Saturday, January 7, 2012

Moral skepticism

For my philosophy book club, we are reading 3 books for the next meeting:
1. The Evolution of Morality by Richard Joyce
2. Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong by J. Mackie
3. Braintrust : What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality by Pat Churchland

I will post my notes about the books here. I am reading Mackie's book first. He states that moral subjectivism is similar to moral skepticism. For now, I take that to mean that morals can vary with the culture.

He also uses terms: first order and second order. First order is some moral statement. Second order is our examination of that moral statement. I think second order would include the examination of the effect on society if everyone followed the rule outlined in the moral statement.

Take heed of his warning in the introduction: chapter one maybe a hard read for non-philosophy majors. He said scan it and be patient, the other chapters will expound on the concepts.

Quote loc 391: "given any sufficiently determinate standards, it will be an objective issue"

But that is the problem, who gets to determine the standards? Plus those standards don't guarantee a particular outcome.

Quote loc 393: "the subjectivist about values, then, is not denying that there can be objective evaluations relative to standards ... "

He then goes on to talk about the distinction between justice and injustice. And I think his point is similar to Socrates' point: Socrates can answer for specific instances with specific standards BUT can not define justice. Here is a quote from Wikipedia:  In response to the two views of injustice and justice presented by Glaucon and Adeimantus, Socrates claims incompetence, but feels it would be impious to leave justice in such doubt. Thus the Republic sets out to define justice

Mackie then discusses the difference between Kant's categorical imperative and Kant's hypothetical imperative. He offers this example of the hypothetical imperative: If you want to be trusted in the future, then you should keep your promises. The author (Mackie) goes on to deny that there are ANY categorical imperatives for moral judgements. I wonder if Mackie will discuss character building BUT maybe (for him) that will still fall under hypothetical imperative.

Loc 671: We therefore want our moral judgements to be authoritative for other agents

Loc 595: moral intuition ... Indeed easy to point out its implausibilities
Loc 790: They concluded that 'good' in ethics has a primarily non-descriptive ...meaning
Loc 797: I admit that such and such is conducive to pleasure, but is it good?
Loc 859: where there is a functional noun about, commendable qualities are those that enable the thing to perform its function

That is his definition of good. Loc 883 has a more succinct definition
Loc 1028: 'ought' is a relatively weak modal auxiliary. Anyone who really means business uses 'must' or 'shall'
Loc 1055-when we put in enough factual conditions....the ought conclusion follows

Loc 1156-the adopting of such fragments of language is not a neutral matter
Loc 1172-the distinction between the factual and the evaluative ... has to be achieved by analysis
Loc 1190-epistemically ought statements refer to what are or were reasons for expecting such-and-such outcome
Loc 1273-do the desires and especially the sufferings of other people,if known to me, constitute a reason for me to do something
Loc 1276-there would be a stronger reason if the people were closer to me
Loc 1279-a moral tradition demands that I show some concern for the well being of others
Loc 1316- [the author talks a lot about promising. I think because it is such a good example]
Loc 1342-universalizability would be trivial and useless, therefor, if we could not rule out ...the many differences as irrelevant
Loc 1344- it may be that what is wrong for you may be right for me. ... but if it is, this can only be because there is some qualitative difference between you and me ...
Loc 1386 [talks about first order and second order]
Loc 1495-what one is trying to do is to look at things, both from one's own and from the other's point of view, and to discover action guiding principles
Loc 1542-the notion of choosing principles from behind a veil of ignorance [which is Rawl's suggestion] ... is a less adequate guarantee of fairness than that of seeking compromise
Loc 1698- morality is a species of evaluation ...there must be something that is supposed to bring about
Loc 1714-detached from its mythological framework, Protagora's thesis is plain : a moral sense,law, and justice are needed to enable men to live together in communities large enough to compete with wild beasts
Loc 1717-but Hobbes is far more explicit about the solution than Protagora
Loc 1750- But, Hume insists, a single act of justice, considered on its own, may do more harm than good
Loc 1758- one cannot afford to obey these rules unless some guarantee that others will do so too
Loc 1797- in moral thinking we have to weigh reasons, not simply follow rules
Loc 1920- technological advances of many kinds have put greatly increased powers into the hands of some people and some organizations
Loc 1975-act utilitarianism
Loc 1983- this proposal has several obvious merits,. It seems reasonable that morality ... should have something to do with happiness
Loc 1986 moral principles should be fair

Loc 2003 Is it really possible to measure pleasure and pain?
Loc 2057 Act utilitarian is by no means the only moral theory that displays this extreme of impracticality
Loc 2080 To identify morality with something that certainly will not be followed is a sure way of bringing it into contempt
Loc 2578 the difference between a means, a side effect or unintended consequence
Loc 2708 it is the main function of any economic system to produce cooperation
loc 2753  Our rejection of objective values carries with it the denial that there are any self-subsistent rights
loc 2771 in practice rights have to be determined by a ploitico-lega process
loc 2780 Locke's basic principle is that everyone has an exclusive right to his ....own labour
loc 2836 men's real goals are irresolvably diverse
loc 2843 Does the right of a nation ... include the right to forbid or to limit immigration
loc 2850 to absolute rights is disastrous ....
loc 2856 recognize their conflicting prima facie rights as such and to look for a solution which can be seen as a reasonable compromise between these prima facie rights
loc 2889 What we need, therefore, is not a general defence of liberty, but adjudication between particular rival claims to freedom
Loc 2936 it is now utterly impossible for human nature to go on subsisting unless there are some limits to aggression
Loc 2987 there is merit in Aristotle 's formal sketch taken simply as such. The good life will consist in activities that manifest and realize developed dispositions for choice
Loc 3021 I have argued that egoism is not immoral, but forms a considerable part of any viable moral system
Loc 3030 it is necessary for the well being of people in general that they should act to some extent in ways that they cannot see as egoistically prudent
...Plato ...the just man is happy because his soul is harmoniously ordered
Loc 3073 my approach takes general human well being as the foundation of morality
Loc 3119 what is not fair is that people would take risks with the lives of others who do not and would not willingly make that choice
Loc 3297 a system of morality ... modifying an agent's view of possible actions
Loc 3321 can someone be held responsible not only for inadvertent negligence but also for unforeseen results
Loc 3346 the psychopath stands outside the system of control
Loc 3585 The rationality of morality consists in the fact, brought out by Protagoras and Hobbes and Hume and Warnick, that men need moral rules and principles and dispositions if they are to live together and flourish in communities ... and evolution...
Loc 3678 divergent moralities within the same society
Loc 3693 experience shows that such corruption is the usual result of an attempt to enforce a morality ... whose support is insincere
Loc 3723 prisoner's dilemma
Loc 3725 international applications
Loc3732 In particular, serious negotiation is easier if the opposing parties not only understand each other's claims but appreciate the motives and the moral basis on which they rest
Great book!

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