Thursday, March 03, 2016

On Debating the Rationality of Ends

Sometimes I feel like an atheist pursuing a theology degree.

Such an atheist would be surrounded by people who are certain that a god exists and who spend their time in discussion over various theories regarding the properties of such a deity. Meanwhile, the atheist sits there saying, “There is no God.”

Similarly, I find myself involved in readings from people who seem to assume that there are rational requirements for desires-as-ends (other than through their tendency to fulfill or thwart other desires), engaged in debate over the nature of these requirements, while I sit here saying, “There are rational requirements of ends.”

It is only natural, of course, that those who believe in the rational requirements for desires-as-ends would enter into such a debate, and that those who hold that there are no such rational requirements would go elsewhere.

However, I hold that the existence or non-existence of these rational requirements is important. If these rational requirements exist, then they are things that a theory of morality has to consider. However, if they do not exist, then there is nothing to consider. We can move on and look at the utility of various desires and not worry about their intrinsic rationality.

In fact, the importance of whether or not these rational requirements exists to ethics is very much like the importance of whether or not a god exists. If they exist, then we have an authority that we must appeal to and that will heavily influence our answers to moral questions. If they do not exist, we must look elsewhere.

I hold that neither God nor intrinsic presciptivity nor rational requirements for desires as ends exist. All three of these are fictions, and propositions declaring their existence play no role in sound moral reasoning.

Sound moral reasoning exists, I would argue. However, sound moral reasoning involves the application of plain, vanilla means-ends rationality to the molding of ends or desires. It simply does not include premises asserting the existence of gods, intrinsic values, or standards of rationality (outside of means-ends rationality) for desires-as-ends.

There are some noted philosophers who defend this position. The most noteworthy, and the philosopher whose writings I have actually been focusing on these past several weeks, is J.L. Mackie.

Still, entering a discussion on the nature of the rationality of ends by saying that there is no such thing as a rationality of ends does have its shortfalls.

No comments: