Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Holy Moral-Assay-Processes Batman (24/7 Stuckey's, cont.)

Positive, adj.: Mistaken at the top of one's voice.
(Ambrose Bierce)

Most everyone in Consumerland has an opinion on "ethics", or what they take to be ethics. A biblethumper has an opinion, as does the anti-biblethumper. Most arm-chair ethicists, however, overlook one crucial starting point: language. Actions (say robbing an old lady in the street) are not words, or sentences. That robbery looks "unethical" (and certainly illegal) to some, yet maybe not to others (say the robber's cronies). When someone offers a moral or ethical assessment of the action in words ("robbing that old lady was wrong/evil/unethical"), problems arise. Yes, let's grant "an old woman was robbed" works as a factual statement. The meaning (or at least event being pointed to) seems fairly obvious. When someone also predicates "Evil" (or wrong, or unethical) to that fact statement "A woman was robbed, and that was "evil"--the meaning is no longer so obvious. What does the sentence "robbing an old lady is evil" point to? It is not a factual statement (if a fact at all) in the way "an old lady was robbed" is a fact statement. That's the starting point of ethical analysis (or what philosophers call second order ethics rather than first order ethics [ie sunday school exclamations--that is so wrong!]).

The positivist tradition (starting with say Hume--tho' also implied by Darwinian views, and arguably by Nietzsche) holds that moral statements ("Robbing old ladies is evil") do not point to facts, or verifiable truths, and thus are meaningless (that's Carnap's updating of Hume). AS Hume pointed out, there are no contradictions involved in conflicting moral statements: i.e. X says the robbery was wrong. Y, however, knows the lady (say she's the widow of a mafia don), and says, she deserved it, whether considered illegal or not. Or say the robber has a family to feed, etc.--the Valjean meme. "Good" (say wife and kids fed, given new clothes, etc) could conceivably come out of a robbery, as many a novelist knows). There is a contradiction, however, in saying that the lady was robbed and not robbed. So it seems Hume is correct in pointing out that moral statements (normative statements) are not truth functional: they are expressions, and more akin to evaluative preferences (though of course the Law does seem to suggest the act is wrong, at least according to the social consensus, or opinions of judges---yet morality has never been a matter of consensus, or judicial opinion).

Moralistic Bubbas of all types often interpret Hume's questioning of ethics (including the famed denial of obligation or duty--"you cannot extract an ought from an is") as a type of nihilism. It is not. It is actually a rather profound insight into the nature of language, and dare one say Reality. (Someone who reads Hume as saying something like "intellectuals must reject morality" begs the question of what the word "morality" means, and misses the entire point of Hume's analysis: that's about like Jerry Falwell on crack).

The usual Bubba (whether links oder rechts) thus generally forgets that his moral-belch (Karl Rove is Evil!) involves all sorts of assumptions which he could not establish. (Had Moron read like even the cliffsnotes to Bentham he would have realized that.) Does that suggestion of Evil mean, just not according to one's own taste, or Evil in objective sense? Is it a matter of a vote? No. The Kossack wants to say Rove is Evil, regardless of what vox populi says (since Rove might be considered a hero, like in Texass). Really, Rove's actions--even the IWE--could conceivably result in the furthering of good in the long run (ah doubt it): a rather complex "consequentialist" point that most naive arm-chair philosophasters also overlook (Chris Hitchens, sort of Hume-lite, has noted that at times in regards to IWE: liberals can't really prove things would have been better if the USA had not gone into Iraq).

The usual Kossack judgement-belch relies on some Idea of justice or fairness which obviously doesn’t appear on say the periodic table: it’s intuitive, not observable or axiomatic (perhaps some would-be Platonist would say Justice is axiomatic. Yet they cannot generally prove that. There is, admittedly, an issue related to Justice regarding "rights": let's hear any necessary argument for "rights"). First order ethical statements are expressions: of emotion, of subjective desire, of taste. (though even that raises problems--related as much to psychology as to logic and language. Are humans even free? Or to what extent. Maybe the robber was driven, biologically and genetically, to rob the old lady).

Any time someone offers moral assessments (as apart from say just legal definitions) he will run into the Humean fact-value problem again (of course the Catholic church, or Plato, offers an alternative to Hume, or utilitarianism, or Darwin. But that's all a bit murky and difficult and Bubba wouldn't care for the implications). Bubba, at least a Demo one, wants to suggest that values (say, BO is “better” or superior, or nicer than McCain) are somehow factual, or objective, but he could not prove it whatsoever (as Darwin hisself suggested as well). The best Bubba could get is Obama will serve his purposes and further his own subjective goals (hardly shared by all) better than McCain will--or so he believes. Taking it one step further, the arm-chair moralist insists that his own quasi-religious realm of moral Truths be viewed as absolute when he can't define the word "moral" (or Truth for that matter).

1 comment:

J said...

You and yr Mormon-zionist cronies will be saying "productivity" soon.

I'm your worst f-n nightmare. Be assured of dat. Don't post here again (and in fact I already told you that)

Toodles, McRatboy.

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