[lit-ideas] Re: Bartley's Non-Justificationism (Was: Justifying Moral Principles?)

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:36:41 +0100

Cleopatra presumably didn't expect much of Augustus' clemency, since she
killed herself rather than falling into his clutches. Caesar was a
'dictator' in the sense that term was used in Roman times, not in the sense
it is used today.


On Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 3:43 PM, Redacted sender Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx for
DMARC <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> In a message dated 2/24/2015 1:30:17 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
> donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
> "It's important not to fight unnecessarily  over words."
> Is it? That's the main philosophical sport! On the other hand, have you
> noticed that on mainstream television, when some allegedly unnecessary
> fight
> over words is involved the word 'semantics' (used by philosophers like
> Morris)  is usually used (Geary thiks 'usually used' is otiose -- 'even if
> necessary').
> McEvoy goes on:
> "The [noun] "justification" can be used harmlessly enough, even though  it
> is suggestive of a "justificationism" that is mistaken as a theory of
> knowledge and which should be replaced by a critical approach that accepts
> that
> all our knowledge has a conjectural character. We can say (harmlessly
> enough)  that we are justified in preferring Einstein's physics to Newton's
> alternative  (in terms of their success in passing tests); but we should
> 'know'
> this does not  justify Einstein's physics in a way that renders it
> infallible
> or definitely  true, and that it does not imply that the great knowledge
> contained in  Einstein's physics is any kind of "justified true belief".
> [..
> Also W]e should  abandon the silly philosophical dogma that because
> Einstein's
> physics cannot be  regarded as [justified true belief] it must be denied
> that it  represents any sort of "knowledge"."
> Too true. But while the
> NEWTON --> Einstein
> point belongs to what Kant called 'theoretical' or 'pure' reason (He was
> being a 'purist' there), we may need an analogue in terms of 'practical'
> reason.  I mean, philosophers of science -- who focus on 'pure' reason are
> always  speaking of the Copernican revolution and the Einsteinian
> revolution. But
>  revolutions in the realm of the practical 'reason' which was I think the
> point  that W. O.'s post involved) are more difficult to find.
> My favourite is
> Julius Caesar --> Augustus
> The first was a dictator; the second a clement emperor.
> ----
> McEvoy:
> "I don't think there is any important distinction between  theoretical,
> practical or moral fields in this regard - our knowledge in all  these
> fields
> (which may overlap [by the way]) should be regarded as conjectural  rather
> than "justified" in some infallible way. It is the failure of our  greatest
> 'theoretical' knowledge, at its most developed and well-tested in the
> sciences, to attain anything like "justified" infallible status  - the
> lesson to
> be learnt from the overthrow of Newtonian physics by Einsteinian -  that
> should warn us against regarding our less elevated views of practical and
> moral
> matters as having anything like  "justified" infallible  status."
> Good points. Perhaps I should correct
> Julius Caesar ---> Augustus
> and replace it for
> Kant --> Prichard
> Grice knew Prichard well, and they shared some background
> ---- INTERLUDE ON PRICHARD as the main moral intuitionist ever: "I KNOW it
> is wrong to lie" cfr. "I know that eating people is wrong".
> ---
> Harold Arthur Prichard was born in London in 1871, the eldest child of
> Walter Stennett Prichard, a solicitor, and his wife Lucy Prichard. Like
> Grice,
> Prichard went to Clifton from where he won a scholarship to New College,
> Oxford, to study mathematics. But after taking First Class honours in
> mathematical moderations (preliminary examinations), he studied Greats
> (ancient
> history and philosophy) taking First Class Honours. He also played tennis
> for
>  Oxford (against Cambridge, naturally -- what else?) On leaving Oxford he
> spent a brief period working for a firm of solicitors with his father in
> London, before returning to the dreaming spires, first as Fellow of
> Hertford
> and  then of Trinity. He took early retirement from Trinity on grounds of
> ill
> health  (in fact, he was ill), but recovered ("and since I could not
> re-retire") was  elected White's Professor of Moral Philosophy and became
> a fellow
> of Corpus  Christi -- Grice's alma mater.
> ---- END of biographical interlude
> i. I know lying is wrong
> ii. I know eating people is wrong.
> Prichard gave an early defense of the view in his "Does Moral Philosophy
> Rest on a Mistake?", wherein he contended that moral philosophy rested
> chiefly  on the desire to provide arguments starting from non-normative
> premises
> for the  principles of obligation that we pre-philosophically accept, such
> as
> the  principle that one ought to keep one's promises or that one ought not
> to steal.
> This is a mistake, Prichard argued, both because it is impossible to derive
>  any statement about what one ought to do from statements not concerning
> obligation (even statements about what is good), and because there is no
> need
> to  do so since common sense principles of moral obligation are
> self-evident.
> Prichard was influenced by  Moore ("some like Witters, but Moore's MY
> man") whose Principia Ethica  argued famously that goodness was an
> indefinable,
> non-natural property of which we had intuitive awareness. Moore  originated
> the term "the naturalistic fallacy" to refer to the (alleged) error  of
> confusing goodness with some natural property, and he deployed the Open
> Question Argument to show why this was an error.
> Unlike Prichard, Moore thought that one could derive principles of
> obligation from propositions about what is good.
> Alas, ethical intuitionism suffered a dramatic fall from favour by the
> middle of the century, probably due in part to the fact that the new
> generation
>  of Oxonians had all the wrong intuitions (except Grice, of course), but
> also due  in part to the influence of logical positivism, in part to the
> rising  popularity of naturalism in philosophy, and in part to
> philosophical
> objections  based on the phenomenon of widespread moral disagreement.
> Prichard starts where many moral philosophers never tread: from an account
> of what an act is. What makes an act, so conceived, either right or wrong?
> Prichard holds that the rightness of an act is ‘constituted’ by what
> Prichard calls ‘a definite relation’ in which the agent stands to himself
> or to
>  others, that relation forming part of the actual situation in which he has
> to  act.
> One thing Prichard means to exclude was that an act can be made right
> merely by the goodness of its consequences.
> Prichard writes:
> "We do not come to appreciate an obligation by an  argument, i.e. by a
> process of non-moral thinking, and in particular we do not  do so by an
> argument
> of which a premiss is the ethical but not moral activity of  appreciating
> the goodness either of the act or of a consequence of the act, i.e.  our
> sense of the rightness of an act is not a conclusion from our
> appreciation  of
> the goodness either of it or of anything else."
> This does not mean, however, that in order to appreciate the rightness of
> the act, one must appeal to a principle.
> Hence my idea that
> Kant --> Prichard
> may be a good equation, since a philosopher loves a principle (cfr. Grice's
>  cooperative principle -- and maxims).
> So perhaps another development could be:
> Prichard --> Grice (In "Aspects of Reason", where he justifies Kant's
> categorical imperative as a principle).
> Prichard argues that if we ask why the fact that I borrowed the money
> means that I ought to pay it back, all we can really do is to offer a
> principle,
>  e.g. ‘because I ought to pay anything I owe’.
> If we then go on to ask for a reason for the principle, there is nothing
> left to be said.
> But this is not because there is no reason for the principle.
> It is because the principle ‘includes its reason, the reason becoming
> explicit when the principle is properly expressed’.
> It is characteristic of an intuitionist to deny that the right can be
> derived from the good.
> For Prichard, however, who WAS an intuitionist, goodness is very  different
> from rightness.
> Goodness seems to be a simple monadic property.
> Obligatoriness is completely different. It looks initially as if
> obligatoriness – being what one ought to do – is another monadic
> property,  distinct
> from goodness.
> Prichard held that obligatoriness is not a property of acts at all.
> If this action would be good, I ought to do it.
> Prichard asks us what the principle of these inference could possibly  be.
> Prichard works initially with Sidgwick's contrast between intuitionism as
> the view that conduct is right when conforming to certain principles known
> to be  unconditionally binding, and non-intuitionism as the view that there
> are ends at  which we should aim.
> Sidgwick as a non-intuitionist maintains that right actions are those that
> have a certain motive.
> And Prichard holds that we cannot be required to act from a certain motive,
>  since our motivation is not something over which we have the required
> control.
> But Prichard's main target is Kant.
> As he sees it, Kant maintained that an action is right if and only if it is
>  done from the motive of duty, that is, from a sense of obligation.
> Now Prichard wants to admit that it can be good to act from this motive;
> maybe this is the only morally good motive.
> Other motives, such as a general benevolence, may make the relevant action
> good, but cannot make it morally good.
> But he wants first to insist that we cannot have an obligation to act from
> a particular motive, as we have already seen. And there are further
> difficulties  peculiar to Kant's position, in which the motive is
> specified as the
> conviction  that the act concerned is a duty.
> The first is that the position has the consequence that no act, in
> Prichard's official narrow sense, is a duty at all.
> One's duty is to act from the motive of duty, never to do this or that act
> in the narrow sense.
> So Prichard is able to present Kant as holding that there is nothing that
> we ought to do, and therefore that it is impossible to act from the sense
> that  one ought to do this.
> If so, Kant has undermined his own position, since his understanding of the
>  motive of duty shows that there can be no such thing.
> Or rather, if there is such a thing as the motive of duty, it follows
> necessarily that it cannot be one's sole or primary duty to act on it.
> Prichard was inspired by Cook Wilson, whom he heard say,
> "What we know we know"
> (cfr. I know eating people is wrong).
> Prichard states that the view he inherited from Cook Wilson is that to act
> is to originate a change, has to be wrong.
> In fact, to act is to will a change, and the change willed is not an
> action; most often it is a bodily movement,
> Talk of principles was hot in Grice's Play Group. Gardiner was offered a
> bribe by one of his students to skip one of his seminars. "How would YOU
> have
>  acted?" he asked the members of the Play Group.
> R. M. Hare said that he would have replied, "I don't take bribes on
> principle."
> J. L. Austin said that he would have replied with a mere "No,  thanks."
> Cheers,
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