Friday, November 13, 2009

06 Emerging intuitionism in ethics

In my former lecture it was quite clear that I am inclined to plead for a naturalistic interpretation of ethical terms.

That is, I suggest that there are relations between these terms and evolution theory, behavior, neurophysiology and biology.

I explicitly say 'inclined to', because this inclination is still based on incomplete knowledge and information. But nevertheless it is what I recently called my personal philosophical program.

That means, that you adopt a number of theories or arguments and regard them as yours. Your philosophical program is to put these theories and arguments as much as possible to the test.

And in this process we are confronted with the arguments of a philosopher who had a great influence on the meta-ethical discourse till the 60s of the 20th century: G.E. Moore.

G.E. Moore coined the expression "naturalistic fallacy" for how I am inclined to define ethical terms. However, what I plan to commit is not a fallacy at all.

As Frankena (1939) also nicely pointed out, it cannot be assumed at the outset that what Moore calls the naturalistic fallacy really is a mistake of any kind.

The naturalist proposes a certain kind of definition of some moral term and the non-naturalist then simply asserts that anyone who thinks such definitions are possible is mistaken.

Let Moore makes his point: "How “good” is to be defined is the most fundamental question in Ethics. If I am asked “How is good to be defined?” my answer is that it cannot be defined. (…)

“Good” is a simple notion, just as “yellow” is; as you cannot explain to one who does not already know it what yellow is, so you cannot explain what good is. (…)

“Good” is incapable of definition, in the most important sense. The most important sense of “definition” is that in which a definition states what parts invariably compose a certain whole; and in this sense “good” has no definition because it is simple and has no parts. "
- end quote -

When it is about moral statements like "It is good to do X", Moore says: "When I call such propositions “Intuitions,” I mean that they are incapable of evidence; I imply nothing as to our cognition of them."

And all this in a situation where I am focusing my philosophical analysis on a naturalistic semantical interpretation of the concept "good".

Moore says, when you say "Some action is good, because it generates pleasure (for the largest number of people)", I still can ask the question "Is pleasure really good?" This question makes sense and must mean something else than "Is pleasure really pleasure?"

He has a point there, but he leaves me with a lot of questions I have not yet proper answers to. That doesn't worry me too much, because there already exists a lot of philosophical literature on this issue.

This saves me from inventing the philosophical wheel again. However, saying that "good' is a special concept, a non-naturalistic one, while e.g. pleasure is a naturalistic one, is my first hurdle to take.

To say that 'good" is indefinable, that it is a simple concept, to some extend I understand what he means, but isn't here an other semantical interpretation possible?

And finally the claim that a concept is self-evident, that understanding is based on intuition, is unsatisfactory to me. Do we all have that intuition? Does it work the same in every human being.

In other words, still a lot of work to do ( ^_^ )
But yet as The Philosophy Class, which is not primarily intended to give all answers, but to get acquainted with real philosophical questions and discourse, we touch home.

The Discussion

[13:28] herman Bergson: So much for a start on intuitionism
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: a start
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: my apologies, something has come up, got to run
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: a ari
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:29] Paula Dix: bye Ari
[13:29] herman Bergson: what a pitty Aristotle...see you next time
[13:29] Abraxas Nagy: bye Ari
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: gone already
[13:29] herman Bergson: Yes a start, Gemma...
[13:29] herman Bergson: Moore's idea influenced ethics for more than 50 years
[13:30] herman Bergson: and there were more who didn't like his handling of the concept of good, but yet kept to is non-naturalistic approach
[13:30] oola Neruda: may i ask what the main results or outcomes of this domination had... in society as a whole..
[13:30] herman Bergson: like Ross, Ayer and Hare...We'll meet them soon
[13:30] oola Neruda: If it did
[13:31] oola Neruda: how it affects us
[13:31] herman Bergson: Hard to say oola....
[13:32] herman Bergson: but it is a reflection of the development that not all truth comes from above anymore
[13:32] herman Bergson: It would need research to really answer your question
[13:33] oola Neruda: thank you... you have pointed me in the right direction for searching
[13:33] herman Bergson: It says something on how to interpret moral standards in society..that is for sure
[13:34] herman Bergson: so I guess that in educational theory you could find influences
[13:34] oola Neruda: do you know why his ideas lost favor then?
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: did they with everyone??? or just some philosophers
[13:35] herman Bergson: Well....not yet in detail,, but philosophers like Anscombe and Philippa Foot had a great influence
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: Why does saying that good is intuitional not end the ethical argument right there?
[13:36] herman Bergson: Foot for instance argued that value terms had empirical content next to a non empirical one
[13:36] Repose Lionheart: but not Moore
[13:36] herman Bergson: The concept of rude for instance is in a way a judgemental word...expressing an attitude, but also refers to certain empirical data
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: I agree, but would Moore?
[13:37] herman Bergson: The main problem I have with Moore is his interpretation of 'good'
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: I think his argument may be untenable
[13:37] herman Bergson: no..Moore would never agree with Foot
[13:37] herman Bergson: But Moore is a common sense philosopher...
[13:38] Repose Lionheart: So he raised the "naturalistic fallacy" to protect his concept of good?
[13:38] herman Bergson: so his simple concept of good....when we say this or that is good...the understanding of good is based on common sense it seems
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: ahhh
[13:39] BrainCrave OHare: and how is common sense defined?
[13:39] Repose Lionheart: that's what he means by intuition
[13:39] herman Bergson: In the first place the word fallacy refers to a faulty argumentation....
[13:39] herman Bergson: but what a naturalist claims is not a fallacy but another way of defining concepts
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes repose...intuition is another term that makes me nervous as an epistemological concept
[13:40] Repose Lionheart: yes, emergent phenomena would be fallacious on Moore's terms
[13:40] herman Bergson: you never can falsify a claim based on someones intuition
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:41] herman Bergson: and I see that as a serious problem
[13:41] herman Bergson: in a philosophical debate
[13:42] herman Bergson: But in the next lectures we'll dig in somewhat deeper in Moore's position and how others followed and modified his ideas
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: i have to go back and read the lecture on moore tooo i guess
[13:43] herman Bergson: is always a good thing to reread a lecture....
[13:44] herman Bergson: So ...the main point of today is that according to Moore you can not define the concept of good in naturalistic terms
[13:44] herman Bergson: good means pleasure...or good means util to others
[13:45] herman Bergson: good is according to him a kind of stand alone quality which we know by intuition
[13:45] herman Bergson: like we know the meaning of yellow but cant define is a likewise simple term
[13:45] herman Bergson: we know it as he says 'by acquaintance'
[13:46] herman Bergson: Regarding 'yellow' I can understand, but regarding 'good' iI dont
[13:46] Repose Lionheart: so -- the "naturalistic fallacy" was a way of defending his notion of good...
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: it is partly rhetorical?
[13:47] herman Bergson: yes. it is a logical consequence of his notion of good
[13:47] Paula Dix: I dont know... we can use some instruments and find the exact wave lenght for yellow
[13:47] Repose Lionheart: weakens his position
[13:48] Repose Lionheart: claiming it as a fallacy was overstated
[13:48] herman Bergson: Yes Paula, that is what Moore says too, but before you can do that you first must have 'acquaintance' with yellow
[13:48] BrainCrave OHare: agree paula
[13:48] Paula Dix: yes, but not similar thing to do with "good"
[13:48] herman Bergson: `Yes Repose, you could say that
[13:48] oola Neruda: I have worked with many blind people... and to discuss color with one who was born blind... is very interesting...
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: i would guess so
[13:49] Paula Dix: oola that should be fascinating!
[13:49] herman Bergson: Exactly Paula....the analogy isnt waterprooof
[13:49] Repose Lionheart: interesting, oola
[13:49] oola Neruda: but, as an artist... i can see the difficulties in their ... thoughts
[13:50] herman Bergson: So in the coming lectures one of the main jobs is to get clear the status of Moore's GOOD
[13:50] Paula Dix: nice :))
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: do you think we will?
[13:50] herman Bergson: and how others interpreted his ideas defending or rejecting them
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:50] herman Bergson: Oh yes Gemma...we'll get that clear
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:51] Paula Dix: even nicier! :))
[13:51] Repose Lionheart: yes
[13:52] herman Bergson: If I have to keep a solid ground under my own philosophical ideas I HAVE to show that Moore's idea cant be kept alive
[13:52] Abraxas Nagy: o A o!
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: ahha
[13:52] herman Bergson: At this moment I am only scratching the surface :-)
[13:53] Cailleach Shan: Blimey.... I need a little lie down.
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: klololol
[13:53] Repose Lionheart: pull his lynch pins, I say
[13:53] BrainCrave OHare: I would suggest that "good" is a measure of standard by each individual, as good can only be an individual perspective. That does not discount that what is good for one person might be good or bad for another. Let's take stealing as an example: it is "good" in economic terms (in a warped way) because the thief is the beneficiary, while "bad" for the victim. Why cannot good be defined objectively from an individualistic perspective - i.e, that which is earned and supports life without harming others? As Paula said, "yellow" can be defined objectively as well - it can be defined based on wavelength. Though a blind person may not be able to visualize yellow, that doesn't mean it cannot be defined objectively. How many people can visualize a wavelength - does that mean they cannot understand the term yellow? To me, I keep coming back to standards. How can you discuss ethics without standards as a tenet?
[13:53] herman Bergson: I am sorry I came down so hard on you Cailleach...
[13:53] BrainCrave OHare: (sorry so long)
[13:53] BrainCrave OHare: (i've been holding back)
[13:53] Abraxas Nagy: OMG
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: way too long evidently
[13:54] herman Bergson: IS against class rules BrainCarve :-)
[13:54] BrainCrave OHare: oh
[13:54] BrainCrave OHare: sorry
[13:54] BrainCrave OHare: :)
[13:54] herman Bergson: I'll put the rules up, you are excused, you didnt know
[13:54] BrainCrave OHare: i will not make the mistake again
[13:54] Repose Lionheart: no prob
[13:55] herman Bergson: indeed no problem at all
[13:55] Cailleach Shan: @ Brian... interesting line though.
[13:55] BrainCrave OHare: ty
[13:55] Repose Lionheart: yep
[13:55] Abraxas Nagy: mmm yes
[13:55] BrainCrave OHare: it is the same problem i had last class
[13:55] BrainCrave OHare: to discuss ethics without standards is to.... what?
[13:56] BrainCrave OHare: have no purpose (IMO)
[13:56] herman Bergson: Ok...Brain....I wont respond to your words now, but I'll get to them in next lectures
[13:56] BrainCrave OHare: ty
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: should be interesting
[13:57] herman Bergson: Think so too
[13:58] oola Neruda: i cannot help but wonder... WHOSE standards... seems it could change or evolve or... whatever
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: very true oola
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: for ever
[13:58] herman Bergson: that is what it is all about get that (a little) clear(er)
[13:58] Repose Lionheart: "without harming others" opens onto the social, I think
[13:59] herman Bergson: yes..and the Golden RUle is an interesting subject too
[13:59] Repose Lionheart: we are social beings
[13:59] herman Bergson: Evolutionary or ethological ideas are too
[13:59] BrainCrave OHare: i think it is important to go back to the tenets for life
[13:59] herman Bergson: But at this stage we are just at the beginning
[14:00] Repose Lionheart: even the words we use today are social constructs
[14:00] BrainCrave OHare: man's survival
[14:00] Repose Lionheart: can't escape the "group"
[14:00] BrainCrave OHare: that which is against life is bad
[14:00] Cailleach Shan: @ Herman... yes, I would love to hear a discussion on The Golden Rule sometime Herman.
[14:00] BrainCrave OHare: it is not necessary to escape anything - only to respect that which brings life
[14:00] herman Bergson: Is in the list Cailleach
[14:00] Cailleach Shan: :D
[14:00] BrainCrave OHare: and, what brings life to each individual is different
[14:00] Repose Lionheart: ok, agree
[14:01] herman Bergson: Well....I think we have ploughed our brains enough for today....course is laid in ㋡
[14:01] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[14:01] BrainCrave OHare: ty herman
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: time for a nap cailleach
[14:02] Repose Lionheart: and the sails trimmed
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: mmm interesting as always
[14:02] herman Bergson: So, thank you for your participation....we got work to do ㋡
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: food for thought
[14:02] Repose Lionheart: Thanks you, Professor
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: see you tuesday
[14:02] Repose Lionheart: Thank
[14:02] Gemma Cleanslate: i hope
[14:02] herman Bergson: Thank you...for your attention ㋡
[14:02] Abraxas Nagy: thank you herman
[14:03] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^
[14:03] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye
[14:03] Gemma Cleanslate: all
[14:03] Abraxas Nagy: :D
[14:03] Cailleach Shan: Thanks Herman..... Haere Ra everyone.
[14:03] Abraxas Nagy: bye Gemma :D
[14:03] herman Bergson: Hi CONNIE...didnt see you come in ㋡
[14:03] oola Neruda: baieee y'all

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