Moral Realism vs. Moral Anti-Realism

Moral Realism vs. Moral Anti-Realism - The Rachels reading...

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Unformatted text preview: The Rachels reading hinted at the following The Rachels reading hinted at the following debate: Moral Realism vs Moral Anti­Realism What are those two positions? (And why does the book talk about Moral Skepticism??) Moral Realism: the view that moral facts do Moral Realism exist (independently of people’s beliefs and attitudes). Or, in other words, some moral claims are really true (or false). Moral Anti­Realism: (as I’m going to construe it) is the opposite of moral realism. Moral facts do NOT exist. Moral claims are not true (either because they’re all false OR because such claims cannot be, strictly speaking, true or false). Not a rejection of moral values—but only their objectivity. The debate comes down to this: The debate comes down to this: “Killing innocent people for fun is wrong” Is this statement a fact about the world (is it true)? Or is it, like all other moral statements, just plain false? Or is it merely an expression of an attitude people typically have (and hence could never be true or false)? (Or is its truth only relative to some society/individual?) Perhaps more baldly, but clumsily: Perhaps more baldly, but clumsily: Are ethical values human inventions OR Are ethical values facts about the world Notice, just for now, that the way I’ve construed moral Notice, just for now, that the way I’ve construed moral anti­realism means the cultural/moral relativist counts as a kind of moral anti­realist. The relativist thinks moral judgments/values/statements are true, but only subjectively so. They do NOT say that moral statements are facts about the world. But they are importantly different from other anti­realists. They do not say, e.g., that all moral statements are false. So keep this rough taxonomy of views in mind. You may have liked the line that the relativist was taking, though you were actually a non­relativist moral anti­ Mackie’s goal is to defend (non­relativist) moral Mackie’s goal is to defend (non­relativist) moral anti­realism. He says, right at the beginning, that “there are no objective values”. In other words: “The claim that values are not objective, are not part of the fabric of the world, is meant to include not only moral goodness, which might be most naturally equated with moral value, but also other things that could be more loosely called moral values or disvalues— rightness and wrongness, duty, obligation, an action’s being rotten and contemptible, and so To be as clear as possible, Mackie separates two types To be as clear as possible, Mackie separates two types of skepticism you could advance: First order skeptic: someone who says “All this talk of morality is tripe” (translated: “Morality is a load of shit”) OR someone who “expresses a positive condemnation of all that conventionally passes for morality” (but who do so from a moral standpoint— they just think that what people typically call moral is all wrong). These are practical, normative stances, which involve an evaluation of the standards/principles that govern how we ought to behave. Mackie is NOT adopting either of those claims. His Mackie is NOT adopting either of those claims. His skepticism is a second order view: Second order skeptic: someone who questions the very status of moral values (principles, claims, etc.), about where and how they fit into the world. Instead of saying, nah, I’m not going to bother to stop stealing just because morality says it’s wrong, a skeptic a la Mackie only says that the disvalue we express by condemning stealing is not an objective part of the world. Claims about the wrongness of stealing are just false, like saying 2 + 2 = 33. Critically, you should notice that the different ‘orders’ Critically, you should notice that the different ‘orders’ of skepticism are, as they say, logically independent. One could be true while the other is false, or vice versa, or they both could be true, or both be false. Compare: “The sky is blue” and “The sky is not blue” These statements are NOT logically independent. If one is true, the other must be false. So that means that you can be a second order skeptic So that means that you can be a second order skeptic WITHOUT being a first order skeptic. You can claim that there are no moral facts (it’s not true that stealing is wrong), while also morally condemning people who steal. Just because you deny the second order stuff does not mean you have to ‘give up’ on morality. You could be Ghandi, or whoever, and still be a second order skeptic. And it works the other way around: you could act like Ted Bundy but believe it’s true that what you do is evil. Do not confuse Mackie’s anti­realism with a really crazy kind of skepticism. Okay, that’s what Mackie thinks. But what are his Okay, that’s what Mackie thinks. But what are his arguments for it? He’s got two (main ones): the argument from relativity and the argument from queerness. The argument from relativity: P1. The best explanation for the actual variations in moral codes is that there are no moral facts. ______________________________ C1. So there must not really be any. (May seem weak, but this is a standard kind of scientific argument.) Mackie’s second argument is the more famous. Mackie’s second argument is the more famous. The argument from queerness : P1. If there are objective values, then they’d have to be entities or qualities or relations of a very weird sort, AND if there are objective values, then we’d have to have some strange, atypical sort of faculty (perceptual or intuitive) for knowing about them. P2. There probably are no such sorts of entities and we probably have no such faculty for being aware of these so­called objective values. __________________________________________________ C1. There are no objective values. What the hell is he talking about?? Well, to break it down, there What the hell is he talking about?? Well, to break it down, there are two parts to this argument from queerness: a metaphysical part and an epistemological part. Metaphysics (in this case): the study of what exists and how it all fits together Epistemology: the study of knowledge (what we know and how we know it) The metaphysical part is that “if there are such objective values, The then they’d have to be some weird entities, qualities, or relations”. In other words, if there are objective values, then they are not like rocks, tables, and chairs. In truth, they don’t even seem like electrons. That’s worrisome. The epistemological part is that “if there are objective values, then we must have a weird way of knowing about them”. In other words, it’s not like how we perceive rocks, tables, and chairs (or even electrons). We can’t see the wrongness of the stealing, so in what way are we aware of its wrongness?? Do we have some ‘value module’ inthe brain whose job it is to detect values in the world?? A strategy for countering these sorts of A strategy for countering these sorts of complaints? Well, you know the deal. Argument is valid as it stands, so you’ll have to deny a premise. The first one looks trump tight. The first one looks trump tight. “P1. If there were objective values, then they’d have to be entities or qualities or relations of a very weird sort, AND if there were objective values, then we’d have to have some strange, atypical sort of faculty (perceptual or intuitive) for knowing about them.” There could be some minor quibbling about ‘weird’ and ‘atypical’, but I’m inclined just to give it to him. An implication of your realism is a weird­ish metaphysics and epistemology. The second one has got to be the place to attack: The second one has got to be the place to attack: “P2. There probably are no such sorts of entities and we probably have no such faculty for being aware of these so­called objective values.” Can you deny that one?? Mackie mentions that the objectivist could look Mackie mentions that the objectivist could look for ‘companions in guilt’. In other words, you could look for other people who share your problem, but for whom the queerness argument doesn’t seem to be applicable. For an example, imagine someone denies my claim that Arkansas will win 10+ games because we have a young offensive line. A popular way of sports fans to counter this is to point out other teams in the same boat, but whom my opponent would not deny a 10­win season. What kinds of companions are out there for the What kinds of companions are out there for the realist, though? Think about stuff like numbers, identity, substance, time, necessity, or causation! These sorts of things seem to share with values the weird metaphysics and epistemology, yet we don’t complain against their objectivity. So, just to make it clear, this defense amounts to So, just to make it clear, this defense amounts to an attack on the second premise: “There probably are no such sorts of entities and we probably have no such faculty for being aware of these so­called objective values” Pointing out those companions in guilt gives you some reason for thinking that there maybe are objective values we maybe DO have a faculty for being aware of them. Mackie confesses that this response is “important” and he doesn’t Mackie confesses that this response is “important” and he doesn’t have the space to counter it fully (he claims to do so elsewhere). He thinks that an appropriate metaphysics and epistemology for those things can be given. Instead, he leaves us with another abductive argument: P1. The best explanation for the queerness is that the supposed ‘moral quality’ is rather a sort of subjective response (an emotion, say) which is causally related to natural features on which the supposed quality is said to be consequential. ______________________________________________ C1. There are no moral ‘facts’, but rather just subjective responses to natural events (like burning a puppy’s paws on a stove top!) Lastly, though I didn’t make you read it, he talks about ‘patterns Lastly, though I didn’t make you read it, he talks about ‘patterns of objectification’. Since his conclusion is pretty radical, it would be nice, he admits, if he could offer some sort of explanation for why moral realism has been so prevalent in the history of ethical thinking. The bit of ‘patterns’ is that explanation. He claims that realism is mostly the artifact of the ‘ pathetic fallacy’: the tendency to read our feelings into their objects. So when I see a fungus, say, I may feel really gross and disgusted. So I attribute that nonnatural quality (of disgustingness) TO the fungus, as if it is a property possessed by the fungus (like greenness, having a certain mass, etc.). He says we do the same with moral qualities. When I see some act, I’m filled with moral outrage, so I read the immorality INTO the act itself (rather than its merely being an expression of some attitude I have, but which is not present in the event). Something like this isn’t empirically implausible at all. Something like this isn’t empirically implausible at all. Our brains are pretty good at creating qualities which don’t actually exist out in the world, but which we’re fooled into thinking do exist out there. Optical illusions are a good example 1. Müller­Lyer illusion 2. Ball size optical illusion 3. Movement illusion The Müller Lyer Illusion The M Ball size optical illusion Ball size optical illusion Movement Illusion Movement Illusion Let’s be fair to the damned realist, though, and Let’s be fair to the damned realist, though, and mention one uncomfortable consequence for the anti­realist: 1. It’s impossible to have a real dispute/argument about some moral claim. Just for one example, take the following claim: Just for one example, take the following claim: “Abortion is morally permissible” Sure seems like we have arguments about this sort of thing. But if claims like that are not true, then there can’t be any reasons for it (or, obviously, its opposite!). It would be like arguing for the claim: “All elephants can run 100 mph”. And won’t this push us ultimately back to the Nazi problem? Or: isn’t it just true that slavery is wrong? ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/14/2011 for the course PHIL 2103 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at Arkansas.

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