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By In Metaethics, Moral Psychology Comments (29)

Have another PEAR!

I really liked BEARS, though it seems to be extinct now.  Uriah and Josh contributed a few juicy PEARs some weeks ago.  I like this idea and think we should do more Pea-Soup Electronic Article Reviews.

William Alston’s essay, "Moral Attitudes and Moral Judgments" (Nous 2:1 (1968), 1-23) is fairly old by the standards of work in metaethics, but one of the ideas he discusses has been gaining some recent popularity, and I’ve never seen his argument discussed.  He argues that the most plausible attempt to analyze moral judgment along expressivist lines leads to a dilemma for expressivists: the analysis is either circular, or the expressivist has to give up non-cognitivism.

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By In Moral Psychology, Practical Rationality Comments (12)

Are akratics free?

I had to choose between two mutually exclusive courses of action, A and B.  I judged that doing A was better, all things considered, than doing B, that I had more reason to do A than to do B, yet I did B.  This is troubling.  How might we make sense of it?

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By In Applied Ethics Comments (4)

Evangelicals Should Read More Luther

This is my Left2Right wanna-be post.  Many evangelical Christians recently advocated various state measures that would have prolonged the life of Terri Schiavo.  I doubt that they should have.

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By In Metaethics Comments (31)

A Divine Copp Out

I promise to avoid bad puns in future titles.

David Copp advances a “society-centered” theory (SCT) of the justification of moral standards in Morality, Normativity, and Society.  It’s a standard-based theory.  “Standard” is used in this context to name a rule or imperative, for example, “Do not torture innocent children to death.”  Imperatives have no truth conditions.  But this does not prevent a moral claim from having truth conditions.  A claim endorsing the standard, like “It is wrong to torture innocent children to death” expresses a proposition about the standard.  It asserts that a standard that calls upon people to avoid torturing innocent children to death is appropriately justified.  This proposition is true only if there is a standard that calls upon people to avoid this behavior, and this standard is appropriately justified.

There are, of course, many different accounts of the conditions under which a moral standard is appropriately justified.  The correct account will be the one that gets things right about what actually justifies the standard; it will determine the truth conditions of moral propositions.  Copp’s moral theory is society-centered.  This means that the theory justifies moral standards in terms of the needs of a society.  By the lights of SCT, a moral standard is justified upon the condition that the society, given its needs, would be rationally required to select the standard as part of its moral system.  By the lights of SCT, a moral proposition endorsing the standard, asserting in effect that the standard is justified, is true if and only if it would be rationally required for the society to select the standard given its needs.  The proposition really is true if SCT provides the correct account of the conditions under which a moral standard is appropriately justified.

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By In Metaethics Comments (6)

Poverty of the Moral Stimulus

Recent attempts to revive the Platonic thesis that moral knowledge is innate have attempted to piggy-back on the perceived success of the Chomskian arguments for the thesis that linguistic knowledge is innate. The most important of these arguments has been the Poverty of the Stimulus argument. Chomskian poverty-of-the-stimulus arguments primarily deny that empiricist learning would allow children to be as competent with the language as they are. Childhood first language acquisition is for the most part invariant with respect to environmental input. If that’s right, then empiricist accounts of language acquisition are inadequate. This is thought to lead to the positive result that the only way to explain fully children’s linguistic competence is by reference to innate knowledge. According to Fodor, “The bottom line of Poverty of Stimulus Arguments, as Chomsky uses them, is that innate domain specific information is normally recruited in first language acquisition” (Fodor 2001). The ideas or propositional knowledge we acquire about some domain, the domain of language in this case, is explained by an innate mechanism specific to that domain.

How natural it seems to run a parallel argument in favor of a kind of moral nativism.

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