Moral Realism Starter• How do moral truths motivate or justify action? – Hint: think of a normative theory which is morally realist…
Moral Realism: Starter 2• For use after students have grasped the view that moral properties are analogous to secondary ones. Write a paragraph explaining this view.
Today’s homework• 0 7 Evaluate the claim that moral values cannot be derived from facts. (50 marks)• Or: Moral Naturalism (they can) vs. (non- cognitivism = they can’t but this doesn’t matter) vs. moral properties as relational (they can, but circuitously).
Ethical Naturalism• What is Ethical Naturalism?• Aristotle:• Mill:• Nietzsche:• Hume: The Is/Ought Argument• Moore: The Naturalistic Fallacy• Moore: The Open Question Argument –
MetaethicsEthical Properties as relational properties
Moral Realism• Moral truths = God-independent transcendent truths. Maths analogy. Platonism. Moral elitism. Acrasia.• Moral truths = natural facts. The open question argument and the naturalistic fallacy.• Moral truths = relational properties which provide reasons for action. Analogy with secondary properties.• Issues: How is knowledge of moral truth possible? How is agreement over moral truth possible? To what extent can such truths motivate/justify action?
Why this third way?• moral realism/cognitivism has issues – Transcendental realism/moral Platonism is nonsensical. – Moral naturalism is fallacious.• Yet moral irrealism/non-cognitivism has issues – ‘There is Moral Truth’ only means rhetorical/emotive agreement. – Leaves little room for rational discussion of moral disagreement – no acts or persons can really be, say, courageous, rude, wrong
Bridging the gap• Could a realism about physical/non-evaluative properties be supportive of irrealism about evaluative moral properties?• Philosophy of Perception: Indirect Realism – Realism about primary (perceiver-invariant) physical qualities (shape, movement, size) – Which cause perceiver-dependent (irreal/variable) secondary qualities (colour, sound, smell, taste etc)• Moral Philosophy: could moral properties be analogous to secondary qualities? – Might allow a more sophisticated non-cognitivism about ethics… – Could be issues with the success of the analogy, though (morality and maths!)
Moral truth as relational• moral truth is based on relational properties which provide reasons for action – [objective] Facts about the world – Generate [subjective to humans] reasons why we act• the analogy with secondary properties. – Properties of the world are invariant – But moral properties (=reasons for acting) arise from these invariant properties in a consistent way for us.
Locke on Primary and Secondary Qualities• Qualities thus utterly inseparable from the body [physical object]in what estate soever it be; such as in all the alterations and changes it suffers, all the force can be used upon it…such as sense constantly finds in every particle of matter…these I call original or primary qualities of body…simple ideas…, viz, solidity, extension, figure, motion, or rest, and number.• Secondly, such qualities, which in truth are nothing in the objects themselves, but powers to produce various sensations in us by their primary qualities, i.e. by the bulk, figure, texture, and motion of their insensible parts…these I call secondary qualities.• … e.g. that a violet, by the impulse of such insensible particles of matter of peculiar figures and bulks, and in different degrees and modifications of their motions, causes the ideas of the blue colour, and sweet scent of that flower to be produced in our minds…these [secondary] sensible qualities… are in truth nothing in the objects themselves but powers to produce various sensations in us, and depend on those primary qualities, viz, bulk, figure, texture, and motion of parts…
Primary versus Secondary• Primary qualities are objective and invariant. – They do not depend on human perception. – A being who lacks vision could understand e.g. a square shape…(bats!) – Bernard Williams: ‘”What is real is accessible from any point of view”• Secondary properties such as colours, sounds are not real properties of objects, but are mutable and subjective. – They do depend on human perception. – What we perceive of as colours, noises, smells would not be perceived as such by other creatures (bats!)• Yet primary qualities cause secondary ones.• So our mutable sensory experience rests on something wholly enduring.
A grassy example• When we see grass as green we should not think it really is. – Calling grass green = it would look green to a normal human observer in standard lighting conditions. – Yet it consistently, enduringly seems that way to us: a sensation of green is how human beings with normal eyesight respond to something that is real, namely the presence of certain kinds of light waves.• It is true (to us) that grass is green; we can observe it to be so; we can justify it as being so.• So questions about the correct colour of an object – have an answer – and there are agreed procedures for establishing what it is.
Task: in pairs• Considering the previous analogy (I’ll rewind the PP in a second)• Devise a moral exemplar and use it to explain how moral/evaluative qualities might be analogous to secondary physical qualities – ‘As grass is green’…means X, so ‘….’ means…• We’ll then look at the ‘Protagoras’ for an example drawn from the classic literature.
The analogy between moral and secondary properties, explained• secondary qualities supply an attractive model for evaluative properties• They allow for the notions of truth, justification and observation.• Calling an action right is analogous to calling grass green: it would be termed right by a normal human observer under standard conditions.• It is true (to us) that x is right; we can observe it to be so; we can justify it as being so.
Conclusion: twinned worlds• Both values and secondary qualities turn out not to be real properties.• But they arise from real scientific properties.• Irrealism and realism can be twinned.• Perceiver-dependent reasons for action can be derived from objective facts.
What does this mean for morals?• Saying an action is right is not just to express personal approval.• If moral properties are analogous to secondary qualities saying an action is right means – We expect other people will share our moral attitudes, – provided that they are in the appropriate state – and are making their judgement in suitable circumstances.
Some issues with this view• But what is ‘appropriate state’ and ‘suitable circumstances’, in this context?• Does the analogy between moral qualities and secondary qualities hold?• Berkeley: do we have evidence that primary qualities actually exist to underpin secondary ones?• Are we always clear what the relevant moral facts are that give rise to reasons for action? Might there be competing facts, uncertain views? (Compare: ‘is it blue or grey?’) – Of course, this might indicate moral uncertainty that can be resolved through discussion…
Hume: Impartial Observer or Ideal Spectator Theory• In The Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals• Human beings are social animals: our natural sympathy with other human beings gives us shared access to an impartial viewpoint.• This detached perspective on human affairs is the moral point of view. – It considers the motives and interests of each person impartially – It is a convergent common framework for discussion• morality is not a matter of individual choice chosen by arbitrary and even capricious acts of individual will• but the creation of human society, having evolved in response to the specific requirements of communal living.
What does this mean in practice?• An action is right if it would elicit approval in a fully informed, impartial and sympathetic spectator.• So my moral feelings are only reliable if I am – fully informed about the effects of an action – and if my view is not distorted by bias or prejudice.• Hume: we actually use a special moral vocabulary to indicate this
From the ‘Enquiry concerning the principles of morals’When a man denominates another his enemy, his rival, his antagonist, his adversary, he is understood to speak the language of self-love, and to express sentiments, peculiar to himself, and arising from his particular circumstances and situation.But when he bestows on any man the epithets of vicious or odious or depraved, he then speaks another language, and expresses sentiments, in which, he expects, all his audience are to concur with him. He must here, therefore, depart from his private and particular situation, and must choose a point of view, common to him with others: He must move some universal principle of the human frame, and touch a string, to which all mankind have an accord and symphony.If he means, therefore, to express, that this man possesses qualities whose tendency is pernicious to society, he has chosen this common point of view, and has touched the principle of humanity, in which every man, in some degree, concurs.
Some issues here• Does the analogy between secondary physical qualities and evaluative qualities hold?• Can we define impartiality? Undistorted moral experience must be a great deal rarer than accurate colour vision!• Can we have a God’s eye point of view? Can we really be an ideal spectator?• Will agreement will be swift or easy?• Can we attaining the ultimate goal of complete moral agreement? Or is an ongoing conversation enough?
Please write an evaluative paragraph• Statement of objection• Exemplification• Counter or rebuttal• Exemplification• Reply to rebuttal/response• Evaluation• Synthesis
The difficulty is the point!• But this difficulty might fit our practice. – questions about the morally correct course are more difficult to answer than questions about the correct colour of things – public discussion helps us to move towards the right answer• If moral disagreements were – irresoluble then why would we would bother to go on arguing about them? – Too easily resoluble then why would we bother about them?
Possible conclusion• Ideal spectator theory is a metaethical theory that has implications for normative moral theories. – Morality must be universal and impartial and produced by an appropriate process of reasoning which meets communal standards. – Don’t Kant and Mill and Aristotle all say something like this?• But: might not the ideal spectator incline towards utilitarianism? – ‘the ideal spectator will wish for the welfare, rather than the harm, of those under his gaze; since he is impartial between them he will seek to harmonize their desires and interests so that as many of them can be satisfied as possible.’
Concluding questions:To each of the questions below, what answers can be generated by the knowledge-base the syllabus provides?• How is knowledge of moral truth possible?• How is agreement over moral truth possible?• To what extent can such truths motivate/justify action?