Desirism and Strategic Reliabilism

by Luke Muehlhauser on August 24, 2010 in Ethics

In 2004, Michael Bishop and J.D. Trout rocked the philosophy world with their short book Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment. The book has influenced me more than almost any other book. Later, I realized that their proposed epistemology – called Strategic Reliabilism – carries several similarities to Alonzo Fyfe’s proposed theory of ethics: Desirism.

Let me explain.

Bishop & Trout criticize what they call Standard Analytic Epistemology (SAE). What is SAE? Mostly, it concerns the study of our definitions of words like “knowledge” and “rational,” and evaluates beliefs to see whether they are rational or constitute knowledge.

From Plato until 1963, knowledge was defined as “justified true belief.” But in 1963, Edmund Gettier presented some cases of justified true belief that we intuitively would not describe with the word “knowledge.” For example, suppose Jones and Smith apply for the same job. Smith justifiably believes that “Jones will get the job” and also that “Jones has 10 coins in his pocket.” Thus, he justifiably concludes that “the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket.”

But Jones does not get the job. Smith gets the job. And, unknown to him, he has 10 coins in his pocket, too. So his belief that “the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket” was both justified and true. And yet we do not feel right saying that Smith “knew” that “the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket,” because there was an odd kind of disconnect between the justification for his belief and the truth of his belief.

This sparked a cottage industry of philosophers proposing alternate definitions for knowledge, and other philosophers providing counter-examples to all these new definitions. The same thing happened with terms like “rationality.” What does it mean for a belief to be “rational”? It’s very hard to say, and counter-examples can always be found.

This approach to epistemology, say Bishop and Trout, has seen diminishing returns. According to them, what SAE shows is merely that our intuitive concepts of “knowledge” and “rationality” are deeply confused when put under pressure. But that is an unsurprising result! After all, languages evolved messily in cultures, and definitions vary from group to group.1

It’s useful to pick apart and clarify our concepts, but what we really need from epistemology is not this, but practical advice on how to reliably form true beliefs. Bishop & Trout propose a shift in focus from evaluating particular beliefs in terms of whether they are “rational” or constitute “knowledge” to a focus on evaluating reasoning processes themselves. Which reasoning processes tend to get at the truth? How can we acquire and revise reasoning processes to get at the truth more successfully? In which contexts should we use which processes?

In their short summary of Strategic Reliabilism for Philosophy Compass, Bishop & Trout summarize Strategic Reliabilism like this:

Strategic Reliabilism (SR) has three parts:

1. The core theory, which articulates the standards according to which cognitive processes are evaluated.

2. The theory of the proper acquisition and revision of cognitive processes.

3. The applied theory, which recommends specific reasoning strategies for particular domains.

…Strategic Reliabilism evaluates cognitive processes in terms of the extent to which they are a suitable combination of (a) robustly reliable; (b) appropriate to the reasoner’s resources, and (c) geared toward producing beliefs about topics that are significant to the reasoner.

Without going into the details of Bishop & Trout’s epistemology (for now), let me remark on its similarities to the theory I defend within that other “practical science”: ethics. Like Strategic Reliabilism critiques SAE in epistemology, Desirism critiques what we might call “Standard Analytic Morality” (SAM) in ethics.

Like SAE, SAM usually focuses on whether or not particular actions are right or wrong, good or bad. Desirism shifts the focus of moral theory to an evaluation of the processes that produce action: namely, desires. Like SAE, SAM makes its evaluations on the basis of whether certain theories and judgments conform to our intuitions. Desirism rejects intuitionism as baseless and unreliable, and focuses instead upon more reliable methods of getting at moral truth, and also upon giving practical advice on how to foster a more moral society from which one can benefit.

One might provide a breakdown of Desirism that is analogous to Bishop & Trout’s breakdown of Strategic Reliabilism:

1. The core theory, which articulates the standards according to which desires are evaluated.

2. The theory of the proper acquisition and revision of desires.

3. The applied theory, which recommends the promotion or inhibition of specific desires.

Strategic Reliabilism also recommends cognitive processes according to their efficiency – the costs and benefits of employing them. Likewise, Desirism says we should promote or inhibit desires according to their efficiency: indeed, there are some desires we have little reason to promote because they would only fulfill reasons for action in rare and perhaps never-encountered circumstances, such as a situation involving people tied to trolley tracks and a switch that, if pulled, will alter the number of people killed by an oncoming trolley.

Of course there are many important differences between Desirism and Strategic Reliabilism, but I found these similarities to be interesting.

  1. See Weinberg, Nichols, & Stich, “Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions” (2001). []

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh August 24, 2010 at 5:42 am

I’ve never been impressed by Gettier’s examples… I dunno why it made such a big stink the philosophy world.

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lukeprog August 24, 2010 at 8:02 am

Josh,

I get it, I just think at some point the dictionary writing has to stop, because YES our concepts are incoherent. Of course they are. They weren’t evolved in a logician’s lab.

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Hendy August 24, 2010 at 8:04 am

Luke,

I’d be interested to know what you think of THIS. It’s called ‘Truth?’ by Keith Sewell and I found it fascinating. Some of what you wrote about above struck me as related and when reading his work I really got excited. It’s quite radical, suggesting that “truth” and “true” are unnecessary baggage words that don’t serve any purpose.

All that really matters is whether some proposal X has a method of being verified. If so, it is provisionally accepted in form of “X” or “X is”… not “X is true” which says the same thing but refers to an arena (“the truth”) that might or might not exist. All we can use are our sense inputs and cognition and thus the best we have at any moment is an approximation of “what is” based on these means.

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Derrida August 24, 2010 at 9:57 am

This is great. You’ve clarified an intuition I’ve had about epistemology: that rationality should be thought of in terms of truth guidedness.

I like to think of epistemology like a game: maximise the number of true beliefs you hold, and minimise the number of false beliefs.

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Ex Hypothesi August 24, 2010 at 10:30 am

Luke,
Russell’s clock is a much more intuitive Gettier case. Suppose a clock stopped working at 12 midnight and at 12 noon the next day I look at the clock and form the belief “it’s 12 noon”. My belief is true, and have what most would consider justification, since clocks usually tell us what time it is. Hence I have satisfied the justified true belief conditions and yet it seems I don’t have knowledge, for it’s just a matter of dumb luck that clock was pointing to the right time.

A general point: you say that “what we need is not [an account of knowledge], but practical advice on how to reliably form true beliefs.” This presupposes that we KNOW that we have true beliefs and that we have enough true beliefs that we can abstract from their lot the reliable mechanism that produced them. But if we already know that we have true beliefs, wouldn’t we ipso facto know by what mechanism they were produced? And if we knew of that reliable belief producing mechanism, what more advice would we need?

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Jacopo August 24, 2010 at 11:30 am

Luke, do you mean our concepts weren’t evolved in a logician’s lab? Otherwise I don’t understand your comment :)

Also, thanks for pointing out that book. Philosophy needs to engage – as equals, not in a half-hearted way – with relevant disciplines like psychology if it wants to continue making interesting progress. At least IMO.

Hendy, as you describe it, Sewall’s approach (I haven’t the time to read his entry atm) seems pretty similar to Horwich’s minimalism.

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lukeprog August 24, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Jacopo,

Thanks, I fixed my comment.

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Hendy August 24, 2010 at 12:41 pm

@Luke:

Oh, also… do you have a brief summary of how this proposed system gets around circularity and evil demon problems? I have mini-debates with JustinMartyr constantly at FaithHeuristic and he’s certain that (as far as I can tell) nothing except moderate foundationalism and/or reformed epistemology which allow first principles/justified basic beliefs gets around justifying the system itself or demon problems (world created 5min ago, matrix, etc.).

What are your thoughts on how strategic reliabilism handles these issues?

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cl August 24, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Luke,

The core theory, which articulates the standards according to which desires are evaluated.

What prevents the person making the evaluation from relying on their intuitions? For example, concerning pederasty, I believe Alonzo’s arguments lack of cohesive arguments suggest that he might be relying on intuition in his assessments. He simply chalks it up as “probably wrong,” offers no support other than a vague allusion to “venereal disease,” and calls it a day. Does anybody else see a problem with that? Or am I the lone dissenter in that regard? I want answers, and explanations, not unfounded assertions.

The same goes for the bigoted statements you’ve made about creationists. Since you refuse to defend your position when challenged, I have no choice but to suspect that either bias, ignorance or intuition guides your evaluation there.

How can we be sure intuitions aren’t getting in the way?

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JS Allen August 24, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I get it, I just think at some point the dictionary writing has to stop, because YES our concepts are incoherent. Of course they are. They weren’t evolved in a logician’s lab.

I still don’t get why people care about this, though. It’s as if we’ve deified “reason” and are begging it to tell us what’s true, and then get upset to find that our foundational concepts are incoherent.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see anyone arguing about how they can “truly know” or have “justified belief” that their mothers love them. All of our deepest commitments in life are made on shoddy epistemic foundations; and the commitment to find a “rational” epistemic basis seems to be on shoddiest foundations of all.

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TaiChi August 24, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Gettier’s paper.

What we need from epistemology is not this, but practical advice on how to reliably form true beliefs.” ~ Lukeprog

I can’t see why we shouldn’t ask for both an account of what knowledge is and how we can reliably form true beliefs. Both questions need answering, and we need not pretend, by emphasizing the importance of one question, that the other question can be ignored.

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TaiChi August 24, 2010 at 4:30 pm

What SAE shows is merely that our intuitive concepts of “knowledge” and “rationality” are deeply confused when put under pressure.

I don’t think it does. The fact, if it is a fact, that no successful analysis of knowledge in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions can be adumbrated shows that the concept of knowledge is unanalyzable and nothing more. But unanalyzability is a far cry from incoherence…

I get it, I just think at some point the dictionary writing has to stop, because YES our concepts are incoherent. Of course they are. They weren’t evolved in a logician’s lab.” ~ Lukeprog

.. and moreover, all logicians assume unanalyzable primitive concepts as the basis of their systems. Why we should think them problematic when logicians are prepared to employ them beats me.

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lukeprog August 24, 2010 at 7:56 pm

TaiChi,

I do think there is some purpose to concept analysis, and I tried to make that clear in my post. But if you pull out individual sentences it’s going to sound like I totally dismiss Gettier & his followers.

Also, I think that in the cases of knowledge and rationality it is NOT the case that they are un-analyzable. Indeed, they are quite thoroughly analyzed. They are not ‘basic’ or ‘axiomatic’ terms. They are derivative terms. But they are highly confused and perhaps even incoherent, if we try to combine the meanings that many different people have into one meaning, as many epistemologists try to do.

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TaiChi August 24, 2010 at 11:29 pm

But if you pull out individual sentences it’s going to sound like I totally dismiss Gettier & his followers.” ~ Lukeprog

I think it does sound like that. You begin by saying that Bishop & Trout “rocked the philosophy world”, and the contribution you cite of theirs is a declaration of SAE’s diminishing returns, of the general impracticality of SAE, and that there’s some other question they’d rather answer. Perhaps there’s some more content in their discussion of SAE – perhaps they show, rather than “SAE shows” that ‘knowledge’ and ‘rationality’ are deeply confused notions – and this is their contribution. But what I read seemed to indicate that a Rortian changing of the subject was their laudable contribution.

But they are highly confused and perhaps even incoherent, if we try to combine the meanings that many different people have into one meaning, as many epistemologists try to do.” ~ Lukeprog

Well, that is your view. The reason for my comment was to point out that from the failure of analysis incoherence does not follow. There is an alternative in the unanalyzability camp, argued for in one of the best known epistemological works of the past decade: Timothy Willliamson’s
Knowledge and its Limits.

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe August 25, 2010 at 6:12 am

@cl, You are not the only one. I think the guy is careless at times, asserting things without justifying them or providing links. One such example is the claim that “we’ll be better off by strengthening our aversion to incest”.

The justification he gives for the first one, incest, is that a large percentage of incestuous relationships are abusive. I need more than that. What about those that aren’t? Should they live a life of condemnation simply because of that. Shouldn’t we look at something else, like “increasing aversion to causing harm to others” instead? If we do, then abusive incestuous relationships would be on a decline right? I really think Alonzo is exposing his prejudice here.

Note here that I’m specifically referring to desire-as-means (“I wanna fuck my sister, not because she is my sister, but because she’s hot”. Even in the case of desire-as-ends, I still don’t see a problem (other than the genetic problem).

Please point out where my reasoning sucks, because I’m sure Alonzo is smarter and (probably) more honest than I am.

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe August 25, 2010 at 6:13 am

In “The justification he gives for the first one”, ignore “for the first one”.

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe August 25, 2010 at 6:17 am

@lukeprog: please invite Alonzo to comment on this post, or even better, on the author’s summary you provided a link to. His analysis would be interesting.

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lukeprog August 25, 2010 at 7:39 am

TaiChi,

Re-reading my original post, I think you’re right that it was too harsh on SAE. I’ve reworded it.

As for “rocked the philosophy world”, I just mean the book had a big impact. So did Williamson’s.

I’m skeptical of Williamson’s claim that knowledge is a mental state, but to be fair, I have not read his book!

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Alonzo Fyfe August 25, 2010 at 9:10 am

Tsepang Lekhonkhobe:

I am reading the so-called “short summary”. I’m curious as to what it says because I have tended to focus heavily on desires and not paid so much attention to beliefs.

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cl August 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe,

Please point out where my reasoning sucks,

I dont’ think it sucks. I think you have a valid concern:

The justification he gives for the first one, incest, is that a large percentage of incestuous relationships are abusive. I need more than that. What about those that aren’t? Should they live a life of condemnation simply because of that. Shouldn’t we look at something else, like “increasing aversion to causing harm to others” instead? If we do, then abusive incestuous relationships would be on a decline right? I really think Alonzo is exposing his prejudice here.

I couldn’t agree more. By appealing to abusiveness, it seems he’s now arguing more along the lines of traditional Millian utilitarianism [maximize pleasure, minimize pain]. I suppose he could be implying that abusive relationships tend to thwart more than fulfill desires, but if that’s the case, then it’s the “abusive relationship” part that seems wrong, not the “incest” part. It’s just confusing.

He does the same thing with pederasty. The [implied] justification he gives is that the Greeks were “probably wrong” because pederasty increases risk of exposure to [hitherto unspecified] venereal diseases. I need more than that. What about an older man having sex with a younger boy increases risk of VD? Which VS[s] are we talking about? Is there any empirical evidence behind these claims?

Luke and Alonzo also do the same thing with creationists. They claim – well, they claim different things in different places – but essentially, Luke implies that creationism requires morally negligent epistemic processes, and Alonzo implies that what creationists believe leads to death and maiming. Yet, when pressed, no justification is forthcoming. So, like you, I suspect that these guys might be acting off their own prejudices and/or intuitions. In any other case, they’ll talk high and mighty against bigotry, yet apparently have no qualms making bigoted statements about creationists.

What really gets me is that hardly anybody calls them on it. Then again, flock members rarely challenge pack leaders, so, I guess this is standard fare for homo sapiens – atheist or otherwise.

Alonzo,

Why were the Greeks “probably wrong” concerning pederasty? I would really love to get past this.

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TaiChi August 25, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Re-reading my original post, I think you’re right that it was too harsh on SAE. I’ve reworded it.” ~ Lukeprog

Thanks, I think it more sense now, and I can see why you think the approach is promising. This kind of project fits nicely with what you and Alonzo find compelling about Desirism, whether or not the theory also has something to offer SAM. I can see it being combined with an error theory, though you may not see it that way yourself.

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lukeprog August 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm

TaiChi,

I do see desirism much that way. It all depends on what definitions for moral terms you want to go with. Here’s on strategy: We could go with the ‘most robust’ theory of morality that successfully refers. I would be an error theorist with regard to the theories that are perhaps ‘more robust’ than desirism but fail to refer. I would be a realist with regard to theories that are ‘less robust’, but successfully refer. Something like desirism, I think, will turn out to be the most robust theory that successfully refers.

What do I mean by ‘more robust’? I mean ‘has more features of what most people think of as a theory of moral realism’, for example: authority, universality, normativity, categoricity, knowability, and so on. A theory like Wielenberg’s may have all those qualities, but it fails to refer. A theory like Railton’s or Fyfe’s lacks categoricity but may have all the others, though I’m not sure that Railton’s successfully refers. A theory like Prinz’s refers, but lacks authority, universality, categoricity, and other features.

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Hendy August 25, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Luke, still curious about this (from above):

Oh, also… do you have a brief summary of how this proposed system gets around circularity and evil demon problems?

Even a few sentences would help. The book is on my reading list, but I’d be interested if you’re aware already of how reliablism fares here.

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lukeprog August 25, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Hendy,

Like most naturalistic approaches to knowledge, Bishop & Trout don’t plan to solve them, but rather brush them aside with “Uh, yeah, obviously we’re fallibilists.” There is an interesting section in the first chapter that addresses circularity, but I’m not sure if I’m convinced by it.

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TaiChi August 25, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Lukeprog,
Heh.. no, I mean error-theory proper. Just as reliable cognitive processes would be of interest to us in the absence of anything identifiable as knowledge (say, because knowledge entails certainty on the folk view and we can’t be certain of anything), so too would a harmony of desires be of interest in the absence of any true ethical theory.

What do I mean by ‘more robust’? I mean ‘has more features of what most people think of as a theory of moral realism’, for example: authority, universality, normativity, categoricity, knowability, and so on. ” ~ Lukeprog

That’s one approach. But I tend to agree with Richard Joyce that not everything is negotiable – there’s a point at which you say that the theory is not really a theory of morality at all, because it lacks some non-negotiable feature.

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lukeprog August 26, 2010 at 1:19 am

TaiChi,

But who gets to decide what is non-negotiable? For such a messy and multiply-used concept as ‘morality’, I’m not persuaded by Joyce’s insistence that we can pick out some non-negotiable property and thereby declare that we can’t use moral terms to describe anything that doesn’t have that property. I see a spectrum of reasonableness for the application of moral terms. Joyce sees a sharp line in there, and I’m just not seeing it.

But yes, if there was a sharp line to be drawn somewhere, and desirism was on the non-moral side of that line, then I would accept error theory and desirism would stil be true, we just wouldn’t – as a semantic matter – call it a theory of ‘morality.’ But it would still be pretty worthwhile, as you say.

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe August 26, 2010 at 3:20 am

@cl, I think you are being a bit harsh against fans of Alonzo and Luke, employing an unneeded accusatory tone. They probably don’t “call on them” because maybe they don’t think hard about the issue of incest (and pederasty).

Anyways, I spent some hours on Alonzo’s blog looking for justifications for his stance on incest, and I didn’t find much on the subject, other than the unfounded “if we had the means to completely eradicate the desire for incest, the world would be a better place”. He even made some strange claim that “aversion to incest is innate in humans”. Links?

Again, please point out where I got my reasoning screwed-up, for I’m no philosopher.

PS. I’m a fan of Alonzo Fyfe’s work, except in special cases like this.

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Hendy August 26, 2010 at 8:28 am

@Luke:

Interesting. Just read about fallibilism (hadn’t heard it before!). Do you subscribe? In essence does it just solve the circularity problem by saying, “Nothing is certain”? Though it seems that come criticize this by saying that “One thing is certain: nothing is certain” is self-refuting!

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lukeprog August 26, 2010 at 8:51 am

Hendy,

I’m not sure I understand the question. Are you perhaps looking for a first-philosophy type of answer to skepticism and Hume’s problem of induction? If so, you won’t find it with naturalized epistemology, for which the motto is: “There is no first philosophy.” Listen to my interview with Konrad Talmont-Kaminski if you haven’t already. Cheers!

Luke

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TaiChi August 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm

I see a spectrum of reasonableness for the application of moral terms. Joyce sees a sharp line in there, and I’m just not seeing it.” ~ Lukeprog

The sharp line is the categoricity of moral imperatives – moral imperatives say what you ought to do, regardless of your desires or interests – and their inescapability – one cannot opt-out of moral requirements as one could some other arbitrary set of rules. I agree with him: neither Hitler’s atypical desires and interests, nor his disinterest in moral requirements, have relevance to our judgment that his actions were immoral and that he ought have refrained from them.
I’m not sure how much of Joyce you’ve read, and whether this is familiar to you. But if you’re interested, I’ve started to slowly(!) blog my way through his The Myth of Morality, beginning here.

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lukeprog August 26, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I’ve read most of The Myth of Morality, some of The Evolution of Morality, and some of his papers. I’m a big fan of Joyce, actually.

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TaiChi August 26, 2010 at 9:20 pm

And so? You disagree that moral imperatives must be categorical, their prescriptions inescapable? Why?
If your answer is (as I have thought it to be) that strong categorical imperatives are never true, then this amounts to a substantive/ontological point, which Joyce would agree with. But it obviously doesn’t answer the conceptual step of Joyce’s argument. Neither, I think, does the point you’ve made that we change our definitions as we learn more about the world: it takes for granted, pace Joyce, that strong categoricity is a negotiable feature of moral imperatives.

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lukeprog August 26, 2010 at 11:44 pm

TaiChi,

I agree with Joyce that there are no categorical imperatives, but this is not why I think that moral imperatives need not be categorical. I think moral imperatives need not be categorical because moral language is not “essentially committed” to the categoricity of moral imperatives. Certainly, much moral discourse is committed to its categoricity, just as much (perhaps more) moral discourse is committed to its dependence on divinity. But neither one is such a universal feature of worldwide moral discourse that they are essential. Normativity, on the other hand, I suspect is essential to moral discourse. But these are empirical questions, for which we are only starting to do the research. Some cultures may not even have any concept that Westerners would recognize as morality, for example the Ik in northern Uganda.

Anyway, I’m certainly not “taking for granted” that categoricity is a negotiable feature of moral imperatives. Like I say, I take it that is a largely empirical question.

Thanks for providing some intelligent relief from a critic of desirism like cl who throws up a thousand objections I do not have time to answer – most of them highly ignorant of the landscape of moral theory and even desirism itself.

BTW, along with Joyce another high-quality critic of moral realism is Sharon Street.

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JS Allen August 27, 2010 at 8:39 am

Some cultures may not even have any concept that Westerners would recognize as morality, for example the Ik in northern Uganda.

Have you written about this in the past? Would be interested to hear more.

I’ve seen reports that the wars there have caused a lot of orphans to be raising orphans, such that normal transmission of morals has broken down. This has apparently even affected elephant populations.

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TaiChi August 27, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I think moral imperatives need not be categorical because moral language is not “essentially committed” to the categoricity of moral imperatives.” ~ Lukeprog

So what we need to settle the question are counterexamples. I admit, my imagination fails me here, which is why I’m convinced by Joyce.

But these are empirical questions, for which we are only starting to do the research. Some cultures may not even have any concept that Westerners would recognize as morality, for example the Ik in northern Uganda.” ~ Lukeprog

Could we learn, from another culture, that our conception of morality is insufficiently inclusive? Sure, but we’d learn about it in this way: we’d recognize a concept belonging to another culture as morality though it lacked some Western feature, and so we’d come to realize that the Western feature is inessential to our own concept of morality. We’d be learning about our own language, by testing its translatability with another. But this isn’t any different from what (analytic) philosophers do already: advancing definitions and proposing counterexamples can also be looked at as testing translatability for the sake of clarifying a concept.
So I don’t think empirical research into non-Western cultures is going to throw up anything philosophically dramatic. It really can’t do so.

Anyway, I’m certainly not “taking for granted” that categoricity is a negotiable feature of moral imperatives. Like I say, I take it that is a largely empirical question.” ~ Lukeprog

Yes, I agree. And I do think empirical research is important, I just don’t think it will be revolutionary.

Thanks for providing some intelligent relief from a critic of desirism like cl who throws up a thousand objections I do not have time to answer – most of them highly ignorant of the landscape of moral theory and even desirism itself.” ~ Lukeprog

I’m glad you see it that way. I’m never entirely sure whether my criticism of Desirism is fair, given that it’s a work in progress (or at least, the explanation of the view seems to be). I look forward to the podcasts.

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lukeprog August 27, 2010 at 4:38 pm

TaiChi,

Counterexamples to what? Counterexamples to the claim that moral discourse is essentially committed to the categoricity of moral imperatives?

If that’s what you mean, I don’t have much to say at the moment, but Stephen Finlay tried to give some examples here:

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=3584

And I know Joyce will soon be publishing a response to Finlay.

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TaiChi August 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Lukeprog,
Thanks. I’ve taken a look at the (rather well-written) post, and at first glance I don’t find the arguments there convincing. But I think it’s worth reading the paper before I say why, so I’ll hold off commenting.

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lukeprog August 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm

ok

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cl August 28, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe,

I think you are being a bit harsh against fans of Alonzo and Luke, employing an unneeded accusatory tone.

I’m not “against” anyone here so don’t take it personally. As far as harshness, my statements are far less harsh than some of the statements Alonzo and Luke make against creationists. I simply call things how I see them.

Again, please point out where I got my reasoning screwed-up, for I’m no philosopher.

Like I said, I don’t think you screwed up anywhere. I agree with you that Alonzo uses unjustified assertions to sustain one or more of his arguments. I agree with you that this practice opens one up to suspicion of prejudice.

I’m a fan of Alonzo Fyfe’s work, except in special cases like this.

I like a decent amount of Alonzo’s work, too. There are other things I just can’t let slide, and I would hope others would call me if I did them, too.

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe August 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm

@cl, maybe this is the wrong place to ask, but why do you think Alonzo doesn’t answer all your questions (other than not having enough time)? It’s frustrating that he doesn’t answer your questions, but I wonder why. Could it be your approach that makes him not take you seriously? Are you convinced that he’s just running away?

As for the harsh tone I’m talking of, isn’t that sort of thing reserved for impersonal things like blog posts, not conversations that take place on comment sections of those posts?

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cl September 6, 2010 at 1:50 am

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe,

…why do you think Alonzo doesn’t answer all your questions (other than not having enough time)?

I realize that at times I speak forcefully, but Alonzo’s anti-creationist bigotry irritates me. I know that Alonzo’s reluctance to answer is not due to time constraint. I think it’s probably a combination of him not liking me criticizing his theory so hard, him thinking I misunderstand his theory, and the fact that some of mine are genuinely tough questions that concur with objections given by a long list of other intelligent commenters.

As for the harsh tone I’m talking of, isn’t that sort of thing reserved for impersonal things like blog posts, not conversations that take place on comment sections of those posts?

I don’t see the problem. When you get hated on as much as I do, you have to develop some abrasiveness. As a theist, I speak forcefully on atheist blogs because I expect people to back up their claims and live by the principles they admonish for the rest of us. I’m not making personal attacks on anyone, I’m not calling names… so, I wouldn’t worry too much about the tone if I were you. “Harsh cl” is reserved for specific situations. IMO, most of the conversations I have with people here are productive and cordial. Of course, there are always exceptions.

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josha cohen November 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm

hi,
some good points have been made, but reliabilism can never be a substitute for personal faith.
josh

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