Walter, concerned about reason giving and morality, wrote (and Iâ??m quoting it all so that we can see his own words): 'Version A 'Moral principles and norms having to do with equality, autonomy, reciprocity and universality are general criteria which we apply to different contexts, actions, policies, etc. Reason-giving is one particular activity or language-game. We can do it either in accordance with the above stated moral norms or we can engage in the activity while violating those same norms. Moral principles originate within our socialization into a particular culture, set of traditions, etc. So we, for example, come to learn to respect the equal freedom of all persons and then we apply this norm within our particular activities, one of which is reason-giving. (Or we fail to do so.)' Iâ??m not sure I understand much of this or recognize it as a description of what ordinary people do when they invoke (if they do) â??moral principles and norms.â?? To say that reason giving is one particular activity or language-game suggests that there is something about reason giving that marks it off as an activity different from justifying a claim or supporting a hypothesis, yet I wouldnâ??t like to try to say how these three things differ from each other so that one always knows when one is giving reasons and when one is engaged in casuistry. People do what they do. Perhaps justification is just a species of reason giving, along with begging out of going to a dinner party. But what any of this has to do with moral principles escapes me. 'Version B 'Moral principles conceptually originate within the activity of giving reasons. The former necessarily presuppose the latter. Without this practice, we could not learn, nor would we have, moral concepts such as equality, autonomy, right and wrong, obligation, etc. It's not that these moral principles and concepts are available to us first, learned first within acculturation, and then applied to various activities and contexts, one of which is reason-giving. Rather, what it means to respect others as free and equal persons, what it means to have an obligation, etc., are intelligible to us only because we understand what it means to give reasons.' I wonder whatâ??s being claimed here. If it werenâ??t for reason giving there would be no moral principlesâ??? So that if some great moral leader were to say, â??Suffer the little children to come unto me,â?? or â??The Good is reducible to the greatest happiness for the greatest number,â?? we should expect reasons (for what it isnâ??t clear) to be forthcoming. Or we should expect that at least they are at hand and would be ready if demanded by the young moralist. (â??Why is it that we shouldâ?¦?â?? â??How did you find out thatâ?¦?â??) However, that one can, itâ??s implied, give reasons to support a moral principle no more shows that the existence of moral principles depends on the possibility of reason giving than would the existence of the Great Pyramids depend on the possibility of their being photographed. The latter's possibility passes the former's existence by. Take Mike Gearyâ??s mamma. Did she instill in her son an aversion to promise keeping; a predilection to slump at dinner until his chin rested on the edge of the table, allowing him to shovel in, with the edge of his knife, food which he then chewed with his mouth open; or an inner voice that told him to kick the already downtrodden? She could have. Itâ??s logically possible. But Iâ??ll bet she didnâ??t. Iâ??ll bet that she at least taught Atlas that he should keep his word. â??But why?â?? the young skeptic asks. â??Why should I keep my word?â?? At this point, anything Mikeâ??s mamma could have said would have been pointless. â??Why should I, if Iâ??ve given my word, keep my word?â?? Anyone expecting reasons to well out of the stone of metaethics must be thinking of moral principles as as dicey as Euclidâ??s fifth postulate. â??Someday, it may turn out that we were wrong: we shouldnâ??t keep our promises after all.â?? But until thenâ?¦ Robert Paul The Reed Institute --------------------------------- Get your own web address for just $1.99/1st yr. We'll help. Yahoo! Small Business.