[lit-ideas] Re: Moral Judgment and Perceptual Metaphor -- Good to Think?

  • From: Mike Geary <jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2010 08:51:52 -0500

At least you're not being read to by a boy.   : )

Mike Geary

On Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 11:17 PM, Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx> wrote:

>  John Wager wrote
>   What is ethics?  What place do concepts or principles have in ethics?
>> What do we do when we practice “ethics” as a thoughtful process?  Many
>> philosophers try to begin with the “theory” that would allow us to predict
>> what general form “X is right” would have.  If I am treating someone fairly,
>> then “X” is the right thing to do. If I am maximizing happiness, then “X” is
>> right.  If “Happiness” implies “X,” and “Happiness” is the correct view,
>> then “X” follows.  Our old friend Modus Ponens.
> I think people should ask these things more, because many, many
> philosophers who teach courses in ethics, or write papers on moral
> questions, assume that everybody 'sort of knows' what the answers are, and
> do not themselves want to stop and investigate such things.
> This afternoon I got in the mail the transcript of a series of interviews I
> did in 2009 as part of Reed's oral history project. Painful reading.
> However, in one brief passage I said something about my teaching in my first
> year at Reed (1966) that still makes sense to my much older self. The
> interviewer had been asking about what I'd done in the beginning ethics
> course I taught then.
> 'I think we began, in that particular course, talking about the
> subject-matter of ethics. Well, everybody knows it's about right, wrong,
> good and bad, duties and obligations, and so on. And the simple way I tried
> to introduce this was by asking how they'd respond if, on the first day of
> this class on ethics, I'd begun writing on the the board something about
> Protagorean concepts, Euclidean postulates and theorems, and maybe
> introducing the little bit of physics
> I knew, and just kept on doing that. And, I said, wouldn't you wonder after
> a while why I was writing down one of Euclid's postulates in Book I of the
> Elements—why can't we talk about ethics? Well, what do we talk about when we
> talk about ethics? If we don't talk about Euclid's fifth postulate, what do
> we talk about?
> 'And I think the interesting part about that, it sounds pretty
> simple-minded, was that I was trying to suggest that [a certain kind of]
> moral relativism, the view that different people, different groups, could
> have completely different moral concepts, and have them all still be *
> moral* concepts...I was trying to show that this notion became incoherent
> if you thought that certain subjects were unique and special to moral
> [thought] and moral discourse.'
> (I wanted them to begin to investigate what I thought of then as moral
> concepts.)
> Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.
> Robert PUL

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