Thursday, January 19, 2017

Realism About Desires

220 days until the first class.

I have just posted my second longish paper over at the desirism group on Facebook.

This one, entitled "A Foundation for Revolution" looks at what is wrong with politics and society today and offers a plan for improvement. After spending some time on philosophical foundations and principles, it suggests ignoring party distinctions and simply going to whatever group has the actual power to decide who will be the next representative, and working to influence who is actually selected.

My next project is "Morality from the Ground Up". I expect to have a first draft of this done by the end of March. This should not be too hard, since I am copying and pasting the desirism series I posted on this blog - and simply putting an ending on it.

I have made it through my first class - at the University of Colorado - even though I was just sitting in. I even got up the nerve to send the professor an email after the class presenting one of the points I generally defend in my own writings.

Thank you for letting me attend class and for access to the reading materials. After having seen the syllabus and the readings, my regret for deferring until the fall has doubled.. I will try to attend a few more classes, but at least I have the readings.

I do have a question to ask. Though I cannot attend class, and I am not a paying student, would it be acceptable for me to email comments on the reading? I recognize an obligation on my part to make the comments worth your time. I assume that you have reasons for teaching this material and that they may also provide reasons to be interested in comments, if they are of a suitable quality.

Though my first comment concerns the distinctions between realism and anti-realism that you presented at the start of the course. They seem to leave a gap, and I have long wondered how to categorize a certain type of claim. I tend to count it as realist, but I do not think that Sharon Street (for example) would see it that way.

Take, for example, the proposition, "Jim likes chocolate cake."

This, to me, is a genuine truth-bearing proposition. It is not only capable of being true, it is true. I know Jim, and he really does like chocolate cake. Furthermore, its truth is independent of our attitudes towards it. We cannot change its truth value by changing any of my evaluative judgments. We are not even evaluating the truth according to the attitude I would have under any type of "perfect information and sound reason." Such a statement is true in exactly the same way that "Jim's temperature is 37 degrees C" is true. When we make this statement, we are describing a fact about Jim. In one case, it is a fact about the average kinetic energy of the molecules in his body. In the other, a fact about the structure of his brain.

This statement does not change its truth value based on who says it. If Jim were to say, "I like chocolate cake" (or even "I prefer that chocolate cake") it would be a proposition and it would not only be capable of being true, it would be true. This is not an emotive utterance (e.g., "Chocolate cake! Yeah!") In fact, it calls into question the idea that emotive utterances are NOT propositions. It, at least, suggests that emotive utterances can be restated as propositions.

This, of course, is not a moral statement. However, Street was not writing exclusively about moral statements. She said that the Darwinian Dilemma created a problem for realism about value. I do not see it creating a problem for realism about, "Jim likes chocolate cake" or even "I like chocolate cake" spoken by Jim, or even "I really like that chocolate cake" or "I prefer the chocolate cake over the cherry pie."

I suspect that Street would want to deny that this is realism. She would say that this would be a form of anti-realism about value.

But . . . Why?

"Jim has a temperature of 37 degrees" (or "I have a temperature of 37 degrees" spoken by Jim) does not suggest an anti-realist account of body temperature. I can see no relevant difference between, "I have a temperature of 37 degrees" and "I have a desire to eat chocolate cake" or even, "I really like the taste of that chocolate cake." If one claim does not throw us into anti-realism, why should the other?

I am, of course, quite nervous about such communications since I do not want to annoy anybody. Yet, for my own part, I am not annoyed when others send me these types of questions. In fact, I find it to be a useful way to test and develop some of my own ideas. Oh well, I will try not to be a bother and to ensure that my questions and comments are interesting.

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