by Massimo Pigliucci
* Scientists arguing about billion years old fossils. Wait, wasn't the earth 6,000 years young?
* What happens when a philosopher gets confused about ethics. And besides, Hume said it first.
* Philosophy Talk: health care, right or privilege?
* If you don't intend to read Marta Nussbaum's latest book (but you should) here is a good summary.
* Dating, Ayn Rand style. It's all about me. No joking.
* From the same agency that spends taxpayers' money on research on paranormal weapons...
* Teaching philosophy with Spidey.
* The sad case of David Mabus and the power of Twitter.
* One self-inflicted problem with teaching the humanities in American colleges...
* Update on higher order theories of consciousness.
* So-called Tea Party even less popular than atheists. Go figure.
* My latest Skeptical Inquirer column: Hume's on miracles as Bayesian inference.
* And of course, the latest episode of the Rationally Speaking podcast: Robert Zaretsky on Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding.
I'd love it if you would explain, or point to an explanation, of why you consider Joel Marks' essayReplyDelete
( http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/confessions-of-an-ex-moralist/ ) to be the result of a confused philosopher. I'm not any kind of philosopher, just a lay person, but I thought the essay was clear and made sense to me. Is he using terms incorrectly, or is the logic just wrong?
I love the NYT Tea party article that claims to have aligned polling data from 2006 to today of 3000 amercians. They have discovered that we are (and always have been, since before the tea party) racist.ReplyDelete
Massimo, if you can not see this article is an outright lie about it's support polling data (that somehow by randomly polling 3000 people before there was a tea party, you can still get information on who tea parties were before they were tea parties), then you need to start reapplying your skepticism.
Since I am personally a Libertarian that is also in the Tea party and works tirelessly promoting Libertarianism to a widely conservative tea party, I know these people well. I can't help but cringe at the endless attempts to paint the Tea Party as racist. This articles supposed polls is an outright lie. But I am not expecting more from the NYT.
Think about it M, 1 out of 30 Americans is in the Tea Party (from Gallop) So of their original supposed poll in 2006, that would make 100 today from the original poll actual tea party member (that is assuming they got all the original 3000 people polled to answer new questions now). And of those 100 or less people supposedly tea party, happen to tell the pollster they had little tolerance for blacks back in 2006.
You know they're scared when there making stuff up. And this crap is all made up. But hey, I am just a white racist tea party member that really isn't concerned with smaller government, I'm really trying to force religion down your throat.
I second Steve02476's request. The ex-moralist may be wrong on a few points, but he doesn't seem especially confused. Personally, I think he's less confused, if anything, than the average ethicist, because I think he's seen through the main illusions of ethical philosophy.ReplyDelete
I find the article confused because the author wants his cake and eat it too. On the one hand, morality is entirely relative; on the other we can still make (rational) arguments about it. I find that position to be incoherent. For more, see my take on a previous Stone article about relativism:
it is one thing to accuse people of making stuff up, and another to question their methodology. You seem to wanting to do both. On the first count, you have no evidence other than prejudice ("I am not expecting more from the NYT"). On the second count you are looking at it the wrong way (statistically). They had a representative sample to begin with, and they are drawing conclusions about a non random sub-sample. This is perfectly legitimate. Yes, you can question how representative the sub-sample is of the general population, but you still have to explain why they found what they found.
Besides, you may have spent quite a bit of time with tea partiers, but pretty much everything I've read (no, not just in the NYT) makes me suspicious of any claim to ecumenical positions about ethnicity on their part.
Massimo, apologies if I'm reopening a discussion that has already been discussed into the ground, but having revisited the article you provided the link to, I think you're substantially in agreement with the "ex-moralist" and me on basic meta-ethical matters. To explain, I first need to explain what think is an oversight in your discussion, which may have been inherited from the Boghossian article referred to in your article: moral absolutism versus moral relativism and moral realism--belief in objective moral facts--versus moral subjectivism are related but distinct dichotomies, and the second dichotomy was notably missing from your discussion, it appeared to me. As moral realism entails moral absolutism, denial of moral absolutism is an ipso facto denial of moral realism, which makes one a moral subjectivist--one who denies there are objective moral facts. The "moral reasonism" or "if-thenism" you propose seems to me to be where the real attempt to have one's one cake and eat it too resides: it is subjectivism in a quasi-objective guise. What could the axioms of moral reasonism ultimately rest on besides preferences? Any science bearing on the issue could at most show that certain axiom preferences are normal, which might have some persuasive force on the matter of what preferences we should have (and classificatory value with regard to deviant morality), but ultimately preferences are all we have to appeal to.ReplyDelete
If the "ex-moralist" (and I) have to face "the problem of moral disagreement" you suggest so do you. Personally, I think we can argue rationally about preferences. My reason is that I think that a very basic level humans tend to have the same preferences (something that makes sense empirically) and moral debate can be seen as (and in fact is I would argue) debate about which higher-level preferences of a certain kind fit best with more basic and common preferences of the same kind. What makes moral preferences moral is simply that they concern how we should treat ourselves and other sentient beings.
Confused? Marks is self-deluded. Why would he "conveying information" about some issues unless he believes they're issues of moral concern, and therefore has made a moral judgment.ReplyDelete
And, Massimo, such confusion among even professors of philosophy is not unusual. In Dallas, I met a man at a philosophers' society, an emeritus professor of philosophy within the Dallas County Community College District, who called himself an atheist but said he regularly prayed.
Going beyond Nussbaum, the fact that more and more university presidents/chancellors are running their universities on "business" models, even as states cut funding as she noted, is problematic. A dollar-line version of utilitarianism in education is no way to educate.
"Rights" and beauty? Sadly, but no, there is no such right. With health care, even, I'm iffy about using the word "rights." "Rights" in general in such cases seem an appeal to natural law. "Duties" in the same fields are Kantian.
Is it possible Hume did know something of Bayes' work, but simply had no opportunity or desire to incorporate it into any major work of his own? After all, his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion was the only major work after Bayes' time.
@Jim on this thread. Either you know nothing about sample sizes for polls and margins of error, and you're an idiot (and a bad speller), along with everything else, or you're a garden-variety troll. (Or both; they're not mutually exclusive.)
I've got in the habit of directing everyone I meet who says they're a libertarian to this FAQ, "Why I hate your freedom" by Scott Siskind.
The Ayn Rand personals were precisely what I was worried about when I wrote about keeping beliefs at arm's length. Even ignoring the rather spectacular personal problems evidenced by the ads (though would mainstream personals be much better?), and although having at least broadly similar worldviews is probably good in a relationship, still, it just seems so sad to limit one's amorous possibilities to... a specific subset of libertarians?!
Ian, all ... sidebar note on libertarianism, specifically Adam Smith's "invisible hand."ReplyDelete
The "invisible hand" idea was clearly influenced by the "clockmaker winding up the universe" divinity of Enlightenment Deism.
One "small" "problem" ... Enlightenment Deism has been empirically undermined by .... two destructive world wars, the Holocaust, etc., as far as Leibnitz's "best of all worlds." It's also been scientifically undermined by quantum mechanics. And now it's being undermined in the realm of the human mind by behavioral psychology/economics.
Libertarians in general, not to mention Randians, have neither a philosophical nor a scientific leg on which to stand.
this is indeed a discussion we've already had. I actually don't think we are that far from each other, though.
> As moral realism entails moral absolutism, denial of moral absolutism is an ipso facto denial of moral realism <
I'm not sure. I would agree with the other way around, but there are different ways of being realist about morality. I consider my if-then approach a form of realism, in the sense that it is rooted in the kind of beings humans are. But of course if you consider that non-realism, then we agree.
> "if-thenism" ... is subjectivism in a quasi-objective guise. What could the axioms of moral reasonism ultimately rest on besides preferences? <
As I argue in my post on virtue ethics: the empirical nature of social beings like humans. Where else would one get any roots for morality?
> ultimately preferences are all we have to appeal to. <
I think the problem here is with the word "preference." It sounds like it's chocolate vs. vanilla, which is not way either you or I are referring to. Perhaps we should use the word "contingency" instead, to indicate that we are talking about the outcome of historical evolution that has produced a particular kind of being?
> My reason is that I think that a very basic level humans tend to have the same preferences <
I would agree, and that's because we share a biological nature. (And no, I'm not trying to be too essentialistic here, all it's necessary is to agree that Homo sapiens is sufficiently diverse from, say, chips and gorillas, and that the variation within species is less than the one across species).
> moral debate can be seen as (and in fact is I would argue) debate about which higher-level preferences of a certain kind fit best with more basic and common preferences of the same kind <
From the above comment, and your recent others regarding economics, you have made it abundantly clear that you are all too apt to climb the nearest proverbial flag pole and announce your ignorance for all to read.
IF you have read (50:1 against that you did) The Wealth of Nations, you would have observed that Smith's 'invisible-hand' metaphor stands in for an empirical generalization gleaned from a litany of detailed observations of the workings of the British, French, Spanish, and Northern European economies (why else does Smith populate his work with so many case-study examples?). (He is right by the way: Free markets are vastly more efficient and lead to vastly better outcomes than centralized alternatives, in particular the mercantilist economies then in vogue.)
Smith aside, various forms of libertarian political philosophy do not stand or fall on the metaphor of the invisible-hand.
If your definition of Enlightenment Deism attributes moral compasses to gods, then E.D. :) being disproved by world events makes sense.
But I don't know that classic deism relies on this flavor. The idea is simply just as we create and may or not care about our creations, so we may have been created and then left to our own devices. Leave the debates about godly morals and human ethics to professional philosophers.
Eamon ... wrong. I'm not alone, by any means, in seeing the "invisible hand" as precisely coming from Deism.ReplyDelete
And, while other subroutines within neoclassical economics, whether libertarian or not, may not rise/fall on the invisible hand, they DO rise or fall on the rationality that lay behind enlightenment Deism. Look at the financial meltdown. So many of the investors, traders, etc., said their rational-actor models said people wouldn't act that way.
Beyond that, given that economics hasn't become truly scientific in a research sense until behavioral economics, which shows just how IRrational H. economicus is.
So, your flagpole of political bias looks about ... oh, 20 feet higher than mine.
And, since Smith isn't scientifically based, but philosophically based, in a philosophy that's untenable, why would I read him? As noted, I've read enough good summaries that do indicate where he was coming from.
I never said ED attributes moral compasses to gods. Don't know where you read that out of me, or why you read that into me. So, I'll ignore the smug last line.
I spot an opportunity to cite my favorite quote re: the Invisible Hand (IH) metaphor by Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz:ReplyDelete
Whenever there are “externalities”—where the actions of an individual have impacts on others for which they do not pay or for which they are not compensated—markets will not work well. But recent research has shown that these externalities are pervasive, whenever there is imperfect information or imperfect risk markets—that is always.
The real debate today is about finding the right balance between the market and government. Both are needed. They can each complement each other. This balance will differ from time to time and place to place. source
That said, whether or not the IH metaphor originates in deism or some other metaphysical doctrine, what matters to me is how we find the "right balance" that Stiglitz speaks of. After all, that seems as much of a moral question as it is a practical one, and we all know how easy it is to get bogged down in debates about morality.
On that note, thanks to Ian for recommending that Non-Libertarian FAQ. I enjoyed it, although I admit that he preaches to the choir in my case.
@Gadfly - this is what you did say:ReplyDelete
Enlightenment Deism has been empirically undermined by .... two destructive world wars, the Holocaust, etc., as far as Leibnitz's "best of all worlds.
Enlighten me - how would the bad stuff undermine that brand of deism?
@Dave ... it undermines it, at least indirectly, empirically, not (just) morally.ReplyDelete
In fact, you omitted that on a specifically empirical angle, without morality involved at all, I mentioned that quantum theory undermines ED. Einstein obviously recognized that with his "god doesn't play dice" comment.
Quantum theory shows such a deity simply doesn't exist. The other example show that, if he does, per apologetics issues, he has a "problem of evil" issue just as bad as the Xn god.
Excellent statement regarding the growing suspicion that morality is doomed to become more and more about preferences, whether about differences in preferences or preferences that we share. There was one point I wondered about.
>"Any science bearing on the issue could at most show that certain axiom preferences are normal, which might have some persuasive force on the matter of what preferences we should have"
I'm not so sure that preferences being "normal"(as in "near universal")....suggests that we "should"
embrace or act upon. And.....
>"Personally, I think we can argue rationally about preferences. My reason is that I think that a very basic level humans tend to have the same preferences." Again...there may be much disagreement about whether to encourage or discourage certain preferences, even universally held preferences. And the only thing we can use "reason" for is to predict the consequences of encouraging vs. discouraging.
>"Confused? Marks is self-deluded. Why would he "conveying information" about some issues unless he believes they're issues of moral concern, and therefore has made a moral judgment."
Perhaps he found that when he learned the facts, however he may have become aware of these facts,that it caused him to feel disgusted and empathize with the animals in question. He may have thought that others might be interested in these facts....or, his disgust and empathy may have caused him to pass these facts along, hoping that others might have the same experience that he did, and that together, they might voice their preference for putting an end to some of the unnecessary practices. This is not a question of "moral reasoning"....It is merely a matter of tastes, preferences, and acting to change behaviors that one simply does not "like".
@Gadfly: I asked how 'A' undermines 'B', you answer "indirectly, empirically, not (just) morally". That's 3 '...lys' and 0 answers. Invoke quantum theory all you wish, but keeping it apropos of WWII may help you communicate an answer.ReplyDelete
The question remains "How is Enlightenment Deism undermined by two destructive world wars or the Holocaust, empirically or otherwise."
As an Ayn Rand fan who has successfully dated online via mainstream dating sites, you should be aware that atlasphere.com attracts a self-selected group of people who might call themselves Objectivists while being rather ritualistic about how to integrate it in their lives. I've met and fallen in love with non-Objectivists and so have other Objectivist friends of mine. But most of us know to stay away from Atlasphere.com where the goods are odd.ReplyDelete