Am I defective in some way?
Don't answer that - it was rhetorical.
Of course, I have something specific in mind.
Don Loeb reports:
It is widely thought that the objective-seeming nature of our moral experience supports a presumption in favor of objectivist theories (according to which morality is a realm of non-relative facts or truths) and against anti-objectivist theories such as Mackie's error theory (according to which it is not). (David Loeb, "The Argument from Moral Experience" in A World Without Values: Essays on John Mackie's Moral Error Theory, Richard Joyce and Simon Kirchin (eds.))
The Argument from Moral Experience, then, argues from the premise that we experience morality as being objective to the conclusion that it is (or, at least, we have reason to presume that it is) objective.
What is this "objective seeming nature" of our moral experience? And why don't I seem to have it?
A significant part of this objective seeming nature of morality rests in the claim that the wrongness of murder, for example, is in the murder itself. From this, we get to the conclusion that wrongness actually is in murder. If anybody wants to say otherwise, the burden of proof is on them.
I don't have a sense that the wrongness of murder is in the murder itself. In fact, for me, the phenomenology of morality fits perfectly the theory I use to explain morality. Yet, I never use this as an argument in its defense. Doing so would be question-begging, since l strongly suspect that the theory defines the phenomenology. It is a form of confirmation bias whereby once I believe that morality is a certain way, then I interpret things in a way consistent with that view.
David Hume, famously, did not have this sensation either.
Take any action allow’d to be vicious: Wilful murder, for instance. Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. In which-ever way you take it, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions and thoughts. There is no other matter of fact in the case. The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object. You never can find it, till you turn your reflexion into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation which arises in you, towards this action. (David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, 2d ed., rev., ed. P. H. Nidditch (Oxford, 1987), 468-69 )
I know that others are said to perceive the wrongness of murder in the murder itself. However, I also know that they see the hand of God in a sunset. They interpret some low and distant sound as people speaking too softly to make out the words, or hear breathing where there is none if they believe that a ghost is present. More to the point, I have known people to see wrongness in interracial marriage and perceive no wrongness in the worst acts of discrimination, injustice, and dishonesty. For thousands of years, nobody, not even the slaves, saw wrongness in slavery. These all give reason to question whether an individual is actually perceiving the wrongness of murder in murder itself.
Subjectivists and objectivists of all stripes, I would argue, experience morality in a way that fits their theory of morality. Consequently, they, too, would be begging the question if they then took their experience as proof of how morality is.
Loeb, as it turns out, does not argue that I am defective. He argues that the objectivist is cherry-picking his data. There are more than enough examples of people treating morality as non-objective to question the objectivists' thesis on the phenomenology of value.
[J]ust as we talk about moral beliefs, we often talk about moral feelings and attitudes as well, and in other contexts these words typically signify something other than beliefs. In fact, people often say things that seem quite incompatible with objectivism, such as that in ethics “it's all relative,” or that what it is right for a person to do depends on that person's own decisions. We cannot dismiss such statements as the products of confusion merely because they appear to conflict with views we think widely held.
These points undercut the Argument from Moral Experience.
Loeb will go further and argue that, even if we accept this premise on the part of the objectivists, getting from there to a presumption in favor of moral objectivity is not such an easy step either. I will look at those arguments in a future post.
However, I have another question that I would like to look at first. What type of objectivity are we talking about? What type of objectivity are we trying to prove using these arguments? And does that matter?