Stathis is right. The moral axiomatic system will have to show that in moral/ethical
issues we must allow ourselves to be guided by facts & logic. **But even if it
succeeds in showing that, one already has to have agreed to be guided by facts & logic
in order to be guided by the moral axiomatic system's argument.** One can read the
dialogue (I forget which one) in which Socrates argues with somebody who believes that
might makes right. Socrates engages his interlocutor into following the facts & logic
enough to follow his (Socrates') arguments. But in the end Socrates fails to convince
him because in the end his interlocutor will not yield to facts & logic. One can hold
Socrates' particular arguments to be faulty but still see how it could all happen.
Now, one may argue that up to a certain point it is impossible to ignore facts & logic
without being insane. That is true. But only up to a point. Otherwise we wouldn't have
the saying, "Denial is not just a river in Egypt.". (In!
deed, logic & facts are sometimes difficult to heed, & we have to be sometimes quite
toiling & active in order to receive them, get them right, & heed them -- to _allow_
them to determine us, our understanding & behavior, in ways that they would not
otherwise do, & often against pressure for us to do otherwise.)
- Ben Udell
>Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>Let me give a clearer example. Suppose I say that I believe it is a good and noble
>thing for the strong to oppress the weak, even to the point of killing them; and that
>if I were in charge I would promote this moral position in schools, through the
>media, and with changes to the criminal law, so that eventually it becomes accepted
>as the norm. How are you going to argue against this? You can't point out any errors
>of fact because I haven't made any empirical claims (other than the trivial one that
>this is what I in fact believe). You may try to point out the dire social
>consequences of such a policy, but where in the above have I said anything about
>social consequences? Frankly, I don't care what the effects of my policy are because
>I consider the destruction of weaklings in as painful a manner as possible of the
>greatest importance, and if God is just, I believe that I will go to heaven for
>having stuck to my moral principles. I know that many people would be horrified by w!
hat I propose, but I am certainly not the only one in history to have thought this way!
>The point is, you cannot argue against my moral position, because I don't present any
>arguments or make any claims. All you can do is disagree with me and state an
>alternative moral position.
>Wei Dai wrote:
>>Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>>>If I stop with (a) above, I am simply saying that this is how I feel about
>>>suffering, and this feeling is not contingent on the state of affairs in any actual
>>>or possible world [there, I got it in!].
>>(a) as stated is ill defined. In order to actually reason with it in practice, you'd
>>have to define what "activity", "cause", "net", "human", and "suffering" mean, but
>>then it's hard to see how one can just have a "feeling" that statement (a), by now
>>highly technical, is true. What about a slightly different variation of (a), where
>>the definition of "human" or "suffering" is given a small tweak? How do you decide
>>which of them reflects your true feelings? The mere presense of many similar but
>>contradictory moral statements might give you a feeling of arbitrariness that causes
>>you to reject all of them.
>>Difficulties like this lead to the desire for a set of basic moral axioms that can
>>be defined precisely and still be seen by everyone as obvious and non-arbitrary.
>>Again, maybe it doesn't exist, but we can't know for sure unless we're much smarter
>>than we actually are.