I offer you some theories of intellectual obligations and rights (virtue Ethics): initially, RBT (a Right to Believe Truth, if something is true it follows one has a right to believe it), and, NDSM (one has no right to believe a contradiction, i.e., No right to commit Doxastic Self-Mutilation). Evidence for both below. Anthropology, Psychology, computer software, Sociology, and the neurosciences prove things about human beliefs, and History, Economics, and comparative law can provide evidence of value about theories of (...) rights. However, insofar as we have methods within Philosophy to help us formulate precise concepts of 'belief' and 'rights', methods that also help us to prove links (or absence thereof) amongst families of concepts of rights and belief, our discipline is in and of itself capable of sound reasoning about issues as puzzling as the following. Suppose a Jane who does not believe in God yet who believes she ought to so believe: Jane is undergoing doxastic moral regret (moral regret for lack of faith). We have all known such Janes and perhaps at one time or another even been one. Paradox: given RBT and NDSM, Jane as described not only does not exist, Jane cannot exist. Thus, to enrich the ways in which Philosophy need not get all its evidence from other academic disciplines, I present a brief introduction to what I call Neutral Universal Frames (NUFs). NUFs solve hard puzzles about interactions among modal concepts of belief and rights, concepts that occur in RBT, NDSM and the description of our Janes. NUFs for theories precisely articulated via any two or more modal concepts are a powerful and immensely general set of tools enabling us to define rich theories of truth ("models on frames") to test philosophical theories for internal consistency and to prove the existence of connections (or absence thereof) amongst alternative articulations of philosophical theories. NUFs thereby add to the constructive knowledge producing way Logics intersect with Philosophy of Religion. And we will soon see why Jane, be she named 'Jane' or known simply as you: cannot exist. Read on at your own risk. (shrink)
Common-sense allows that talk about moral truths makes perfect sense. If you object to the United States’ Declaration of Independence’s assertion that it is a truth that ‘all men’ are ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’, you are more likely to object that these rights are not unalienable or that they are not endowed by the Creator, or even that its wording ignores the fact that women have rights too, than that this is not the sort (...) of thing which could be a truth. Whether it is a truth or not seems beside the point, anyway; the writers of the Declaration could just have well written, ‘We hold it to be self-evident that all men are created equal, and also that it is self-evident that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,’ save only that its cadence would lack some of the poetic resonance of the version which garnered Hancock’s signature. Yet famously, ethical noncognitivists have proclaimed that moral sentences can’t be true or false – that, like ‘Hooray!’ or ‘dammit!’, they are not even the kinds of things to be true or false. Noncognitivism is sometimes even defined as the view that this is so, but even philosophers who define ‘noncognitivism’ more broadly, as consistent with the idea that moral sentences may be true or false, have believed that they needed to do important philosophical spadework in order to make sense of how moral sentences could be true or false. In this article we’ll look at the puzzle about moraltruth as it is faced by early noncognitivists and by metaethical expressivists, the early noncognitivists’ contemporary cousins. We’ll look at what it would take for expressivists to ‘earn the right’ to talk about moral truths at all, and in particular at what it would take for them to earn the right to claim that moral truths behave in the ways that we should expect – including that meaningful moral sentences which lack presuppositions are true or false, and that classically valid arguments are truth-preserving.. (shrink)
Moral properties are widely held to be response-dependent properties of actions, situations, events and persons. There is controversy as to whether the putative response-dependence of these properties nullifies any truth-claims for moral judgements, or rather supports them. The present paper argues that moral judgements are more profitably compared with theoretical judgements in the natural sciences than with the judgements of immediate sense-perception. The notion of moraltruth is dependent on the notion of moral (...) knowledge, which in turn is best understood as a possible endpoint of theory change for the better. (shrink)
For the most part, philosophers have regarded moraltruth as propositional and as what follows from the application of moral theory to particular problematic cases. Here I maintain that this is not a useful way of conceiving moraltruth in bioethics. Rather, we are better off conceiving of moraltruth as what emerges from a process of inquiry conducted in a certain manner. There are four elements to this process: (1) careful exploration of (...) the embedded norms of medical practice, research, and delivery; (2) recognition of the irreducible plurality of ultimate moral values within and between these practices; (3) the cultivation and exercise of moral imagination; and (4) the attainment, however temporarily, of wide reflective equilibrium. This process, I argue, is reflected in the way bioethics is most fruitfully practiced, and it is further to be recommended by being true to the character of moral conscientiousness generally. This analysis suggests that moraltruth is "unstable," but that this is not a bad thing. Further, the implication is drawn that moral theory would be better informed if formulated on the basis of paying more attention to lived moral practices. (shrink)
In a wide-ranging inquiry Richard W. Miller provides new resources for coping with the most troubling types of moral conflict: disagreements in moral conviction, conflicting interests, and the tension between conscience and desires. Drawing on most fields in philosophy and the social sciences, including his previous work in the philosophy of science, he presents an account of our access to moraltruth, and, within this framework, develops a theory of justice and an assessment of the role (...) of morality in rational choice. In Miller's view, we are often in a position to claim that our moral judgments are true descriptions of moral facts. But others, relying on contrary ways of moral learning, would reject truths that we are in a position to assert, in dissent that does not depend on irrationality or ignorance of relevant evidence or arguments. With this mixed verdict on moral realism, Miller challenges many received views of rationality, scientific method, and the relation between moral belief and moral choice. In his discussion of justice, Miller defends the adequacy, for modern political choices, of a widely shared demand that institutions be freely and rationally acceptable to all. Drawing on social research and economic theories, he argues that this demand has dramatically egalitarian consequences, even though it is a premise of liberals and conservatives alike. In the final chapters, Miller investigates the role and limits of morality in the choice of conduct, arguing for new perspectives on reason and impartiality. (shrink)
Virtually everyone takes the moral supervenience thesis to be a basic conceptual truth about morality. As a result, if a metaethical theory has difficulties respecting or adequately explaining the supervenience relationship it is deemed to be in big trouble. However, the moral supervenience thesis is a not a conceptual truth (though it may be true) and as such it is not a problem if a metaethical theory cannot respect or explain it.
In Morality Without Foundations, Mark Timmons argues that moral judgments (e.g. “cruelty is wrong”) have what he calls “evaluative assertoric content,” and so, are true or false. However, I argue that, even if correct, this argument renders moraltruth or falsity mysterious.
The fundamental impulse of Discourse Theory is to eschew the moral substantivism of ethical rationalism in favour of a pragmatic, procedural approach to ethical and legal analysis. However, this paper argues that even if the analysis of Communicative Action as reconstructed by Habermas’s “Universal Pragmatics,” and the implied procedural rules of practical discourse advanced by Robert Alexy are accepted, the validation or “redemption” of all authoritative and distributive claims must, in terms of logical priority, encounter the substantively general necessity (...) of Gewirth’s Principle of Generic Consistency. This result operates as a reductio ad absurdum of the project of Universal Pragmatics and prompts us to reconsider the epistemological status and the political and ethico-legal function of Discourse Ethics in Civil Society. (shrink)
Agonistic recognition in education has three interlinked modes of aesthetic experience and self-presentation where one is related to actions in the public realm; one is related to plurality in the way in which it comes into existence in confrontation with others; and one is related to the subject-self, disclosed by ‘thinking. Arendt’s conception of ‘thinking’ is a way of getting to grips with aesthetic self-presentation in education. By action, i.e., by disclosing oneself and by taking initiatives, students and teachers constitute (...) their being. The way Arendt theorizes action (vita activa) makes it essentially unpredictable and destabilizing, which does not seem to fit into what should be expected from education. In the article I will argue that it should have a place by virtue of the debate, challenge and contest it offers. But education should also be defined from a specific kind of contemplation called ‘thinking’ to become the cultivation of a faculty of judgment in education—thinking (vita contemplativa) as a common virtue in education. Arendt’s demarcation between truth and meaning does from the point of view of agonistic recognition in education call for ‘thinking’ as a qualification of political and moral meaning–the ‘taste’ to be established in the individual, by individual judgements but always judged in relation to members of a community. (shrink)
Two meanings of "subjective consequentialism" are distinguished: conscious deliberation with the aim of producing maximally-good consequences, versus acting in ways that, given one's evidence set and reasoning capabilities, is subjectively most likely to maximize expected consequences. The latter is opposed to "objective consequentialism," which demands that we act in ways that actually produce the best total consequences. Peter Railton's arguments for a version of objective consequentialism confuse the two subjective forms, and are only effective against the first. After reviewing the (...) arguments of Eric Wiland and Frances Howard-Snyder against objective consequentialism, two of Railton's arguments which might seem to count against the second form of subjective consequentialism are shown to be ineffective. This leaves subjective consequentialism as a viable theory to replace objective consequentialism with. (shrink)
This article examines the belief among the cultural elites that 'people' should be protected from dangerous knowledge, 'dangerous' in the sense that there are factual statements which may have negative moral and political consequences to society. Such a belief in the negative consequences of dangerous - that is, politically suspicious - knowledge represents an intellectual tradition that goes back to Plato and his famous state-utopian work Republic. This article analyses moral interpretations of statements regarding matters of fact (so-called (...)moral reading), and draws conclusions about the reasons why knowledge can be considered dangerous to 'the people' or to some specific groups in the population, such as children, mothers, students, the sick and dying and the working class. The so-called sociobiology debate, a controversy that started with the publication of the zoologist E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology in 1975, is discussed in this article as a 'case study' of dangerous knowledge. (shrink)
Beginning with Rachel Carson’s small book, The Sense of Wonder, I explore the moral significance of a sense of wonder—the propensity to respond with delight, awe, or yearning to what is beautiful and mysterious in the natural world when it unexpectedly reveals itself. An antidote to the view that the elements of the natural world are commodities to be disdained or destroyed, a sense of wonder leads us to celebrate and honor the more-than-human world, to care for it, to (...) protect its thriving. If this is so, then a sense of wonder may be a virtue, perhaps a keystone virtue in our time of reckless destruction, a source of decency and hope and restraint. (shrink)
Theistic metaethics usually places one key restriction on the explanation of moral facts, namely: every moral fact must ultimately be explained by some fact about God. But the widely held belief that moral truths are necessary truths seems to undermine this claim. If a moraltruth is necessary, then it seems like it neither needs nor has an explanation. Or so the objection typically goes. Recently, two proponents of theistic metaethics — William Lane Craig and (...) Mark Murphy — have argued that this objection is flawed. They claim that even if a truth is necessary, it does not follow that it neither needs nor has an explanation. In this article, I challenge Craig and Murphy’s reasoning on three main grounds. First, I argue that the counterexamples they use to undermine the necessary truth objection to theistic metaethics are flawed. While they may provide some support for the notion that necessary truths can be explained, they do not provide support for the notion that necessary moral truths can be explained. Second, I argue that the principles of explanation that Murphy and Craig use to support theistic metaethics are either question-begging (in the case of Murphy) or improperly motivated (in the case of Craig). And third, I provide a general defence of the claim that necessary moral truths neither need nor have an explanation. (shrink)
I argue that lying has many dimensions, hence, some putativecases of lying may not match our intuitions or acceptedmeanings of lying. The moral lesson we should teach must be that lying is not a simple principle or feature, buta cluster of features or spectrum of shades, where anythingin the spectrum or cluster is considered lying. I argue thatthe view regarding lying as a single principle or featurehas problematic meta-ethical implications. I do a meta-ethicalanalysis of the meaning of lying, not (...) only to indicatesuch problems, but also the need to teach the act ofrational discussion and meta-ethical analysis. I arguethat the process of meta-ethical analysis and rationaldiscussion should be part of moral education, in that itmay help to develop critical thought about the abilityand practice of making good and rational moral judgments. (shrink)
Can we criticize those who hold beliefs which are likely to be wrong? Or must we abandon notions of truth and objectivity and claim that certain beliefs are best for us while incompatible beliefs are best for others? Truth, Politics, Morality addresses this crucial issue and its implications for democracy by arguing that the notion of truth ought to be returned to the center of moral and political philosophy. Cheryl Misak persuasively makes a (...) case for a certain kind of pragmatism in which a true belief is one that could not be improved by inquiry, nor defeated by experience or argument. Her compelling discussion makes sense of the idea that, despite conflict, pluralism, and the expression of difference, our moral and political beliefs aim at truth and can be subject to justified criticism. (shrink)