Phil A301

William Jamison


Lecture 4

Notes on Chapter 3 of Philosophical Ethics (These notes are still based on the previous edition of the text so page numbers are off and some articles are different.)


3 Justification and Truth

Organ Procurement Policies

p. 57 Describes the case of Mickey Mantle's liver transplant. Did he jump to the top of the list because of his celebrity status? The issue of procurement is also discussed.

p. 59 Moral Arguments and Moral Justification

Can views of what is morally good and right be justified? Resist the thesis that something is right or justified merely because it is believed to be right.

p. 8.4.2 The Structure of Arguments - (ref. to logic)

p. 85 Levels of Justification judgment - rule - principle - theory

p. 86 Internal and External Justification - independent standard. But is it possible to justify ultimate or final moral premises? The process of justification cannot go on forever. p. 87 External justification refers to the ultimate level. p. 88

Regress of Justification - leads to skepticism

Moral Tradition - justification is internal to the tradition only

Pragmatic - p. 89 Herbert Feigl - internal justification is validation

External justification is vindication. This is dependent on your objectives.

p. 91 Justification of Morality - p. 92 the question has never been addressed as why should a group accept morality, but only why should an individual should accept morality.

p. 93 David Gauthier - Morality and Advantage (i.e. morality probably cannot be justified on grounds of self-interest). Countries A and B mutually disarm - as long as it can be verified. IF it can't be verified, then it is not in either of their interest to disarm. Prudence requires each to violate secretly. p. 94 So, by parallel argument, men who are merely prudent will not perform the required disadvantageous acts in a moral system. p. 95 "If all men are moral, all will do better than if all are prudent. But any one man will always do better if he is prudent than if he is moral." So, "The individual who needs a reason for being moral which is not itself a moral reason cannot have it."

p. 96 Ultimate justification and individual choice - To choose a moral, nonmoral or partially moral way of life without further justification. Commitment to a choice. This is like faith. (Sartre? We are responsible.) We can choose based on a wealth of information on what it would be like to live one of these ways of life. p. 97 Many claim that in the end a religious way of life and a moral way of life both rest on faith. William Fankena - philosophical defense of morality rests on faith, but this faith is rational.

William Frankena - Why Be Moral?

p. 98 He is against always looking for the highest score for oneself. Sometimes morality requires genuine sacrifice. p. 99 "...even a person of ordinary talents can become a very good person." Self-respect presupposes that one sees oneself as moral. p. 100 Why? We cannot respect ourselves unless we respect others.

But, does Frankena beg the question? Is his defense of morality based on moral reasons? Second, can these matters be decided by reason at all? (Is this based on socialization? Biology? Survival of the species?)

Cognitivism p. 101

Is there moral knowledge and moral truth? Noncognitivists answer no.

Cognitivists - yes.

p. 102 Naturalism and the Naturalistic Fallacy

Naturalists argue value is a species of fact. Good is what the majority say is good. We vote on it and can verify what it is. Naturalistic Fallacy - G.E. Moore - If good is desired, does the question make sense? Is the desired desired? "Good" in ordinary language cannot be equated with any naturalistic term. p. 103 R.B. Perry replies, "Theory of value is in search of a preferred meaning." But the problem is, "ought" statements can't be derived from "is" statements. (Math Def. of a line? 1,2,3,4,5, n. and the Ontological argument for the existence of God? God as n value.)

p. 104 Intuitionism

Value is unlike fact. Those with moral experience know what is moral intuitively. It is like math, even a good mathematician has teachers but then can see mathematical solutions more easily than those without it.

Since the 1930's Cognitivists have had a hard time of it.

p. 105 Noncognitivism - what is the function of moral discourse? Don't know and don't make truth claims. So normative ethics is not the province of philosophy. p. 106 Emotive Theory and Attitude Theory : Bertrand Russell: Ethics consists of a set of desires. A.J. Ayer, moral statements are like emotional statements of approval or disapproval (the boo-hooray theory).

p. 107 Attitude theory, C.L. Stevenson - express speakers attitude and evoke effective responses. Discussion about meaning and the word "good." p.108 Prescriptivism - (closest thing to religious view?) R.M. Hare - moral language differs from emotive or descriptive language. Strawberry is described but not evaluated. "That is a good strawberry" uses criteria but it is described as well as evaluated. Meaning of "good" is the same, but the criterion shifts from context to context. The meaning is not involved once we realize its commending function. We learn principles and then need judgment in their use - decisions of principle. p. 109 Why should I live like that? - Why be moral? p. 110 Philippa Foot thinks this means anything can be considered a "good" reason if we chose to make it one. There must be definite criteria - as a "good" knife - or you aren't moral. Hare is criticized as too flexible. Foot says instead, "Criteria for the goodness of each and every kind of thing... are always determined, and not a matter for decision." G.J. Warnock - moral means what is good for human welfare. For Warnock, what "moral" means establishes what can function as a moral evaluation.

p. 111 Moral Realism and Antirealism

Cognitivist says that it is not that we know truths of morality - but 1. moral statements purport to report moral facts and 2. these are either true or false. They could all be false - this would be antirealism. Mackie - typical western view - "we are almost all inclined to believe, prior to the study of moral philosophy, that ethics "is more a matter of knowledge and less a matter of decision." - why Mackie develops his error theory.

p. 112 J.L. Mackie - Subjectivism, Objectivism, and the Error Theory (Inventing Right and Wrong). Moral Subjectivism - or Moral Skepticism. p. 113 A good sheepdog at the show - is factual. So comparative judgments will be capable of truth and falsehood. There is an objectivity of standards in some fields, though the standards are based on subjective values. p. 114 The argument against objectivity from "Queerness" : metaphysical part is that objective values would be unlike everything else in the universe if they existed - i.e. they are "queer", and the epistemological part is: that if we knew them it would have to be some sort of intuition, since they would have to be known in a different way than we know everything else. So, "Moral skepticism must take the form of an error theory, admitting that a belief in objective values is built into ordinary moral thought and language, but holding that this ingrained belief is false." The "starting points of moral thinking" is dependent on actual ways of life.

Beauchamp says that Mackie is a skeptic about the objectivity of values but not about morality. His book is "Inventing Right and Wrong. Intersubjectivity is the source of our values.

p. 116 The Realist Rejoinder - Realists think that there can be objective moral truths if they can be found to be based on either psychological, sociological, or ontological conditions. Perry argues for psychological grounds (subjective) for "harmonious happiness." Rawls argues for sociological (intersubjective) grounds - social contract, as Hobbes, that are everyones rational decisions based on the situation. G.E. Moore argues that moral truth rests on objective, nonnatural properties. p. 117

p. 118 Richard N. Boyd - How to be a Moral Realist

Moral Realism: Boyd says that Scientific realism accepts reality as "prior to thought" and argues that morality can too. 1. Moral statements are true or false. 2. They are true or false independently of our moral opinions. 3. Moral canons are reliable.

Scientific knowledge and Moral Skepticism: moral theory is not really so different from science. p. 119 What is moral reasoning is like observation in science? "Reflective equilibrium" is our trading off various categories of moral belief to achieve an harmonious equilibrium. Moral Progress and cultural variability: Science seems to progress regardless of cultual associations. Why doesn't morality seem to do the same? p. 120 Hard Cases: some just seem unsolveable. Natualism and Nautalistic Definitions: is good a real property? The primacy of reality: science progresses because of a dialectical relationship between current theory and the methodology for its improvement. p. 121 How to be a Moral Realist: argue that moral theory does progress just as science does and that science has hard cases too. To satisfy this: 1. show the gradual improvement in theory, 2. explain what plays the role of scientific observation, 3. show why good requires natural rather than conventional definition, 4. show how moral goodness helps regulate moral reasoning.

p. 122 Beauchamp says intuitionists argue for moral realism, others say moral theory not as science, and others point out that neither seems objective!

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