In 214 days, classes start.
Yes, I am nervous.
I have been focusing on my faux taking of Philosophy 5100: Contemporary Moral Theory - keeping up with all of the assignments and doing some writing on them.
The third assignment was Eric Weilenberg, "On the Evolutionary Debunking of Morality", Ethics 120 (April 2010), 441-464.
As I have been trying to do, I wrote an email to the professor with my notes on the reading - that went as follows:
As I said, it is not my intention to be a burden.
I write this, in part, to get back into the mindset of being a student - to keep up with the readings and to be prepared to discuss them.
In my previous emails, I asked why "I have an aversion to pain" cannot be considered as objective and real as "I have an appendix" or "I have a body temperature of 37 degrees."
I also suggested that authors have not been clear in distinguishing between a value judgment (a belief) and a desire - such as what I called an "appetite for cooperation".
Actually, I found more of this in Weilenberg's article.
I recognize that Weilenberg's intention was to argue that we can have a "moral judgment" that (1) has an evolutionary explanation (2) is not directly related to the truth of what the person believed, but (3) still counts as knowledge since the belief and the truth of the proposition have some kind of common origin.
In making his argument, he tries to give at least a plausible story about how a "moral judgment" can provide evolutionary fitness.
I see a problem with that story.
In defining the concept of rights as a judgment that an individual possesses a moral boundary that others may not legitimately cross, Weilenberg wrote:
Viewing ourselves as possessing boundaries that may not be transgressed no matter what provides a distinctive kind of motivation to resist such transgressions by others. Holding such beliefs disposes one to resist behavior on the part of others that typically dramatically decreases one’s prospects for survival and reproduction.
But we do not need these beliefs to motivate this behavior. The aversions themselves do this. My own aversion to pain gives me a reason to cause other people to refrain from acting in ways that would lead to me being in pain. My concern for family members and friends gives me reason to cause others to refrain from acting in ways that would lead to their harm - and motivates me to act in ways that would promote others to behave in ways that are beneficial.
If I add Weilenberg’s own “Likeness principle,” I can conclude that people generally have reasons to provide others with a disincentive to causing pain or to acting in ways that will tend to cause harm to them and those they care about. I do not think it would be difficult at all to go from this fact to the conclusion that people generally have many and strong reasons to provide others with reasons to refrain from act-types such as lying, breaking promises, vandalism, theft, assault, rape, and murder.
Note that I am not talking about the wrongness being derived from a sentiment that one has or would have under some ideal conditions (e.g., the Humean criteria of knowing all relevant facts of the case and of human nature, and imagining a situation in which none of my own interests or the interests of people I care about are involved). Even a being that lacks any sentiments at all can determine that there are act-types that people generally have many and strong reasons to discourage others from performing. That truly impartial observer will not care about such a fact, but can know it. And part of what he knows is that people generally have many and strong reasons to realize such a state - and that people generally have many and strong reasons to cause others to care about this fact (if they can).
Ultimately, whether evolutionary theory can debunk a moral belief depends on what a person believes. The belief that people generally have many and strong reasons to discourage people from act-types such as lying, breaking promises, vandalism, theft, assault, rape, and murder is not the type of belief that evolutionary theory can debunk.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
In 214 days, classes start.
Posted by Alonzo Fyfe at 9:56 AM