Friday, July 22, 2016

Aristotle: Challenges in Interpretation

Aristotle's theory of well-being, as Richard Kraut presented it, is a tangled mess.

I am reading through the Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Well-Bing, trying to prepare for graduate school. The second article in this anthology, "Aristotle on Well-Being" is proving to be a slog.

The problem begins with the fact that Kraut's term for that which constitutes well-being is "advantage". That which constitutes the ultimate end of human action is supposed to be that which is valued for its own sake and not for the sake of someone else. Yet, "advantage", as I understand the term, refers to an instrumental good - as something that is useful.

For example, in a battle, one side may have a height advantage or an advantage of interior lines of communication. A chess player may have a positional advantage, or a runner may have an advantage in virtue of having trained at higher altitudes. In each of these cases, what gives a person an advantage is something that is useful - something that serves some other end (typically, winning).

This might simply be an idiosyncrasy on my part having no impact on the argument. However, when Kraut argues for this in part by pointing out that Aristotle uses the term to refer to several crafts - all of which happen to be useful.

To read him in this way, we need only observe that every activity Aristotle mentions, after his opening line, can plausibly be understood as an endeavor that seeks some goal on the assumption that it brings some advantage to someone. He is, in other words, implicitly offering an inductive argument for a narrower and stronger claim than the one with which his treatise begins. “Health is the end of medicine, a boat of boat building, victory of generalship, and wealth of household management” (1094a8–9). In each case, it is advantageousness that motivates a pursuit. Similarly for all of his remaining examples: bridle making, horsemanship, generalship. The doctor is not aiming at pleasure (his own or that of his patient) or at something beautiful, fine, and noble. He is trying to benefit a sick individual. Similarly, each of the other activities mentioned is obviously designed to bring about some beneficial consequence.

Boats and bridles are both useful. Medicine concerns such things as the absence of pain or discomfort (the counterpart to pleasure) or with restoring mobility, the use of a limb, or other biological functions that an agent finds useful. Victory in military matters - the concern of the general - similarly serves whatever ends that motivated the battle to start with. These are not things valued only for their own sake.

There is an additional problem in that we are looking at things written long ago in a different language. Perhaps "advantage" is not the best translation. Or, perhaps, it is my understanding of "advantage" that is flawed. The meanings of words change over time, and within certain communities. Perhaps there is a linguistic community that uses "advantage" to refer to something that is an end rather than a means - that uses the term as I may use the term "privilege" or "status", for example.

These are the complications of language - and they are always with us.

This is not a posting about Aristotle as much as it is a posting about difficulties in communication. Some people read as if a phase wears its meaning on its surface. Instead, every phrase comes with a huge context that is relevant to its meaning. Sometimes, it takes real effort to figure out what somebody is saying. An individual unwilling to put in the effort ends up swatting at air.




Thursday, July 21, 2016

States' Rights

I agree with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx) on something.

The issue I agree with him on is the issue of states' rights. This is the idea that certain policies should be decided on a state level rather than a federal level.

Take, for example, the minimum wage.

Minimum wages should be determined by the state - not by the federal government.

One of the reasons for this is because there are disputes, even among academic economists, regarding the effects of legislated minimum wages. This dispute not only concerns the effect on overall employment, but the effect of who has jobs.

For example, one possible effect of raising the minimum wage is that more highly-qualified native English-speaking workers seek these jobs - as a way of supplementing their household income to acquire more luxuries - and crowd out less-skilled, non-English speaking, minority job seekers. There may be more jobs, but those jobs help the middle class at the expense of those who truly need the money.

The purpose of this post is not to argue whether or not this is the case. It is to argue that one of the ways we can find out whether and to what degree this is the case is to allow states to determine their own minimum wage laws.

Much of most fruitful research done on minimum wage laws recently has involved comparing the effects on two demographically similar states - one of which changed its minimum wage while the other kept its minimum wage the same. This gives us a "study state" where the independent variable has been altered, and a "control state" where the independent variable has been held constant. This allows us to then better determine the effect on the dependent variables.

We can obtain these benefits on a number of policies where there is reason to dispute the effects of the policies - on health care, on education, on drug legalization or prohibition, on capital punishment, on the regulation of pornography or gambling or prostitution, and the like. By allowing states to adopt different policies we gain a way of gaining insight into the effects of those policies.

Furthermore, we can offer a moral argument for allowing people with different beliefs to create a political and social climate consistent with those beliefs.

There is a great deal of arrogance behind the idea that one's own attitudes and values are so perfect - are so certainly the one and only right way to live and organize a society - that one may legitimately impose those attitudes on all people, many of whom have different opinions.

A less arrogant person would say, "You live the way you want to live, and let us live the way we want to live." Allowing states to set up different laws according to different cultural norms is consistent with this more tolerant - less arrogant - attitude.

Of course, there has to be limits.

The paradigm case of states rights in American history was the state's right to slavery. There are certain things that are clearly wrong and that ought not to be allowed in any state. States' rights should not be so broadly interpreted that it grants states a legal permission to institute racial segregation and other forms of discrimination.

We can expect that there will continue to be disputes - not on whether states should have the legal permission to establish their own rules, but on where to draw the line between what states should be permitted to choose and what shall be prohibited.

One of the things that states should not be permitted to regulate, for example, is migration into or out of the state. The morality of "states rights" in part depends on a person's freedom to move to a different state if they do not like the political or cultural environment being created. This entails also prohibiting a state from passing restrictions on who may migrate into their state from another state.

Having a variety of states with a variety of cultural norms, and a liberty to move to the state of one's choosing, is one way in which we can give people the freedom to find and join a community that corresponds to their interests. This grants a type of freedom that is not available in a "one size fits all" establishment.

Similarly, there are reasons to have federal controls regarding air and water pollution and water use. For example, California cannot give a "states' rights" argument for air pollution that drifts into Nevada or for causing acid rain that kills fish and forests in Virginia. Greenhouse gas emissions legitimately demands not just a federal but a global solution.

Still, there is a realm within which "states rights" makes a good deal of sense. We could, perhaps, use a presumption in favor of state determination unless evidence is provided - beyond a reasonable doubt - that a broader solution imposed on all states is required.

"Imagining That" - Imagining as a Propositional Attitude

What are imaginings?

This blog posting is actually a description of my thinking as I came across what I found to be an interesting philosophical question.

The story began yesterday, when I wrote on the difference between beliefs and desires.

Beliefs, I said, had truth-makers but failed to motivate. Desires, on the other hand, do not have truth-makers and do motivate.

On the issue of truth-makers, if somebody says "I believe that P" a reasonable response is, "It is a mistake to believe that P, since 'P' is false."

On the other hand, if somebody says "I desire that P" it makes no sense to say "It is a mistake to desire that P because P is false." It makes no sense, in other words, to say, "It is a mistake for you to desire to be free of pain since, for you, 'I am free of pain' is currently false."

On the other hand, the belief that one is in pain provides no reason to get rid of it. It is the aversion to pain that provides the motivation. Similarly, the belief that there is chocolate cake in the kitchen provides no reason to go eat it - it is the desire to eat chocolate cake that provides motivation.

I argued in that post that a mental state that has a truth-maker and which motivates is problematic. Trying to make sense of an attitude that both motivates and has a truth-maker (other than a belief that something stands in a particular relationship to a desire that provides motivation) simply raises far more questions than it answers. I assert that such things do not exist.

I then began to wonder if there are mental attitudes that both lack an intrinsic motivation and lack an intrinsic motivation.

Let us imagine a purple dog with yellow spots.

This does not have a truth-maker. In other words, there is no sense in saying, "It is wrong to imagine a purple dog with yellow spots because there is no purple dog with yellow spots."

This also does not provide any intrinsic motivation. Once a person imagines a purple dog with yellow spots, the next question is, "Now what?" There is no call to do anything.

In an earlier post, I pointed out that, while I pay a great deal of attention to beliefs and desires, I agree that there are other mental states - other than beliefs and desires - that influence intentional actions. I have included in this set "habit" and "memory".

Another mental state that seems necessary to explain human behavior is "imaginings" or "let's pretend" - propositional attitudes that lack both a truth marker and a motivation.

Now, being the curious person that I am, I next wanted to see if anybody has written anything on the idea of imaginings as propositional attitudes. Towards that end, I consult Google.

My search brings up a 2014 PHD thesis, A Pluralistic Account of Propositional Imagination" by Michael Joseph Ferreira.

The thesis begins with what Ferreira called, "default cognitive account of propositional imagination". Ferreira reports that his intention is to argue against a simple propositional account of imaginings because, "...recent efforts to provide a unified cognitive theory of propositional imagination have failed ... because there is no unified phenomenon of which to give an account."

Apparently, there is a literature on propositional imaginings that introduce some complexity to the issue.

Some of that complexity can be found in my original account of imaginings. I mentioned both imagining that a purple dog with yellow spots exists, and "let's pretend" that a purple dog with yellow spots exists. These are not precisely the same thing. "Let's pretend" is an invitation to act as if one is in a world where the proposition "there is a purple dog with yellow spots" is true. Stage acting, for example, involves more than just imagining. It falls more into the real of "let's pretend."

Yet, I think we can define a general category of imaginings - a category under which a number of more specific types (such as "let's pretend") live. What this general category has in common is that they lack truth-makers and they fail to provide motivation.

Now that we know what imaginings do not do, what is it that they do?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Motivational Beliefs

I got into a discussion recently that included the topic of beliefs that can motivate.

I deny that such things exist.

Or, if they do exist, it us because "beliefs that can motivate" is simply an alternative way of saying "desires", and desires do exist. (Actually, more than 2 - but see note below.)

More specifically, I accept David Hume's theory of motivation - updated to include some advances in our understanding of intentional action in the last 250 years.

This modernized version of Hume's theory holds that there are two types of mental states:

Beliefs - which can be expressed in the form "agent believes that P", where P is a proposition capable of being true or false. To believe that P is to believe that the proposition "P" is true. In other words, to believe that there is a mouse in the kitchen is to believe that the proposition "there is a mouse in the kitchen" is true.

Desires - which can be expressed in the form, "agent desires that Q", where Q is a proposition capable of being true or false. Desires lack truth-makers. If an agent has a desire that P, he cannot be wrong in the way that he can have a belief that P and be wrong. However, desires motivate. To desire that P is to be motivated to make Q true if Q is false, or to keep Q true if Q is already true.

It follows from this that if an agent has a belief that P, and P is false, he should change his beliefs - they fail to describe the world accurately. On the other hand, if he has a desire that P and P is false, then he is moved to change the world. His desire cannot be mistaken the way a belief can be mistaken.

Motivational beliefs are typically understood to be beliefs about the value of things. If an agent believes that P is good, then the agent will be motivated to make it the case that P is true.

If this is an actual belief, then it needs a truth-maker. Recall, to believe that P is to believe that the proposition "P" is true. To believe that P is good is to believe that the proposition "P is good" is true. This brings up the question: What does it mean to say that the proposition, "P is good" is true? What are the truth conditions for "P is good?"

I have a suggestion here. "P is good" means "P is such as to fulfill the desires in question." In other words, let us assume that the desire in question is a "desire that Q". Then, to say that P is good is to say that P is such that it can make or keep Q true. Q can either be a part of P, or P can be useful in realizing a state S where Q is true in S.

However, if this is an accurate account of "P is good", then these beliefs do not motivate. To say that a state of affairs is such as to fulfill the desires in question is to say that the people with those desires would be motivated to realize P if they knew about its relationship to their desires. It is the desires that provide the motivation, not the belief.

Just to quickly fend off the most common objections to this account - something can be "such as to fulfill the desires in question" when the objects of evaluation or the desires in question change. A hot cup of coffee may be good when drank by a person who likes coffee and terrible when drank by a person who hates coffee. Wearing a ski mask may be a good way to avoid being identified when one rubs a convenience store, but that is not to say that robbing a convenience store is a good thing to do.

Back to the topic of this post, this account of what it means for "P is good" to be true ties goodness to motivation - but only because it ties goodness to desires and desires provide motivation. What the "motivational belief" theorist needs to do is to provide an account of what it means for "P is good" to be true that somehow brings about reasons to act independent of desires.

An alternative is to deny that "P is good" (as in, "Agent believes that P is good") has a truth-maker.

I would argue that this immediately disqualifies the attitude in question from being a belief. Beliefs have truth-makers.

In fact, if the proposition, "P is good" lacks a truth maker, yet motivates the agent to realize a state in which P is true, then "X believes that P is good" and "X desires that P" become indistinguishable. If you were to examine an agent, there would be no way to distinguish whether the agent has a "belief that P is good" in this sense, or a "desire that P".

This, then, is the dilemma for anybody who believes that a "belief that P is good" can motivate action.

For the agent who believes that P is good, either "P is good" has a truth-maker that explains motivation independent of desire or it does not. I suggest that the agent will be incapable of coming up with a sensible theory for a truth-maker for "P is good" that explains motivation independent of desire. And if the claim is that "P is good" lacks a truth-maker then "Agent believes that P is good" is simply another way of saying, "Agent desires that P."

Anyway, motivational beliefs are make-believe. They don't exist. There is no set of observations that requires that we use such things in order to explain any intentional action. Updated Humean beliefs and desires are sufficient.

(NOTE: As I argued elsewhere, we will ultimately need to also include such things as habits and memory to explain intentional action. However, none of these things provide end-reasons for intentional action and can be left out of the discussion at this level, the way physicists talk about massless strings and frictionless surfaces.)

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Historical Significance and Practical Irrelevance of Plato

For the past week, I have been focusing on Plato – and, in particular, The Republic.

Why?

This is actually a question I ask myself. Plato’s Republic is of great historical significance. It is the first lengthy treatise on moral and political philosophy – about how to be a good person and how to create a good state.

However, the relevance of his ideas to today’s political systems is little different from the relevance of Hippocrates to today’s medicine.

Hippocrates, too, is a significant historical figure. One of his major accomplishments was to establish a set of practices that effectively started the science of medicine. Practitioners were to record symptoms, the steps they took to try to deal with those symptoms, and the results. This way they had a chance of identifying options that were not effective, discover options that were effective, and promulgate that knowledge.

However, there were some significant problems with this system.

One set of problems revolved around coming up with an accurate theory of biology – a way of explaining what was effective and why. Greek and Roman physicians had become fixated on the idea that health had to do with balancing four bodily fluids to the point that they could scarcely consider options outside of this model. This caused them to interpret all of their observations in terms of effects on these liquids – grounding all of medicine on a set of false premises.

Another set of problems concerned the objectivity of those observations. Researchers today recognize that humans have an amazing capacity to see what they want to see. Researchers who have a particular theory in mind will “see with her own eyes” that they theory is either confirmed. People inherently focus on those things that support a favored belief and dismiss those things that would falsify the favored belief. Science did not actually make much progress until scientists recognized this innate human failing and began to design research and take measurements that circumvented these biases.

Anybody who is suffering from a physical ailment may pay Hippocrates her respects regarding his historical significance, but is well advised against seeking a cure in ancient Greek medicine.

Similarly, somebody who is interested in creating a healthy political system may pay Plato his respects regarding the fact that he introduced the habit of thinking about these issues and was one of the first to address many of the relevant questions. However, he founded his idea of the best state on assumptions regarding human psychology and “the forms” that are as fictitious as the relevance of Hippocrates’ four bodily fluids. Consequently, he is a poor authority to appeal to if one is more interested in the practical problem of improving an existing political system.

Accordingly, looking at Plato’s political philosophy can be interesting in the same way that looking at ancient Greek medicine can be interesting. Some people simply have an interest in ancient theories – in the ways in which different cultures have seen things.

There is, however, another – more practical – reason for somebody in political philosophy to become familiar with these ancient theories. For some reason, political philosophers are expected to have a working knowledge of Plato’s ideas, whereas physicians are not expected to have a working knowledge of ancient Greek “humours”. It buys a political writer some “street credit” if the philosopher can write or speak knowingly about what Plato wrote. Where, in contrast, a physician who spoke knowingly, and perhaps even reverently, about ancient ideas in medicine might actually generate a little bit of worry.

Of course, that “street credit” likely gets taken away from any such writer who then writes a blog posting where he questions Plato’s importance. This may happen even if that writer acknowledges Plato’s historical significance, and merely denies that a 2500 year old political theory created at a time of primitive understanding has much relevance in a quest to improve modern political systems.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Irrationality of Third Parties

If we lived in a community where a political party can get representation even though it gets only five percent of the vote, then it makes sense to vote for a candidate that will likely only get five percent of the vote.

However, we, in the United States, do not live in that type of community. We live in a community where representation requires getting a plurality of votes - more votes than any other candidate.

This fact of our political system explains why we have two parties and can only have two parties. In a "winner takes all; loser gets nothing" system the rational thing to do is to form a coalition that can get a majority of the vote. A losing coalition is politically impotent and practically worthless. There is room for two near-majority coalitions. That is all.

In a "winner takes all; loser gets nothing" political system, third parties have two effects.

First, they provide a political advantage to the major coalition that least represent their views by weakening their opposition. By giving the opposite side such an advantage, it permits them to adopt more radical positions - there is less of a chance that a more radical position will be politically costly.

Second, they give the major coalition closest to their views motivation to abandon the positions they share with the third party and adopt, in its place, some of the positions of the opposing major coalition. They need to replace the votes that the third party takes from them, and the most fruitful source of votes are people from the opposing major coalition.

The closer coalition could try to get votes back from the third party. However, this requires that two conditions be met.

(1) Members of the third party have to be willing to defect back to the major coalition. If they are not willing to do so, they are telling the major coalition that pursuing their vote is a waste of effort.

(2) The major coalition has to be able to attract members of the third party without losing an even larger number of members of their coalition to the other major coalition.

And what is this for anyway?

If the third party wants to actually win elections (rather than throw elections to the major coalition furthest from their views), then they have to becoma a major coalition themselves - able to win elections. To do this, it has to form a coalition that is potentially attractive to the majority of voters.

How can they do this?

The third party fantasy - and it really is a fantasy - is that the voters will see the third party's superior wisdom and immediately swarm to them in worshipful frenzy in numbers large enough to win elections, thus creating a revolution that will sweep aside opposing coalitions.

This option denies the reality that many people are rather fixed in their beliefs, preferences and interests. Societies are not made up of 51% empty-minded idiots looking for somebody to give them the first good idea they have ever heard.

The alternative option is to try to attract additional voters by appealing to their existing beliefs, preferences, and interests. However, this makes the third party indistinguishable from major coalition that is nearest to their views - an organization trying to appeal to enough people to be able to win elections.

In a "winner takes all; loser gets nothing" political system, third party activities are completely irrational.

This may be taken as an argument against having a "winner takes all; loser gets nothing" political system. It may be taken as an argument for adopting a system whereby representatives of local minorities have representation in the legislature. In fact, that is one of its implications. However, UNTIL we replace the "winner takes all; loser gets nothing" political system it is irrational to pretend that it did not exist.

This also feeds into my argument that, if one lives in a region where one political party dominates, then, regardless of one's political views, one should join the dominate party. This way, one can actually have influence on elections. It is as irrational to remain in a political coalition that, locally, can never muster a majority as it is to support a third party. One simply renders oneself politically impotent and allows the dominant party to become move further away from one's own views.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Desirism Book - Part 0028 - Against Evolved Moral Sentiment Theories

The problem with moral theories that ground morality on sentiment that I discussed in my last posting also applies to theories that try to explain morality in terms of an evolved moral sense.

Our proto-moral community is made up of individuals with an aversion to pain, who have the opportunity to use condemnation to promote in others an aversion to that which causes pain in others. They use the verbal habit of saying, "causing pain to others is wrong" to both report the fact that this is something that people generally have reason to condemn, and as a statement of condemnation of anybody who causes pain to others.

The "wrongness" of causing pain to others does not depend on any particular sentiment on the part of the person making the judgment. Nor does it require, in any way, that the beings in this community have an evolved moral sense that causing pain to others is wrong. The widespread aversion to pain, combined with the ability to use condemnation to promote an aversion to doing that which causes pain in others, is sufficient.

The evolved moral sense theory is actually quite similar to sentiment theories in that they base the wrongness of an action on the sentiment of the person making the assessment. The evolved moral sense theory merely adds that these sentiments are the product of evolution, and their existence can be explained in terms of the evolutionary benefit they provide.

However, we can ask, can these sentiments - whether evolved or otherwise acquired - be wrong?

In other words, is X wrong because we have a (possibly evolved) disposition to sense that it is wrong? Or is X wrong for some other reason?

If it is wrong because we have a disposition to sense that it is wrong, then whatever we acquire a disposition to sense is wrong, is wrong in fact.

But nature tells us that there are few limits to what we may sense to be wrong or permissible or obligatory - even when we write evolution into the equation.

We are lead to believe that evolution favors cooperation. This is not true. Every predator and parasite found in nature has survived the evolutionary test. Evolution not only created these entities, it perfected them. It has made lions and killer whales ever more efficient at killing. It has selected bacteria and insects that are ever more efficient at living off of others (without their consent). The lion's relationship with the antelope is not one of cooperation for mutual benefit, it is one of predator and prey.

We can well imagine that evolution has not only given the lion the physical qualities that make it a successful hunter, but the psychological qualities as well. It has given lions a desire to hunt - as well as other likes and dislikes that make it more efficient at hunting. The stalking behavior of cats gives us a window into its mind - it's beliefs and desires that control its behavior. Cats and killer whales like to do that which would count as torture if done by humans.

This means that even if we had a moral sense, there is a chance that evolution could attach that moral sense to any type of behavior - including parasitical and predatory behavior - that promoted genetic replication. Rape could be permissible, as well as a disposition to have sex with one's (fertile) step children. Similarly, we may have become disposed to kill our step children if it would cause the adult partner to want to have replacement children with the new spouse. We could be disposed to form small bands with strong sentiments of internal loyalty and sentiments of hostility to neighboring tribes that motivate us to kill them and take their resources for our genetic offspring.

Evolved moral sense and sentiment theories would have to conclude that these behaviors were, then, permissible or even obligatory, depending on the (evolved) sentiment attached to them. Neither slavery nor genocide would be wrong if we evolved to approve of either enslaving or wiping out those who were less genetically related to us.

The alternative, then, is that the rightness or wrongness of an action consists in "something else". Consequently, such things as genocide or slavery will remain wrong regardless of our sentiments or "evolved moral sense". This would allow us to determine if our sentiments or "evolved moral sense" has gotten morality right.

The "wrongness" in our hypothetical proto-moral community does not depend on sentiment or an evolved moral sense. It is found in the simple fact that people generally have reasons to use condemnation to promote an aversion to causing pain to others. A sentiment of approval in causing pain to others - whether it came about through evolution or some other means - would not change this fact. In fact, it is specifically the case that the aversion to pain and ability to bring about an aversion to causing pain through condemnation provides reasons to create a sentiment of moral disapproval of any action that causes pain.

Another way of expressing the same problem rests in the claim that a discovery of evolved altruism equates with a discovery of the foundation of morality. However, even where it is the case that we can come up with a story of the evolution of altruism, what is the story of the goodness of altruism? The fact that we evolved to be altruistic in some areas - to sacrifice ourselves for our genetic offspring and other kin, for example - does not make altruism good any more than the fact that we evolved to be racially prejudiced or to coerce others into having sex would make them good.

The beings in our proto-moral society have not evolved a disposition to refrain from causing pain to others. They do not even have such an aversion. They have an aversion to pain and an ability to create an aversion to causing pain through condemnation. That is all they need.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Desirism Book - Part 0027 - Against Moral Sentiment Theories

David Hume was mistaken to claim that moral facts depend on our moral sentiments.

We have built a proto-moral community based substantially on David Hume's theory of action. It is a community built by agents where desires alone provide the ends or goals of intentional action, and where reason "is the slave of the passions". That is to say, the job of reason is to find the most effective ways to serve those desires.

However, when Hume went from this to his theory of morality he made a mistake.

Recall that our proto-moral community consists of Alphs (who desire to gather stones) and Betts (who desire to scatter stones). Alphs and Betts both have an aversion to pain, and a capacity to acquire new desires as a consequence of praise and condemnation. The universal aversion to pain gives people reason to use condemnation to promote a universal aversion to that which will cause pain in others.

I have also given this community the verbal tradition of using the phrase, "causing harm to others is wrong" both to identify that which people generally have reason to condemn, and as a statement of condemnation.

There is a fact of the matter as to whether people generally have reason to condemn those who cause pain to others which is independent of anybody's beliefs or sentiments about that fact. A person who does not know that condemnation will create in others an aversion to causing pain may not do so. However, this is a case of the agent not being aware of the fact that he has a reason to do something - a mistake of fact, not a case in which causing pain to others becomes permissible.

Hume bases his theory of morality on the sentiments.

Specifically, to know whether something is permissible or impermissible the agent must make himself aware of all of the relevant facts, then use his imagination to remove any personal harm or benefit and any harm or benefit to others with whom she may have a relationship. They then apply their sentiment to this imagined state of affairs, where a sentiment of approval means that the act is permissible or obligatory, and a sentiment of disapproval means that the act is prohibited.

If an agent in our proto-moral system were to go through this exercise they would be indifferent to any pain inflicted on people other than themselves. All they have is a desire to gather or scatter stones and an aversion to their own pain. Neither of these give them a reason to be concerned with a state in which somebody else is made to experience pain. Given their sentiments, they would react to such news with total indifference.

However, even without this sentiment, the agents in this proto-moral world have a reason to condemn those who cause pain. They have reason to promote a universal aversion to causing pain to others. This fact does not spring from any appeal to sentiment. It springs from the propositions that the agent has an aversion to pain, the agent has an ability to promote an aversion to causing pain to others through condemnation, and those who have an aversion to causing pain to others are less likely to act in ways that would cause the agent to experience pain.

Please note that, even though the moral fact of the matter can be discovered through reason alone, it is a fact that relates states of affairs to desires. Or, more precisely, it is a fact that relates a state of affairs where people generally have an aversion to causing pain to agents' aversion to pain. There can be no value without desires. However, the value that comes from desires is a value that reason alone can discover.

Morality does not require any type of moral sentiment.