moral faculty and the weight of sound arguments on their side.

And these apologists should stop acting as if they advocate the most plausible (let alone tenable) moral view; or that moral realism entails God's existence. Apologists should not advocate moral arguments for God while simultaneously undermining the very moral epistemology that supports the moral realism they require for their argument. They should take that self-undermining apologetic elsewhere or provide sound arguments for denying the moral judgments that they choose to. And these "arguments" should not boil down to saying: "if moral judgment J were true then moral realism would be true even if God did not exist. I don't want that since I want to run a moral argument for God's existence. Therefore J must be false." Apologists who choose this self-undermining path practice the very crime they accuse atheists of: disregarding their moral judgments in favor of an incorrect, weakly (if at all) supported philosophical pre-commitment.

Thanks for the responses,
NoctambulantJoycean




NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: My Rebuttal of is/ought and theistic moral arguments", 12/20/12
Hello Clear404.

I found nothing incorrect in your post. It helped clarify your position, and helped my correct some of my own misconceptions about it.

The only difference between us then is that I don't think morality necessarily presupposes a God, and I'm trying to provide my arguments for why this is. Since I assume (based your reply) that you aren't a Christian apologist bent on defending the Biblical God, then I won't be running anymore arguments that require you to explain the Christian God's impossible commands. Even without those arguments, however, I still think your position has quite a few flaws.

Thanks,
NoctabulantJoycean




NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: My Rebuttal of is/ought and theistic moral arguments", 12/20/12
Hello Clear404.

A) You said, "I'll just describe what I take to be 'a' view and hope that it is the one this label attaches to." I'll restate my explanation from before:

"1) Reasons Internalism: There are real reasons (intrinsically normative considerations), and these reasons are connected to an agents desire's, but they need not be equivalent to the agent's CURRENT desires. So the agent could end up having a reason to do something that does not match their current preferences. Example: an agent has a reason to do what an ideal version of themselves (fully rational, no false non-moral beliefs, etc.) would advise them to do.
2) Reasons Externalism: There are real reasons and these reasons can remain unconnected from an agent's desires. Ex: some readings of moral reasons where they ground moral oughts for a person regardless of their desires. Kant's view and Shafer-Landau's.
3) Humean Subjectivism1: There are real reasons and they are just hypothetical reasons based on whatever the agent CURRENTLY happens to desire. Ex: some versions of ethical egoism, or egoism in general.
4) Humean Subjectivism2: There are no "real reasons" for action; it's either a malformed notion or such things do not obtain. Instead there are various reasons based on various considerations. For instance: the agent's desires (what are typically construed as "hypothetical reasons explicitly referenced to one's desire", though hypothetical reasoning may be used to apply to all means-end reasoning in general), concern for natural properties (moral naturalism; I've argued elsewhere that moral reasons are assigned relative to concerns for natural properties), concern for following the rules of logic and reliable reasoning (epistemic reasons), aesthetic concerns (aesthetic reasons), etiquette, reasons arising from one's role or position (Jonas Olson, "Error Theory and Reasons for Belief"), etc. None of these are anymore "real" or "intrinsically normative" than the others in the way reasons internalist and externalists treat it. Just as morality can be rational with respect to one set of reasons, it can be irrational to another. But given our considerations and concerns as humans, when we apply moral claims to people we judge them from the standards and reasons with respect to moral properties (i.e. certain natural properties) and epistemic concerns (i.e. that the moral claims are true, based on sound reasoning, etc.). Morality does not require any notion of intrinsic normativity or real reasons.

I advocate 4, and I think of the remaining three options, 2 is the most plausible (at least in the case of morality). We apply moral reasons to people irrespective of whether they care about them (i.e. irrespective of their preferences), but I don't think this commits us to saying morally reasons have some sort of intrinsic normativity nor that people will always have a hypothetical desire-based reason to comply. We do much the same thing when we apply other reasons to people irrespective of their preferences, including epistemic reasons, scientist's discussing their colleagues' reasons, etiquette, etc.. I think Philippa Foot made a similar point in her paper "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives" (before later retracting the point), and others like Steven Finlay have continued on with it.

Suppose by "rational" you meant reasons in general, and not just epistemic reasons in particular (the modern usage of "rational" in normative philosophy). The reasons externalist will hold that it is always rational to do what is morally right given the externalistic, desire-independent moral reasons. They can say these reasons trump all of one's other reasons. And the Humean subjectivist2 will say that from the perspective of moral reasons and epistemic reasons, the right action is rational. And that's the perspective relevant to morality; it's the set of considerations from which we assign moral reasons. A given action might be "irrational" based on reasons assigned from a different set of considerations (ex: those based solely on self-interest, or those based solely on personal desires), but that seems largely irrelevant because these are not the considerations on which moral reasons are assigned. 

B) It's analogous to how when a scientist says to a creationist colleague, "there is overwhelming evidence that the earth in not 10,000 years, so you should not be going around telling people that the Earth is that old," the scientist will not retract their claim if the creationist says, "well, it's in my best interest to say the Earth is that old. And I have a current desire to say the Earth is that old." In this case, the scientist does not assign reason to their colleague based on the colleague's desires or interests. Instead, reasons are assigned based on considerations of truth, epistemic rationality, evidence, the role of scientist's in spreading only information they have evidence for to the public, etc. 

My point is that we assign reasons based on a variety of considerations; when we are in the process of telling other people what to do, we assign them reasons for action based on various considerations. Many of these considerations are NOT DEPENDENT on the desires of the person to which they are applied to do that action. For instance: if someone says "you have a moral reason not to do that action because you would be callous if you did it," that person is not making reference to a property that only obtains if the person they are talking to cares. Callousness is a character trait that obtains or does not exist regardless of whether one cares about it. Or in my creationist example above, the scientist tells the creationist that the creationist has a reason to stop saying the Earth is 10,000 year-old simply based on the evidence; this evidence (and the reason assigned) does not depend on the creationist's desire to comply, as shown by the scientist's response to the creationst's response. However, there are reasons which we assign to people which do depend on their desires. For instance: we might tell someone to "avoid Elms street because there is a loud concert going on there." We know this is assignment of a reason is based on the current desires of the person they are assigned to because if that person said, "I actually want to go to that concert and I enjoy the noise," we would respond, "oh, sorry. Then feel free to head over to Elms Street."

One of our CENTRAL points of disagreement then is that you seem to think reasons can only be assigned if the person has a current desire to do that action. Basically: you're treating all reasons as dependent on the desires of the person to which they are assigned. So one can't have a reason not to rape unless one has a current, all-things-considered desire that is met by not raping. And that's MASSIVELY counterintuitive. It completely goes against the way we assign reasons. On this view, every sort of reason, not just moral reasons would require MASSIVE revision. Scientist's could not assign reasons to their colleagues if their colleagues didn't really care. Epistemologists (or people in general) could not give people "reasons based on evidence" if the people they were talking to did not care about evidence, about rationality, about having true beliefs, etc.

It also doesn't help your position at all. You could tell someone: "you shouldn't rape that person because you have reason not to, where this reason has rational authority, practical clout, etc." But the person MIGHT NOT CARE ABOUT ANY OF THAT. This goes back to my Nazi example from section A of my 6/2/12 PM and section F on my 6/3/12 PM. You can cite an intrinsically normative property (or practical clout or rational authority or what the ideal version of them would advisee or...) in justification of your assignment of reasons, and the person simply might not care, just as they might not care if I told them that their action was morally wrong, callous, harmed others, epistemically irrational, etc.

You might reply that, "they will care since I am telling them to do something they already desire to do." Well, then we need to ask whether this desire is "all-things-considered" or "pro tanto." If it is only the latter, then the person might still have an all-thing-considered desire not to do what you ask, and thus your argument would not work; you would be saying they have reason to do something they are not motivated to do. If you go with the former, then as both Joyce and I agree (and I mentioned in the first of my series of replies to you today), you haven't offered an account of normative reasons since the person cannot fall short of the reasons you've offered. Whatever the persons has an all-considered desire to do, whatever they voluntarily choose to do, they could not have had a normative reason not to have done that. There is no notion of "error" here, of making a mistake. And thus, that's not normative.


C) You said , "my criticism was directed at those who accept that what you have reason to do is ultimately determined by your desires, yet who seek to avoid having to explain how it is that you necessarily have reason to do what is morally right by simply denying that you necessarily have reason to do what is morally right." Well then your criticism would not apply to reasons externalists or to me, since I'm a Humean subjectivist2 regarding reasons. Both camps think moral reasons are not ultimately determined by the desires of the person to which they are applied.

You said, "most of us are in love with morality, or certainly in 'like' with it. We ask it what it wants, wonder what it wants, and a lot of the time we do what it wants, and we do it because we want to. 
But what if morality is going to tell you to do things that will hurt you, that will frustrate you? What if morality is going to tell you to make yourself sensitive in ways that will ultimately hurt you, and lead you to be depressed? What if morality is going to tell you to hurt your loved ones, to do things that will destroy relationships, and perhaps even kill yourself? What then? 
Now you're in love with someone toxic, aren't you? Now your informed self would tell you to get out of that relationship, wouldn't it? 
Your informed self wouldn't give a fig about whether an act was right or wrong. Your informed self is concerned only with satisfying your ends. And sometimes that will involve doing what is right, and sometimes it won't. The fact an act is right is completely irrelevant. What matters is whether performing it would serve your ends."

I don't think most people treat morality as "communicating" with us or telling us what it wants; they don't treat it as a mind or a mind's communications. You can ask people this directly if you wish, especially regarding the relationship between a God's commands and what is morally good, wrong, etc. And based on the data (especially from children), they will deny that the latter depends on the former. That was the whole point of the data I brought up before regarding the moral/conventional distinction, and people objectivist views regarding morality, and their assignment of reasons (basically: sections I-B-2b, I-B-3, and III-E-1 of my post "Morality: Realism, Nihilism, and God"). Moral properties would just be features of the world/actions/etc., things that we can take into account when deciding what to do. We can choose not to care about doing what is morally right, just as we can choose to say things which don't square with the scientific evidence. That doesn't show there is anything problematic with morality, anymore than it shows there is anything problematic with science. There are simply properties which exist and don't exist, and us deciding what to do or not to do based on what we care about.

Now, you might care about doing what you have normative reasons to do (or reasons with practical clout), or acting in the way an ideal version of yourself would recommend, or... But someone else might not. Someone else might care about acting in a self-sacrificial way to end others, to display character traits like kindness/lovingness/etc., to have true beliefs and follow the evidence wherever it leads, etc. You might call people who don't act from the considerations you included: "irrational." But they might not care, just as they might not care if I call their actions "immoral" or "cruel." But given the OBJECTIVITY of science, morality, etc. whether we care about (or think) moral properties, the properties discussed in most sciences, etc. exist or whether we think moral statements, scientific statements, etc. are true have no bearing on whether the properties exist nor whether the statements are true. To say otherwise is SUBJECTIVISM about morality, science, etc., and massively counterintuitive at that. The problem is that you think saying "the ideal version of myself would advise this, I have a reason with practical clout to do this, etc." solves the problem here. It doesn't. It simply involves citing another property to consider in deciding what to do. And if we're going to have a stopping point of properties which we end at when considering what to do, then I don't see why we should privilege "self-interest, what our ideal versions would advice, etc." especially when many of us have altruistic desires, when we often desire to sacrifice to help others, when we may not care what the ideal versions of ourselves advise, etc.


D) You said, "this person is no different to a nihilist. Their deliberations about what to do will proceed no differently. If we imagine twins -- steve and john -- and imagine that steve is a nihilist and john is a naturalist of this sort (so holds that morality exists, but denies that morality has practical clout), and imagine that both believe that what you have reason to do is ultimately determined by your desires, then both of these people will come to the same conclusions about what to do. They hold the same position. One just calls it 'nihilism' and the other is squeamish about this and so calls it 'morality without clout'."

No. One of them thinks moral properties exist, and the other does not. The moral naturalist thinks moral properties are natural properties, while the nihilist does not. They might both give to the poor, care about the suffering of others, campaign in favor of pro-life policies, etc. But pointing this out does nothing to show the naturalist's position is "wimpy." It simply shows that one can care about many sorts of things and have various sorts of beliefs without thinking moral properties exist. That's true regardless of whether one is an objectivist, relativist, subjectivist, etc. Denying that "reasons with practical clout" exists is not the same thing as saying "we have no reasons to act." On moral nihilism, one could still have various reasons for action (pages 279-284 of Garner's Beyond Morality {on-line version available at http://beyondmorality.com/beyond-beyond-morality/ }; pages 2 and 7 of http://www.victoria.ac.nz/staff/richard_joyce/acrobat/joyce_morality.schmorality.pdf; pages 224-8 of The Evolution of Morality; sections 1.5, 1.6, 4.4, and 5 of http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/GreeneWJH/Greene-Dissertation.pdf; sections 4.3 and 4.4 of http://philosophy.ru/library/hinck/contents.html). 

And on moral naturalism, one could have various moral reasons for action, justified based on consideration of various moral properties. I don't understand why practical clout and rationality (in the Humean subjectivist1's sense) should get a free pass that consideration of HARM, CHARACTER TRAITS, WHAT EXISTS, etc. would not get that, when someone might not care about the former just as they might not care about the latter. This is especially the case since I don't see people mentioning "practical clout" (or anything within that vicinity) when asked to provide moral justifications, but they do cite the sorts of considerations I mentioned. So at that point, you would not be able to appeal to their CURRENT desires as the explanation for why you favored the former over the latter. We're both still assigning reasons based on properties people might not care about. And, as Joyce and I both note, doing that is necessary (though not sufficient) for thinking there are intrinsic, real normative reasons.


E) You say, "my claim was this. Ought implies can. And you only have the ability to do something if you're motivated to do it. So here we get a connection between what you're morally required to do, and motivation... However, we've just seen that if you're morally required to x, then you must be motivated to x. 
So where does this motivation come from? ON my view there's a simple answer: your desire to do x. 
If you're an externalist, where does it come from? Your belief that x is something you have reason to do? How can a belief motivate you? A belief isn't an instruction. Desires are instructions."

I don't see how "desires are instructions;" when I desire something, I'm not telling myself what to do nor is any outside mind telling me what to do. Anyway, as I discussed in my previous reply to you today, if you really think that "if you're morally required to x, then you must be motivated to x" and that you can account for this motivation via a person's desires, then you've fallen to your own objection: a person would be able to lose any moral requirement to do X simply by not having a desire to do X. As you yourself said in your first reply from 9/8/12, 
"well, what's the sensible thing for this moralist to do? Is it to boycott meat and campaign against the industry, raise awareness etc? No, no, no. Trying to change the world to fit one's desires is, in this case -- and many, many others -- really very silly. The world's a difficult place to change, after all! Far easier to alter one's attitudes -- to alter one's desires instead. Rather than trying to change our meat-eating practices etc, this 'moralist' -- if they're at all sensible -- will try to change their desires. They will try to care less about animals and the suffering we do to them and so on. Yet that's crazy. This is an implication of this view that renders it every bit as silly as simple subjectivism."
On your view, you've given the person PRECISELY the same out, since they can simply change their current desire to get out of the moral requirement. So based on your own reasoning, your position is "every bit as silly as simply subjectivism."

Furthermore, I've been consistently calling saying, "YOUR VERSION of the ought-implies-can argument." That's because there are other versions of the argument, versions much more plausible than your's. Here was your presentation of the argument from your first reply from 9/8/12, 
"Ought implies can. So, if one is morally required to do x, then one has the ability to do x. One only has the ability to do x in the relevant sense if one has a desire to do x. For it is only the presence of a desire to do x that would provide the agent with the option of doing x. The agent cannot do what they have no desire to do. Thus if one is morally required to do x, one has a desire to do x. And desires generate reasons, and thus one has a reason to do x."

The main problem with your argument hinges on your understanding of "can." 

If you take "can" to mean an agent can do X only if the agent has an all-things-considered-desire to do X, then you run into a few problems. First, as Joyce and I both mentioned, there is no sense in which the agent could make an error, and thus you have not offered an account of a normative reason. Second, you've fallen to your previous argument since you've enabled a person to get out of a moral requirement simply by changing their all-thing-considered desire, which are desires that are generally quite susceptible to voluntary control. Third, your position is massively counterintuitive; it does not fit with the way we assign moral reasons. We don't assign moral reasons to do X based on the agent's all-considered desire to do X.

If you take "can" more weakly to mean that an agent can do X only if the agent has a pro tanto desire to do X, then you're still left with a few problems. First, pro tanto desires can be fairly weak and not have very much influence on the all-things-considered desires that guide conscious, reflective action and motivate actions. In fact, they might be so weak as to be go unnoticed in the consideration and reflection process, and thus not play much of a role on motivation. Even if they were unconscious desires, they still might play a negligible role. So your argument could not move from "can do X" to "motivates one's actions," which defeats the goal you had for the argument. Second, though pro tanto desires are often harder to voluntarily change than all-things-considered desires, they are often susceptible to change. So your "ought-implies-can" argument would again fall to your previous argument since you've enabled a person to get out of a moral requirement simply by changing their desires. Third, your position is massively counterintuitive; it does not fit with the way we assign moral reasons. We don't assign moral reasons to do X based on the agent's pro-tanto desire to do X.

If you take "can" more even weakly to mean that an agent can do X only if the ideal version of the agent recommended the agent do X or that the agent must have a disposition to do X, then you're still left with a few problems. First, the agent may have no desire to do what the ideal version of themselves recommends, and thus this advice may play little to no role in the motivation on the agent. So your argument could not move from "can do X" to "motivates one's actions," as you want to. Second, you've now opened up enough of a gap between what the agent currently desires to do and what they can do. So it would then be special pleading for you to criticize reasons externalists and Humean subjectivists2 for opening up a gap between what an agent currently desires to do and what they can do. You might be tempted to say, "but I include as a necessary condition for having a moral requirement to do X, that one desires to do X." OK. I just addressed that in the previous two paragraphs. Third, your argument commits the errors that come with saying that self-interested reasons (or internal reasons) solely suffice for justifying morality. For instance: the problems from my thought experiment involving Mary and Juno. Fourth, you have not specified the conditions for the relevant disposition. Fifth, your position is massively counterintuitive; it does not fit with the way we assign moral reasons. We likely don't assign moral reasons to do X based on the agent's disposition to desire to do X (though this claim is difficult to evaluate until you provide the stimulus conditions operating for your disposition). We also don't assign moral reasons to do X based on what perfectly rational versions of ourselves with all true NON-MORAL beliefs and full-information would recommend. After all, we haven't specified the character traits of those beings, their motivations, whether they think or know moral properties exist, etc. And without that information, those beings could advise us to do fairly callous things. 

You might complain about my last mention of "whether they think or know moral properties exist." But I included this for a reason. We don't usually determine what we have scientific (or epistemic) reasons based on what ideal agents would tell us to believe. But if we did, then we'd include that those agents know which properties discussed by science exist and in which situations those properties obtain. Otherwise, they would not give accurate scientific advice. I'd say the same thing for ideal agents with respect to morality; how could they give accurate moral advice if they don't know which moral properties exist and in which situations those properties obtain?


F) So given section E, how do we run the "ought-implies-can" argument? Well, first the argument states that someone cannot have a moral obligation to do something that it is logically, conceptually, and metaphysically impossible for them to do. Furthermore, they cannot be expected to do the physically impossible, such as going faster than the speed of light. Also, they cannot be expected to do the unfeasible. For instance: most of us lack the money to pay off the debt of a small third-world country. Now there might be a metaphysically and physically possible course of action (or causal chain) I could initiate that would lead to paying off the debt of that country (ex: making precise stock market predictions that amassed by hundreds of billions of dollars and then using the money to pay off the country's debt), but I simply don't know how to initiate this sequence of events, so it's unfeasible for me to do it. Thus, I'm not morally required to do it. This could be another aspect of the "ought-implies-can" principle: a course of action is morally required for a person to do only if they would be expected to be aware that that course of action was available, where if they were unaware of that course of action, it was not thru any fault of their own (examples of it being their fault: their terminating their reflection on the available courses of action when they knew they should not have or they had abundant time to think, they {thru a series of choices they made in life; habits they formed or were aware of, but did not act against} became the sort of person who just didn't take the well-being of others into consideration, etc.). 

And this is all compatible with having a moral requirement to do X only if one has a disposition to acquire the desire to do X. After all, dispositions are dependent of stimulus conditions (pages 7-9 of http://www.victoria.ac.nz/staff/richard_joyce/acrobat/joyce_accidental.error.theorist.pdf). So we can specify the stimulus conditions under which the person would desire to do X, and thus account for this disposition to form the desire to do X even if at the time they were morally required to do X, they had no desire to do X.

So at the end of this, we have an account in which "can do X" in the "ought-implies-can" argument, deals with X being an alternative the agent was aware of (or if they were not aware of it, it was their own fault they were not aware of it), where they could feasibly do X. There would also be further limits of how much one is morally required to sacrifice. As I said in my 6/2/12 PM, 
"it's a moral truism that you are very rarely (if ever) required to do something that greatly harms your self-interest (for example: selling everything you own and giving it to the poor). But again, this is not the same as showing the justification of ethics RESULTS from self-interest. Just as I conceded in my previous PM (for the sake of argument) that rational reasons could apply only to beings that think, without the JUSTIFICATION of those rationals reasons lying in the fact that agents think, I can say you are not morally obligated to do something that greatly harms your self-interest without claiming the JUSTIFICATION of morality lies in self-interest. So even those who claim "morality does not have to pay," will not leave people fanatically following standards that involve utter self-sacrifice," 
and from my 6/9/12 PM,
"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."

This is what I think the thrust of the "ought-implies-can" argument is. It's not about saying someone has a moral obligation or moral requirement to do X only if they desire to do X. It's about modal possibility in the context of compatibilist free will, along with feasibility and awareness. This account of the argument makes more sense since it fits with how we assign not only moral reasons, but reasons in other topics. For instance: the scientist from section B will not retract their reasons claim from the creationist simply because the creationist lacks the desire to stop saying the Earth is 10,000 years old. It's logically, metaphysically and physically possible for the creationist to stop saying this, and the scientist has made them aware of both the evidence against their claim and the option of not saying the false claim. So the creationist has met the criteria for "can," and we wouldn't think the creationist lacks a reason to stop making their false claim simply because they don't have a desire to stop making the false claim. Similarly so for the assignment of moral reasons.

Furthermore, my version of the argument leaves open the motivation issue in a plausible way. Let's take the science example again. Either the creationist will have an approximate scientific understanding of the age of the Earth or they won't. If it's the former, then they are probably culpable for what they say. If it's the latter, then to determine whether to blame them, we determine whether their lack of awareness of this information is their fault. We can also determine whether they have any desire "not to say something is true if our best evidence suggests it is not true." If they do have this desire, then this does not pose a problem for the "ought-implies-can" argument; they might be convinced to stop making the false claim. If they lack this desire, then they likely could have acquired this desire under certain specified conditions. Thus they have the disposition to acquire the desire, which meets one objection you might make. We can also ask if it's their fault they lack this desire; if it is, then they might still be blamed and the requirement stated by the scientist could still apply to them. 
Anyway, all of this has no bearing on the age of the Earth; that's an objective fact that results from the existence or non-existence of properties whose existence does not depend on any mind's views on the matter.

Now to the moral case. Either the agent will have an approximate understanding of the moral properties of the available courses of action or they won't. If it's the former, then they are culpable for what they do. If it's the latter, then to determine whether to blame them, we determine whether their lack of awareness of this information is their fault. We can also determine whether they have any desire to act morally. If they do have this desire, then this does not pose a problem for the "ought-implies-can" argument; they might be convinced to take the morally good or morally right course of action. If they lack this desire, then they likely could have acquired this desire under certain specified conditions. Thus they have the disposition to acquire the desire, which meets one objection you might make. We can also ask if it's their fault they lack this desire; if it is, then they might still be blamed and the moral requirement could still apply to them. 
Anyway, all of this has no bearing on the existence of moral properties or the moral properties of the given course of action; that's an objective fact that results from the existence or non-existence of properties whose existence does not depend on any mind's views on the matter.

Furthermore, unlike your argument, my version of the argument does not lead to the counterintuitive conclusion that one has a moral requirement to do X only if one has a desire to do X. So no issues regarding there being no sense in which the agent could make an error; they could still fall short of what they have a moral reason to do. Also, my argument does not fall to your other argument: I have not enabled a person to get out of a moral requirement to do X simply by changing their desires about X. Furthermore, my argument does not lead to the problems that come with saying morality needs to be justified with self-interested reasons or by fitting with what the agent desires. These problems include the motivation issues I discussed regarding Mary and Juno.


Thanks for the responses,
NoctambulantJoycean




Clear404, "Re: My Rebuttal of is/ought and theistic moral arguments", 12/28/12
Hi, 
thanks for these replies. I will read them and respond - it may take me a few days (and even then my response will be my initial reaction, of course, and I may have to refine responses later....my views on reason are somewhat inchoate at the mo).