Adam GazdalskiHarry G. Frankfurt’s ‘Freedom of Will and the Concept of a Person’ and it’s applications to Free Will
Harry G. Frankfurt believes that people are more than just a specific species with a genetic code that determines what it is to be a person. Rather he believes that a complex system of wills and desires is the differentiating cause. He shows that there are complex psychological differences that make up what it is to be a person, and that some human beings may not actually be people, as well as non human beings being possible persons. The differentiating principles that he speaks of are of ‘wills’ and are called first and second order desires. Only a person can participate in second order desires. Though he makes a point that this is a suspiciously human characteristic. This second order is more complex than it seems and he goes into great detail with many examples that most of the time prove helpful to his theory.
He than attempts to make a distinction between a ‘will’ and a ‘desire’, but I believe they might be one and the same. A desire is used to describe a short term will in many circumstances and may end up forming a hierarchy of questioned wills that account for other wills. To make a more practical hierarchy of what wills we choose, I also propose that there needs to be one or more ‘unquestioned’ wills at the base of such a system. Otherwise we may question ourselves for ever(which isn’t very practical). I believe that there are certain observations one can make about the use of his principles in his own examples, and see that some explanations need to be addressed when applying his principles to them. This as well as the problems that may arise amidst other hypothetical examples of the use of ‘wills’ pertaining to such wills that are no longer questioned by the individual.
He begins by discussing how previous views make the mistake of treating the word ‘person’ as a species. This is very important for if we do not distinguish philosophical terms from those used sometimes haphazardly in science and every day life we cannot conclude an argument on philosophical terms(or really any terms). He says, “What interests us most in the human condition would not interest us less if it were also a feature of the condition of other creatures as well.” So therefor our most discerning attributes are not species specific. This means that it is possible for some animals besides the human being to be persons, as well as the strong possibility that some individuals in the human race are not ‘persons’.
Human beings are undoubtably not alone in making decisions. So what makes us different than our pets? There must be different kinds of decisions, or at least different kinds of motives behind our decisions. Frankfurt specifically distinguishes two different kinds of motives or desires. The ‘first order’ desires are those that both persons and non persons may use. An example would be a dog wanting to eat out of a food bowl. This desire for the food is not challenged by the dog itself and so the decision is acted on immediately. If this were a second order desire the dog might have been reading a magazine and seen other skinnier dogs getting all the good looking dogs to mate with her, forcing our dog to question her eating habits. This questioning of a desire is a second order desire. It can also be classified as ‘self reflection’ and Frankfurt says that only man has this capability. It may be argued that it has been discovered that certain other animals have this capability as well, but the more important issues at hand would be just as applicable(and have the same problems) to any animal if it truly did have such capabilities as self reflection.
This ordering of desires sounds well and good until you apply the following example to it. In this example there is a man playing guitar on his porch. When asked why he made the decision to play he responds with, “Because I enjoy it.” We then question him further as to why he wants to enjoy it. He responds something along the lines of, “Because I need happiness in my life”. Why? “Just because I like happiness! Why should I have to question that? It makes me sad when I do.”
In this example I believe Jimi Hendrix was correct(metaphorically speaking) in saying he couldn’t ‘live’ without guitar, but what implications does this have on the ordering of desires? It shows that any true desire can be brought back to one of many initial desire that the desirer does not will to question. The fact that not everyone makes sure all of their actions stem back to a desire worth no longer questioning is a matter of wether or not the person wants to continue questioning such a matter. Or possibly even a matter of when the person gets ‘sick’ of questioning and may feel as if there is no will that is unquestionable(and they very well may be as we will see). The strength or clarity of that unquestioned desire and the extent of their wisdom that will help them determine what desire they no longer wish to question both stem from and adds to a person being ‘who they are’, psychologically speaking.
This may explain why it appears that a man sitting on a couch eating doritoes has less will to live than a man stuck under a boulder in the wilderness. The desire is forced out of the man in the woods, for his ‘unquestioned desire’(to survive in this case) is threatened and he might feel a moment of clarity. As if he had not ‘seen’ this ever so important desire so clearly as he does now. All he would need now is the wisdom to be able to carry out his newly ‘dusted off’ desire. Such as the wisdom of knowing enough about physics to be able to make a lever out of a stick to pry the rock off his legs etc. It could have been the very same man who was sitting on the couch, but when put in such a situation that threatened so many of his subordinate desires, it seems that his more basic desire, to survive, outweighs his desire to eat doritoes on the couch.
Is survival the most basic unquestionable desire that we have? No, it is just in many circumstances the more favorable one which would allow us to be able to carry out all of our other ‘second, third and fourth and so on...’ desires if we have both the clarity and wisdom for it.
Another example of an un questioned(and strong) desire is that of a religious man. When this man is asked why he was playing guitar on his porch he may respond, “To sing the joy of God!” Of course one might suppose that if this man was in the forest under a boulder, it is highly possible that he would call out to God and later say he derived his desire to live from his more basic(even more basic than ‘survival’) desire to please God. This may be how certain religious zealots have such strong will power and initiative as well as enthusiasm, as well as their capability to fly planes into buildings(their ‘will to God’, outweighed their ‘will to live’). This would also explain why the validity of religion can be such a ‘touchy’ subject to those who believe in it. Their religion becomes their most basic unquestioned desire and to take that away would make their lives seem utterly meaningless, lest they found another desire that was equally as strong(search for knowledge, love etc.).
There is one more very commonly used unquestionable desire(though there are possibly infinite) that is worth mentioning. This is one of the notion of ‘love’. If a man risks his life to save another, his basic desire in such a circumstance is most likely ‘to save the lives of his loved ones’. Though this may also be seen as the unquestioned desire of ‘survival of the human race’, it’s more likely is a projection of a ‘survival’ desire of the individual on those he cares for. In this situation I see no reason for not calling this rational first order desire, ‘love’. Though in the end, the question of why the man did what he did is more a physiological question rather than a philosophical one.
Frankfurt would probably not have totally disagreed with ‘unquestionable desires’. I believe he may have supported this idea. He says many times that having the freedom to do what we want to do is not enough to show our free will. He explains that it is possible for someone to want something even if he or she is denied of it, differentiating free will from free action. Along with this he says that to have true free will, one must ‘be free to will what one wills.’ Here is where I would add: If one must be free to will what one wills, than there must be an unquestioned will that your basing your wills to will on. Of course he attempts to answer this or at least confirm it in a way, on the end of the same page,
(Frankfurt 213) “There is no theoretical limit to the length of the series of desires of higher and higher orders...refusing to identify himself with any of the desires until he forms a desire of the next higher order... leads toward the destruction of a person.”
To clarify this quote one needs to understand that by ‘destruction of a person’, Frankfurt means the person would be stuck questioning his or her desires for eternity. To get a concrete, 100% and finite justification for a will must than be impossible. Leaving what ‘ought’ to be willed behind, it appears that even what ‘is’ willed has no finite explanation as to why it was willed. Does this mean that noone can be held fully accountable for their actions? On one hand yes, on the practical hand no.
On the ‘yes’ side of the answer we can see that there is no concrete and finite reason for anything to have been willed. It seems that whatever we will is only because of other wills we have. Is it even possible to will anything for no reason apparent to the one doing the willing? Let’s look at some examples and find out.
Example 1: Man ‘A’ claims to do action ‘X’ willfully. When asked why he did action X he responds, “For no particular reason”. Is X a willful action? When someone wills something, do they always have to have some ends of the action in mind? Such as eating a sandwich. Why? Because you were hungry. In the case of man A we can see that his justification for doing X was ‘for no particular reason’. The fact of the matter is that ‘for no particular reason’ is his ends to his will for the undertaking of X. Put more clearly: Even an action that is said to be ‘for no reason’ still has a reason behind it, the reason of ‘for no reason’. This reasoning may not be the most intelligent reason for an action, yet it is undeniably still a reason.
Example 2: A man ‘B’ takes action ‘Y’. When asked why he responds with, “I didn’t mean to do Y”. In this case assuming that man B is not lying, one can pose the question of wether or not B actually willed Y to happen, and if Y was not a willful action, did B ever actually take action Y? Again we can see the problem with stating an action was taken by a particular person and yet that person did not will the action.
This brings up another point about wills and actions. If it is true that a willful action requires the will of a person to will the action before it is taken, than why is it that we as supposably free willed individuals sometimes regret our past actions? Were we not the ones who willed such actions? The apparent answer to such a question lies in yet another question. Who is this man A or man B? It looks like if B was regretful that he did action Y, it couldn’t have been B that performed the action Y. Apparently it must hold that B was not ‘himself’ at the moment of doing Y. Does this make Y an unwilled action? No, I don’t believe it does and here is why:
Y is still a willed action wether B was himself at the moment of the action taking place or not. We may not be able to blame the man B that regrets taking action Y, but we certainly can blame the B that took action Y. Now the question lies in the fact that if the present B is to not be held responsible for taking action Y, and B is constantly from moment to moment changing(as we all are), than how can we say we should be held accountable for any of our actions for every moment a changed person is present?
Here is where continuity comes into play. Sure it may be true that we are different from moment to moment, but the part of this statement that is so often overlooked is that something must be continuous for this something to be changing. Such as the famous example of a boat persisting as the same boat throughout a voyage if all of it’s planks are to be replaced one by one every mile or so. For all practical purposes I believe we must make the assumption that ‘the boat is the same boat’. It may be a changed boat, but what boat is this changed boat but the boat that participated in the changing? It must be the boat that set off, just the same. So long as there is continuity between it’s planks throughout time and they were not all replaced at once.
If we apply this to personhood we can see that even when we took an action in the past, repented and truly regret doing this action, it was still us that took the action. A problem arises when asked if this person should not only admit it was himself that took the action, but be punished for it as well. For if and when it is applied to actual legal cases there seems to be no room for ‘forgiveness’ and makes a correctional facility seem like a ‘holding facility’. The only reason for a sentence to be handed out would be to deter others from doing this action. Of course this is all assuming it was an unlawful action that was taken.
Getting back to first and second (and ad infinitum) desires we can establish that it is true that if we were to question every higher order desire we have we would not be able to do anything but question those desires. This I believe is along similar lines as Descartes’s famous ‘Evil Genius’ scenario. For if we did honestly question everything, and base all our reasoning on simply empirical evidence we would necessarily end up realizing the only thing we can’t question is that we’re questioning.
How do we cope with this issue of practicality than? It looks like there must be at least one unquestioned desire in order for us to take any willful action. One or more desires that we can deem ‘not worth questioning’ for this moment or one of the next. Ones that appeared in the previous examples especially(Survival, God, ‘Love’). An important part to understand about these ‘basic desires’ is that they can and do sometimes fluctuate from one to the other.
A typical ‘bad decision’ will be used in the following example. Here we see a man finishing off a few more beers than he had previously desired. He might at first say to himself, “I will only drink three beers at the party tonight”. The man making the willful action of drinking only three beers is undeniably the same person throughout the night. The problem arises an hour later when the person decides he no longer cares how much he drinks(due to the three he had drank for they blurred his long term desires and heightened the shorter ones). The ‘unquestioned will’ of the person changed after he drank the three beers. It is the same person, it is his will that changed! So the next day when he wakes up with a hangover, it’s himself that should be blamed for taking the willful action of drinking too many beers.
Here I would like to add that there is a difference between the two desires represented in the previous example. The first desire was one that looked into the future. One that made the man realize he would regret his willful action the next mourning. The second desire came about only to satisfy a momentary will. Some helpful advice for this person would have to be, “Don’t deny it was you who took such an action, just be cautious of your wills changing so suddenly due to your environment.”
So now that we seem to have established that there needs to be an ‘unquestioned will’ to do what we do willfully(though Frankfurt doesn’t seem to touch on that much) and so that we do not run(think) in an endless spiral, the next question arises. How do we go about fulfilling this will? It seems that we need to want to want to do so. Frankfurt has another good example of a student who “wants to want to concentrate on his work”. He than concludes that some people ‘are just better at this’ than others(which I do not entirely believe).
(Frankfurt, 214) “The enjoyment of freedom comes easily to some. Others must struggle to achieve it.” If Frankfurt is not talking about people who already have established psychological ‘unquestioned wills’ than this is the most negative view of humanity I can imagine. We should at least assume that because we are all of the same species, we all have the capability to have an ‘easy to come by’ freedom lest we have a psychological disorder of some kind.
So how do these wills surface? They seem to vary from person to person and come about for various reasons. I would argue that they mostly come about because of the environment we were in both during the action taking place as well as our remembrance of all outcomes of our actions before it. We seem to choose the most pleasurable outcomes and justify our current actions on wether or not we will have a similar(either similar, better or less hurtful) experience. Of course it would be helpful to have a handful of scientific studies of this, but all one needs to do is look around at everyday people to come up with such a conclusion. Being somewhat of an empiricist, I cannot see a greater influence to our willful actions than the environment we have lived in, including our remembrance of how it had effected our wills in the past and the possibility of how it may effect our wills in the future.
Another important notion Frankfurt makes is when he makes the statement(215, 1st P.) “each of us is a prime mover unmoved.” This I believe is a great way to look at free will, as well as the hindering of our free will when we believe our actions are not of our own. Wether it is an addiction to a drug that causes us to believe this, or an addiction to the fear of God that hinders our free will or for any other reason. We can be conceived as ‘less of a person’ if we do not have an open mind to be able to fulfill(and initially see it) our true desire(s), especially the previously mentioned unquestioned desires(or more likely, if not only these unquestioned desires). The case of the ‘willing addict’ seems to go against this but I believe that the case is incorrectly dealt with by Frankfurt.
In the ‘willing addict’ case a man wants to do something that initially goes against his will, but eventually his first order desire(to take a drug) is overpowering and becomes his prime desire. He says that the man makes this desire to take the drug, his will. Do we make anything our will? Would we not have to ‘will’ it to be our will? To tackle this question we should refer to how our wills come about. Previously it was established that it may be our environment that gives us many of our wills and we simple pick them according to what we believe is the best action that will satisfy our most basic need at the time(or if we are looking to an immediate moment, we chose a different more initially satisfying desire and so forth).
If the drug addict ‘makes something’ his will, if it is possible for a first order desire to overtake a second order desire, this ability of desires must be applied to every decision we make. Even if the man sought help at a clinic and made ‘freedom from the drug’s addiction’ his new desire, can we not say that ‘survival’ overtook his will just as the ‘wanting to take the drug’ did? Proving again that in order for us to act on any desire there must be a point when we stop questioning wether or not it ‘should’ be done. If we do not base our actions and other wills(secondary, tertiary etc.) on an unquestionable basis than we either do not realize our more long term and satisfying desires, or we do not have enough knowledge to establish what that ‘most important’ will is or may be.
In Frankfurt’s last paragraph he makes the claim,
(Frankfurt, 216) “It seems by chance that a person is free to have the will he wants.”
Saying anything is performed ‘by chance’ seems to deny that our actions are willful at all, but luckily he than sustains his argument by saying that a ‘state of affairs’ may also be the cause of our freedom of will. His last statement could not be said more intelligently in response to the ‘state of affairs’ claim.
(Frankfurt, 216) “If it is indeed conceivable for the relevant states of affairs to come about in some third way...(meaning a combination of states of affairs and how they are effected hand in hand with our free will.), than a person should in that third way come to enjoy the freedom of the will.”
With that I will the end of this paper, in order to pass this class, in order to get a degree, in order to get a job, in order to be able to feed and shelter myself, in order to survive. Personally I enjoy surviving and would not deny that it is ‘in my interest of having long term personal enjoyment’ to do so. So here ‘long term, quality personal enjoyment(and may be a coffee...)’ I suppose is my unquestioned will as of this moment. It is logically possible to go on questioning such a will, but I won’t because I realize that I only have so much time here as a conscious being and I have to decide on something eventually lest I waste all of the time I have.
Practicality requires an ends to each deed that was said to be practical. I believe it would suit all of us to question everything... but not to never act on questionable wills. Why? Because their all questionable and we don’t live forever! Find the ‘unquestioned will’ that we (would necessarily have to) believe to be the ‘best’ one for whatever reasons and act on it while we are still able to. Do this while keeping in the back of your mind that no belief is set in stone. So long as we do not effect the unquestioned wills of others(lest they effect ours and so forth...) and so long as we can decide on what will to ‘believe’ in, we can use our questioning ability to further that which we do not wish to question. Leading to personal satisfaction.
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Lesser of the Evils: Utilitarianism
Adam J. Gazdalski
The basis of this paper is a comparative analysis of three major views on ‘punishment’ in our society, as well as the defense of what I believe is the most rational and practical of the three. Which is Utilitarianism. The sides of Jeremy Bentham, Herbert Morris, Allan H. Goldman and Jeffrie G. Murphy will be tested both against each other as well as against hypothetical scenarios they or I have shown to either exemplify their view or stand against it. I personally have found that certain aspects of each of the theories presented have issued that should be addressed concerning both the rational behind them, as well as the practicality in front of them.
Jeremy Bentham takes the point of view of the Utilitarian, and though punishment is an ‘evil’ it must be used as a deterrent for other ‘evil’ deeds that might be committed. Herbert Morris believed that Utilitarianism has the problem of allowing the punishment of an innocent man(which I will later attempt to prove incorrect), and that retribution or the balancing of interference, was most important when dealing with the issue of punishment. Allan Goldman was the first to see that there is a paradox when the justice of punishment is analyzed for to punish alone is unjust, whilst to balance and deter unjust acts seems to require it. Murphy takes a similar point of view and agrees that there is a paradox of punishment, but it is that ‘retribution’ is the only morally justified theory and that it is our society that is what is unjust. The problem with stating that there is a paradox lies in the problem that I have with the stance taken against utilitarianism. For without the problem of ‘accusing the innocent’ that is presented in defense of views other than Utilitarianism, the ‘paradox’ that Goldman presents is no longer immanent in the justification of punishment. More simply put: “If the goal of a society is Utilitarian, than could not standing in the way of the greater good be seen as a crime in itself, worthy of punishment?”
We will begin our criticism with the definition of Utilitarianism that is sited and supported by Jeremy Bentham, as well as argued against by the following theorists.
(Bentham, 845) “The general object(utilitarianism in Bentham’s case) that all laws have, or ought to have, in common, is to augment the total happiness of the community; and therefore, in the first place, to exclude, as far as may be, every thing that tends to subtract from that happiness: in other words, to exclude mischief” Here we can clearly see Bentham’s definition of Utilitarianism, and how it is the foundation of his theory for the justification of punishment. We can also see that Bentham accepts that punishment is a form of mischief(or evil) and is only justified when it promises to exclude a greater evil from occurring.
Utilitarianism defined by Bentham is a very common definition, if not the only definition Utilitarians use to discuss issues of justice. The question one might raise with such a definition is a separate definition all together. What is this ‘happiness’ that we should have spread out in the community? Does he mean the kind of happiness related to ‘satisfaction of interest’ or is it a less specific definition of happiness? When seeing how he uses the word in his justification for punishment we can see that he most likely means ‘satisfaction of interest’ when he states ‘happiness’, so for our purposes in this paper that is what we will have to conclude for now.
Bentham than states that punishment should be ‘forward looking’. What he means by this is that it should not be seen as just a necessary evil, but it should be seen as the prevention of crime and the securing of public safety. His justification for needing such measures as prevention of crime and securing public safety stem from his Utilitarian basis. We can see now that the rest of his argument depends on the validity of its Utilitarian foundation.
Can Utilitarianism be justified? It seems to make ‘common’ sense. That is, everyone should want to have their interests satisfied(be happy), and getting the most people to have them satisfied also seems very reasonable and just. The main objection that people have with a Utilitarian view is that they say it calls upon immoral acts in order to uphold the greater happiness in certain circumstances. My objection to such an objection is simply this. The action taken is not immoral upon the grounds that in such a circumstance the greater good is more important than the unhappiness of an individual. A common example that portrays this is:
In a hypothetical town consisting of one hundred people a bank robbery takes place. The robber escapes and a mob gathers to catch the person who did it. Within this town there is a single family that is disliked by the majority of the community for whatever reason, and when the mob went out looking for a scapegoat they decided to burn down the house of the disliked family. Seeing this, the sherif realizes he needs to hang at least one person and claim they are the robber in order to stop the nonsensical burning down of the disliked but still innocent family’s house.
This example of an immoral act being used to uphold utilitarianism is one that has been used to discount utilitarianism as ‘unjustifiable’ and sometimes makes retribution look a lot more promising. What I find very interesting about this so called objection is that there is not much of a difference between hanging an innocent man in order to quell the killing of five innocents, and killing a guilty murderer to deter the murdering of five innocents. Is it really that important that the man is guilty or not guilty? Is it not more important that the specific scenario requires his death to save the lives of many others? In order to clarify this another example of an innocent man being killed to save the lives of many others needs to be addressed. This time it will entail the same circumstanced, but the man in question is not guilty:
A gang of murderers is stationed in a ‘red light’ district in a city. They all have killed before and none of them has yet to be caught, until now. The police capture a single member of the gang and bring him in for questioning. He says that he will never disclose information about his other gang members and that they will continue killing because they believe there is no reason not to. Of course this is assuming that no other man has been given capital(strict enough) punishment in the area to deter them. The jury at the caught man’s trial decides it would be best for the society as a whole to administer capital punishment in an effort to deter future murders by the fellow gang members.
This example is an even more likely scenario than the previous one that is so commonly used against Utilitarianism, and the only element that is different in the two is the fact that on one hand the man was guilty and in the other case he was not. Here I would like to make the point that unless a man is given a punishment in an effort to change his psychology, the only other purpose for punishment that has any bearing on the ‘bettering of society’ is deterrence, and that is exactly what Utilitarianism attempts to do! There is one more example worth discussing when it comes to the deployment of Utilitarianism in a society.
In this final example an African American man lives in a town with a majority of racist Caucasians in the deep south. According to the Utilitarian principles the white majority marches on the mayors house and demands that Jim Crow laws be placed back into effect. If they were to be put back into effect, it can be argued that the (assumed racist...) white majority in the town will experience much happiness and the small black population will be ‘out weighed’ in happiness so to speak. The problem with this example being used as an opposition to Utilitarianism is that it is not a proper use of the theory!
If the mayor was to reenact the Jim Crow laws, this would have so many negative consequences that would hinder the happiness of the whole population that they are almost uncountable. Sure it may look on the surface that the white majority is ‘happier’, but are they truly ‘happier’ than the black minority are ‘sad’?
Referring to Epicurus’s Ethics:
(Ataraxia, DL VII, 128) “The aim of the blessed life is the bodies health and the soul’s freedom from disturbances.” Epicurus as well as many other philosophers(as well as modern day psychologists and psychiatrists) establish that there are different values of happiness attributed to actions. In the case of the racist community we should establish what kind of happiness the white racists were experiencing and than weigh it against the amount of pain the small black minority was experiencing. The question now is how can we tell which acts show the strongest amount of happiness, and if the racists experience anything like that when the Jim Crow laws were enforced.
To help with this question it would be helpful to refer to the Stoic doctrine on happiness:
(DL VII, 88) “The possessing and exercising virtue is (truest, deepest and strongest) happiness.” Obviously the white racists in the argument did not participate in any virtuous activity when they reinforced the Jim Crow laws. As a matter of fact they participated in an act as far from being virtuous as one can imagine. This would have to mean that the quality of the happiness they experienced was on such a low level that it couldn’t possibly outweigh that of the pain suffered by the black peoples in the community. More simply put, the racists had ‘a lot of something’ that had very little value on its own. It is easy how someone can misinterpret this scenario and believe that their happiness might outweigh that of the ones who suffered for their happiness.
Now that we have established that there truly is nothing ‘unjust’ about Utilitarianism we can continue with the discussion on the just application of punishment. Bentham says when we apply punishment to an individual or group of individuals there are certain criteria that will help to justify such punishment.
The first is that we should make sure the case presented is not ‘groundless’. A case might become groundless when the accused gave consent for the typically unjust act to be performed upon him or her. It may also be groundless if it is an act that would benefit the greater good. The last quality of a groundless case is ‘certainty of adequate compensation’. This would mean that the man who performed an evil act would have to ‘compensate’ for what he has done.
This ‘compensation’ seems awfully similar to punishment to me. I believe that having this as a requirement for a groundless case is necessarily pointless. Punishment itself is a form of compensation according to the ‘retribution theory’, so why is it that Bentham would say if this compensation is performed there is no need for (further) punishment? I suppose the only difference would be if the criminal was to accuse himself, through himself in jail and serve an entire term under his own free will. If it was punishment and not compensation, I suppose the man would have done this against his own free will. This fuzzy line between punishment and compensation only goes to prove that they are one and the same, dependant on the circumstance.
The other theory besides Utilitarianism and deterrence, is that of retribution. This view in which punishment is issued not for the greater benefit of all, but because it is a ‘just desert’. Meaning that there is a kind of unsigned(some cases more literally signed...) contract when one lives in a society. To break the law is to willfully accept punishment wether you realize it or not. This theory is one that seems to have neither an end goal nor any reason for its use. To use it practically would be to assume that it is practical for a reason. The only reason presented is to balance some kind of invisible contract that never really existed.
I cannot see how retribution is not entirely pointless, lest it have a point. So one can ask themselves what the point of retribution is. In the very first sentence in Morris’s ‘Retributive Theory of Punishment’ we can see the goal of his entire theory, and also how it’s goal is just an assumption to begin with.
(Morris, 853) “My aim is to argue for four propositions... First, that we have the right to punishment, Second, that this right is derived from the fundamental human right to be treated as a person. Third, that this right is a natural and absolute right. Fourth, that the denial of this right is the denial of all other rights as well.”
To better clarify why I disagree with his claims, let me rephrase what it is that I believe he is arguing for. He is aiming to argue for four separate propositions. First, (1)that we have the right to punishment and this is derived from the fact that we (2)should be treated as people. Why? (3)Because it is natural and absolute. Why? (4)Because the denial of this right leads to the denial of all of our other rights. This to me sounds like he doesn’t want to admit he is using Utilitarian principles! The last line, “denial of all other rights as well” can be described as the realization that without punishment there would be limited(arguably none at all) rights. Meaning simply that punishment is required to deter the unjust taking of rights, which is the outcome of Utilitarianism!
He than goes ahead and says we should be treated as ‘people’. He should realize that what is at stake here is the definition of ‘people’. He may argue for what he says is the proper definition of ‘people’, but to say that people should be treated as people is no different than saying ‘an apple should be treated as an apple’.
How should people be treated? He attempts to clarify this by saying that this right is natural and absolute. Another way of putting this is this right is only correct within the given definition of ‘personhood’. I would be willing to bet that Morris would agree that ‘satisfaction of interest’(or even simply happiness) is a fundamental property of treating someone as a person. This is what I would argue in his favor, though it is only one of the many definitions of what various people have said about how a person should be treated.
What he also doesn’t seem to understand is that this ‘treating someone as a person’ is what Utilitarians attempt to give to the most amount of people at the highest possible rate. They also avoid the problem of having to explain what a person is within it’s theory, making Utilitarianism the more rationally ‘complete’ theory in comparison to Retribution Theory.
Wether one takes Utilitarianism to be flawed or not, a paradox still comes into play when dealing with the issue of punishment. Allan H. Goldman first noticed(or should I say, noticed the first) this paradox.
“The Paradox of Punishment is that a penal institution... seems from a moral point of view to be both required and unjustified.” I only have a single problem with statement. It is that the ‘moral point of view’ specified here is a point of view focused solely on the individual and not the society. Anyone can agree that the literal act of putting a man in jail is immoral. If this were the case in the entirety of the definition of punishment, than I would have to agree there is a such a paradox as Goldman claims.
The problem with the ‘paradox’ arises when we take the point of view of a society. From this perspective we can see that putting this man in jail is a just act, if it deters other acts of harm to befall people in the future. Before it was shown that putting an innocent man in jail to deter future crimes is justified when you take the perspective of a society as a whole. It seems that when this is used in offence to Utilitarianism it is used as a ‘personal, first person’ perspective. Such as the commonly held phrase, “I personally wouldn’t want to be put in jail if I were innocent.” What one must realize is that the greater society is more important than ‘I am’ for it consists of many points of view, instead of just an individual’s. If I were to make the bold statement that my point of view is more important than that of the whole of society, I would be contradicting myself, for society as a whole benefits me individually in the broader spectrum of reality. So sure, I may be miserable if I were to be thrown in jail, but if it were for the greater good I would have to agree that it must be done and humbly pack my bags and go.
The second paradox that is presented is that of Jeffery G. Murphy. He makes the claim that,
(Murphy, 869) “Retributivism... is the only morally justified theory of punishment... and that social conditions in most societies make this form of retributivism largely inapplicable within those societies.” Wether or not Retributivism is the only morally justified theory, the problems that he says exist within the societies that make such a theory inapplicable also similarly apply to Utilitarianism’s applications.
The paradox that he poses works similarly with Utilitarianism as well. The paradox is that (in his case punishment within Retributivism, but punishment just the same) punishment is given when a bond of consent is broken, and that capitalistic societies encourage the breaking of such bonds. It is true that capitalistic societies encourage people to be ‘the best’ at whatever it is they do. The problem arises when it is only possible to better oneself by committing a crime. In a capitalistic society there is necessarily an upper class and a lower class. If there wasn’t, than everyone would have to have been born in the same class, have the same brain structure and have the same job etc.. The lower class eventually becomes ‘so low’ that it requires things that it cannot acquire legally.
To overcome this paradox I believe that a small change should happen in Capitalistic society. This is; Whenever a class of people is required to steal to survive or advance in class rank, a problem that requires correction has occurred. There is obviously one of two things going on. One, is that there is not enough natural resources to be distributed to the entirety of society. Necessarily making the society one giant poor class. The second reason for ‘survival theft’ is if the other classes in the society are greedy enough to spend their natural resources on things that do not pertain to their survival and allow the poor class to simply... get poorer.
To sum up what Murphy was attempting to say about capitalism, I would like to bring in a personal quote to further prove his point.
(Copeland Middle School, NJ, USA)“Good better best. Never let it rest. Until the good gets better, and the better gets best.”
This was the chant my middle school sang at our graduation ceremony. Only now do I look back upon it and realize there was a second part to it. “Don’t worry about compassion or the people under you. Just keep looking up until your on top and maybe someday you’ll actually be on top. Until than, good luck!”
In conclusion of this paper, I would like to say that I took an empirical, rational and above all practical (‘scientific’) approach to these theories of punishment. When accepting a scientific theory as a textbook definition, a scientist sits down and looks at all the theories presented. After realizing that there is no ‘foolproof-one hundred percent’ correct theory, he judges empirically and rationally which one works most of the time. Why could this not be used to justify social and political theories as well? It seems that they all have minor flaws, just like scientific theories do(if not now, the potential always remains) The ‘flaws’ with the represented theories of punishment are as follows: (1)Utilitarianism is very hard to use practically in a society for it compiles so many variables(if not infinite). Retributivism is based on a social contract theory, which is derived from an (2)assumption that people are selfish in nature. Communism has it’s flaws within it’s (3)lack of the potential to carry our human interests freely.
When using a scientific approach, it seems that we should not only chose the one that makes the most ‘concrete logical sense’. We should take the one that is a combination of the most practical and the most reasonable. Though Utilitarianism may be impossible to carry out to it’s fullest extent, I believe it is the most rational of the theories discussed as well as that it provides a grounds to justify punishment through deterrence.
(1)Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, vol. II, Hicks, R. D., trans. Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991)
(2)Social and Political Philosophy, Shere, George and Brody, Baruch A., Harcourt Brace College Publishers.(Rice University, 1999)
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Adam Gazdalski - Triptych Theory of Art
The problem presented in this paper is not, “what is art?” but rather, try to give more supportive ground consisting of opposing viewpoints by asking, “Why is it we argue over it’s use?” By taking an empirical-outsider’s perspective to the problem we can see three general values of art arise. The first being that of the Mimetic Theory, which says that art is merely an imitation of something real, and that the artists mimics what he or she attempts to create in his or her work. Others say that art is the evocation or stimulation of emotions and feeling in the viewer, which is sometimes called the Romantic View by art historians and artists themselves. Finally there is the view that says design is the principle aspect in art and take a Designer’s Standpoint. Why is it that all three of these are taught in art classrooms if all three of them are argued for separately as the prominent judging value of a work of art? Why is it that most visual art uses all three, and yet some still propose that if the work of art participates in one over the other than it is a ‘better’ work of art? This to me being of an empirical persuasion, leads me to believe that art is possibly a combination of all three. Dependent on the purpose of the artist at hand.
To better understand how art takes place in all three views, we should analyze them separately and hear the arguments from each standpoint. The Mimetic Theory of art is perhaps the oldest theory and classically the most upheld by artists(until recently). The very first instance of this type of art being used is in ancient cave man painting on walls. Depicting buffalo and other game animals, and eventually even humans during a hunt. These men were not depicting some deep emotional sentiment for the animals, nor were they interested much in the design and placement of the buffalo around the cave. They were simply attempting to illustrate that they knew what it was to hunt an animal, possibly using the artwork for the purpose of exclaiming that they were successful hunters to other people in their tribe.
Any element of design in these works must have come from observation. It may be argued that the ‘hunting men’ in such a picture were placed purposefully next to the buffalo in order to make it look like ‘a better picture’, possibly advocating design. This can be refuted if you look at the social and cultural aspects of such a tribe. There was no pottery as of yet and no other elements of design. The men and the buffalo were obviously drawn from the observations of the man who painted them.
Another possible argument in offense to the Mimetic Theory is the strong possibility that such an action as a ‘hunt’ was a very emotional for a cave man. This is what kept his family and himself alive. It can be seen that when this man only took a moment to decide what to draw on his cave. The one thing that kept him alive, food. In addition to food the next thing the man would depict was himself and his tribe hunting the food. Is it possible that the man drew not what he saw necessarily, but was attempting to depict the emotions that came along with the hunt? The poised figures holding the spears seem to portray tension and sometimes death, two very strong emotions for someone living in that time. The large pictures of the buffalo possibly representing a struggle to live, and the risks that need to be taken to do so.
These arguments are well and good for a man living in this age that went back in time to hunt buffalo, but the truth is that the men in the cave were simply depicting what they had seen. So in defense of Mimetic Theory, the very first artwork ever made was simply that. Mimicking the outside world. Elements of high level thinking, such as depicting emotions and a strong sense of design only came about thousands of years later(Probably design coming first on pottery). The problem with taking a mimetic standpoint today is that art today is more sophisticated, and requires a more sophisticated standpoint to fully understand and appreciate it.
What are these other standpoints? The next one is ‘Design’. There is so much evidence for design in art that one can look at any culture in history and see it. Take the very first clay pots for example. They were inscribed with ‘designs’ all over them. There may be a couple reasons for why design seems to be so evident in such a wide base of cultures. One is simply because it requires more honing of a specific sense, and less knowledge of other things besides that sense of what ‘feels’ right.
Yet design in itself can be seen as a sense. Inherit in humans and evident in all kinds of art. Music for example has scales, in which all humans can notice them with the exception of people who have some kind of hearing or intellectual disability(e.g. Randy Newman). These scales are a kind of ordering of pitches and the placement of sounds mathematically. Not only in music is this true, it can be seen in visual art as well.
Patterns... Why is it that just about every ‘clay pot’ excavated has had patterns on it? Is it because we as humans see repetition as a kind of soothing outlook on our life? A kind of control issue resolved by detaching ourselves from our chaotic life and instead relating to a pattern to get a sense of stability for even a moment? Possibly, and looking at history it seems even more evident. For an example we can look at a more modern example, for it explains this design-stability relationship a bit better than looking at the earliest examples.
A not so famous but still very successful in her own right, local painter by the name of Kathie Watters shows this psychological relation to design perfectly. Her painting of a house in Cammerata Italy contains many significant physiological elements of design. The most prominent one being repetition or patterning. When asked in an interview I took, why she had repeated so many bricks on the houses she responded, “It was because it took my mind off of other things going on in my life, and when I look back at this painting it soothes me.” This example is just one of an endless array of other artists. Everything from Jimi Hendrix and his ‘guitar as therapy’, to rave clubs in Europe. As a matter of fact, the modern ‘rave’ is a perfect example of repetition in design and it’s therapeutic effects. A constant beat that drives us. One might even say we enjoy repetition so much because our very heart repeats itself.
Now here is where one may say, ‘Not all design involves repetition!’, and they would be correct in saying so, but only to an extent. More complex designs, especially those proclaimed as ‘asymetrical’ designs sometimes don’t seem to repeat anything at all. The most prominent example is Mondrian and his colored boxes. Simple and asymmetrical, his designs seem to beg the question, “What does repetition have to do with here?” The answer is everything.
By definition, repetition is the ‘act of doing or performing again’. So to repeat ‘x’ all one has to do is say ‘x, x’. Seems simple enough, but what if ‘x’ is not something that can be repeated by copying it’s empirical attributes? What if ‘x’ was an amount of brightness in a painting, or amount of empty space vs amount of filled space? When shown in a simple example we can see how making ‘x’ an element of design rather than a physical section of the painting, we can better understand how Mondrian in fact uses repetition in a seemingly ‘non symetrical’ painting.
EXAMPLE-A ‘Repetition of what?’:
*in origional paper... there are three black boxes... each containing a white dot. The first box has a white dot in the top left corner. The next in the bottom left, and the last in the top right.
In this simple example we can see how repetition of ‘black vs white space’ can in fact be used as a form of repetition. The final step to apply this to Mondrian is to simplify our analysis to an even further extent. The simplest form of repetition is symmetry. If half of the block was black and half the block was white, the symmetry could be easily seen and would consist of the repetition of ‘the quantity of some color, or lack there of’. In the previous example of the three blocks we can see that ‘some color’ is not the only thing that can be repeated. Now the question arises, “Who’s to say that an asymmetrical picture such as a Mondrian, is not symmetrical in terms of the symmetry of an element of design?”
EXAMPLE-B ‘Symmetry of one kind, Asymmetry of another’:
*in origional paper... there is a single black box, with a white circle taking up one quarter of the box in the bottom right corner.
In this example we see an ‘empirically asymmetrical’ block, and a specifically ‘of design-element, symmetrical’ block. To eliminate confusion on how this is so I will explain how this was made. Beginning with a black rectangle, take a white circle that can fit into the rectangle and resize the circle until it ‘feels’ it is the right size. This is not some mystical process, or something that is so gravely different from person to person that it doesn’t exist as a sense. One simply uses the ‘Golden Mean’ and can determine that the white circle is pretty much exactly 25% of the entire rectangle. This is simply how design works. It is the stimulation of our ‘sense of design’. The innate feeling we all have(some more than others for whatever reasons) when something ‘fits’ in our senses. When we take a cheeseburger and put ‘just enough’ ketchup on it. When we hear a song and say, “That solo goes on for way to long man!” We all have this sense, which goes to prove that design, and furthermore symmetry(a form of repetition) is itself a highly significant element in almost all of modern art. So far does this claim go that today, ‘Design’ is a form of art in itself.
Well, we’ve come a long way from clay pots and cave paintings. So far that we are sophisticated enough to show repetition in sensibly non repetitive things(ergo design). All of these elements are well and good except for one thing, their purpose. To what end does an artist create art? Only recently has art been done ‘for arts sake’, and this view can be seen to have just as much purpose as doing art for any other reason. The purpose of ‘a more complex design’ or ‘a simple more elegant design’ or even ‘an attempt to be as chaotic and contain as little design as possible’ are just a few examples of possible purposes of an artist. All of these are purposes, but in their purpose lies the key to weather or not what is created actually is art. This purpose will be discussed after showing the final element of art. The next element can be seen well enough in an example:
No matter how many times some prankster might bring in a mound of clay to a figurative sculpting class, demanding a descent grade for his ‘abstraction of a woman’, he still fails in not creating some form of art. He failed only in the purpose of the assigned lesson in the class, but succeeded in his own comical interests, creating a work of art that stimulates our humor. (No matter what the ‘purpose’ of a work of art may be, there will always deductively be one!) This stimulation of senses(in this case ‘humor’) is the third and final aspect of all of art. I call it Evocation.
To evoke something is to draw it out, or call it forth. This can also be seen as a form of communication. Such as I can either write the word ‘Tree’ or draw you a picture. The written word ‘Tree’ evokes the remembrance of a tree(putting aside poetry for purposes of this example). May be not a specific tree, but some form of a tree non the less. The difference between simple communication and art is the fact that the drawn tree evokes something more than just a ‘some form of a tree’ in your head. It stimulates both emotion and the form of a tree. One can go so far as to say we compare our previous ‘form of a tree’ to the one presented, and therefor can judge it’s mimetic qualities. One cannot deny that any sense, any sense at all, evokes some response within us. Otherwise we would not be sensing anything at all!
Contributing elements to this ‘sensual titillation’ all stem from two things. One being the element that is the object of our sense at the moment, and two being our relation of that object to something we have previously experienced(indirectly or directly). Or more simply put, one being the object and the other a filter we impose upon it. This ‘filter’ is our own unique psychological makeup. An example of this would be a man viewing an all too often depiction of Jesus on the cross. His ‘filter’ will decide wether or not he has any memories to relate to this picture. If he is Christian and has the indirect memory of this event, he will have a very different reaction to someone who does not know who this ‘man on a cross’ is. It will evoke different emotions from person to person, from filter to filter.
This filter doesn’t have to be specific to emotions either. An art student studying design will have a better sense of design, and would enjoy a Mondrian much more than someone not educated in design. An student artist studying ‘fine art’, who has been doing representational sculpting of models for four semesters, will appreciate a fine Greek statue of a perfect human body far more than the design student.(Obviously assuming that the design student is diligent in his studies, as well as the fine art student in his). For music, a man who has been listening/studying classical music for a long period of time may not appreciate the finer poetic workings of a descent Rap artist. A Rap artist who denies himself classical music will obviously enjoy A Tribe Called Quest, much more than Beethoven. An artist may argue here that the arts are a matter of complexity, but there are countless progressive rock ballads that would out do classical compositions in complexity. I am not advocating any kind of relativism, rather showing that when each ‘art in-taker’ is stimulated by some work of art, they apply their own individual filters on them. These filters decide how much of what is evoked when sensing the artwork.
To end this paper with some kind of conclusion as to what of the three elements of art is ‘best’ or which one outweighs another would be ignorant of the fact that this is written from an outsider-observers point of view. All three of these elements exist within what we call art. In the end it is the viewers psychological filter that decides what the viewer gets out of the art, and the artists purpose that judges wether or not the art was successful in its own right. Wether discussing ‘Art’ or other vague subjects such as ‘Personhood’ there will always be countless views on what it is to be ‘x’ or not be ‘x’. The truth of the matter is that this triptych-definition of art is not the end of the line, nor will it’s line ever be complete. Hypothetically it is possible that someday humanity will develop a sense that surpasses that of ‘design’ or ‘mimicification’ or ‘evocation’. If someday that happens, there will simply be another contributing element to the grand scheme of art, and in my opinion anyone who denies themselves knowledge of any aspect of art is simply limiting themselves as either an artist or a viewer of art.
*I wrote this paper before I realized art is just... well... fancy communication... So i say to myself back in 2006'... try not to be so complicated, you end up missing the obvious answer... dumbass............
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An Analysis and Critique of the Naturalistic Fallacy
Adam J. Gazdalski
Kutztown University Philosophy Department
Adam Gazdalski 7/03/07
One of the most important and difficult questions in human history is, “Now that I am here, what do I do?” There are many views that people have come up with in order to tackle this problem. Some believe that the grand answer to, “What ought I to do?” can only be formulated either from divine influence or some guiding spiritual mental process. Others believe that we only have to look within ourselves to find this answer. The view that will be discussed in this paper is from the group of philosophers who believe that the answer to what we ought to do lies within the natural world, and we can observe this answer through posteriori data. There are many who argue for, and many who argue against, this position. David Hume first noticed a problem with deriving an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’, and postulated that it could not be done. One of the versions of the problem against the possibility of deriving what ‘ought’ from what ‘is’ is G.E. Moore’s , ‘Naturalistic Fallacy’. It states that whatever we believe is ‘good’ cannot be derived from what exists, hence creating a straightforward ethical version of the ‘is-ought problem’. In this paper I will discuss this problem, as well as show the critiques of others and a possible solution.
The Naturalistic Fallacy first came about when David Hume proposed his ‘is-ought problem’. This problem, according to Hume, can be more specifically defined as follows: If reason is considered apart from the passions that it might produce, than there is no reason for the will to act in a good or evil fashion. This produces the argument that nothing can be logically determined to be either good or bad, right or wrong, or good or evil. Not being able to determine what we ought to do from what we can experience led Hume to conclude that moral sentiment is the source of our belief in right and wrong. This moral sentiment consists of emotions and reflections and gives us a natural reason to perform willful actions. This sentiment causes us either good or painful feelings and therefore influences our moral actions naturally.
Hume himself was a naturalist and doubted that ‘matters of fact’, moral or otherwise, could be derived from reason or the natural world. A naturalist, as defined by The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is :
So understood, ‘‘naturalism’’ is not a particularly informative term as applied to contemporary philosophers. The great majority of contemporary philosophers would happily accept naturalism as just characterized-that is, they would both reject ‘‘supernatural’’ entities, and allow that science is a possible route (if not necessarily the only one) to important truths about the ‘‘human spirit’’. (Stanford)
This definition of naturalism shows that to be a naturalist one must not accept a supernatural realm where our morals come from, which Hume did not. It also poses an interesting conclusion that because of the rejection of supernatural entities, a naturalist can be thought of as a kind moral scientist.
Hume did not doubt that mathematical truths could be conceived in the mind, but as we can see, he believed that facts about the natural world could not be fully explained in the same manner:
Matters of fact, which are the second objects of human reason, are not ascertained in the same manner; nor is our evidence of their truth, however great, of a like nature with the foregoing. The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible; because it can never imply a contradiction, and is conceived by the mind with the same facility and distinctness, as if ever so conformable to reality.(Hume, Part 1, Enquiry)
To defend this view, Hume speaks of ‘cause and effect’ relationships being present in the natural world. These causes and effects are the only truths we can know about the natural world, and they are not founded upon reasoning, rather they are founded upon natural evidence of cause and effect relationships:
Hume said that, “I say then, that, even after we have experience of the operations of cause and effect, our conclusions from that experience are not founded on reasoning, or any process of the understanding. This answer we must endeavor, both to explain and to defend.”(Enquiry, pg. 32)
Hume, being a naturalist himself, felt it necessary to find a source of morality that actually exists in the natural world, and yet doesn’t have to fall prey to his ‘is ought problem’. Using empirical evidence of the causes of human behavior, one can see that where there is morality there seems to be a kind of moral sentiment involved with the situation. Hume saw that most of the time when someone is asked why they did a ‘good deed’ they respond with, “because it feels right.” These kinds of feeling derived morals are also examined by sociobiologists.
One of the prominent defenders of sociobiology is Edmund Wilson. Edmund Wilson exclaims that sociobiology is, “the systematic study of the biological basis of all forms of social behavior.”(Wilson, Stanford Encyclopedia) This is important for Hume’s naturalistic approach, because it attempts to prove that feelings come from within us biologically. It then follows that morals come from the biological functions of feelings in the natural world. What we ought to do becomes, in a way, what is. Though Hume believes his moral sentiment theory is consistent, one might still ask why we should follow such moral sentiment. Once again we can see why the ‘ought’ is so hard to obtain when we continue to question why we should be moral.
For an example of the ‘is-ought problem’ in action we will use the classic example of a child stuck in a well. In this case a man approaches a well when he hears the cries of a child from within. The child says he is stuck and cannot get out of the well. To complicate things a little bit, the man is also on his way to a card game with his friends, but he is running late. He knows they will begin without him, so he pauses and thinks about his situation for a moment. Here we can see immediately that the man would have to make a moral decision. Should he save the child and miss his card game?
According to Hume, this example is showing how the man’s decision would be made due to his moral sentiment toward the child, or his rather greedy sentiment toward himself and his earnings in the card game. The decision the man would have to make would end up being based upon which of the two sentiments was the stronger one. If he felt more sentimental towards himself, he would choose the card game. If he felt his stomach turning when he passed the child, he would save the child.
Hume further discusses the implications of his problem by proving that good and bad, and pleasant and unpleasant are indistinguishable. He states that because he believes that reason can not be alongside our will, it can not therefore be the source of our ideas of good and evil. This makes it that no rule or principle can be intrinsically good or evil. He specifically says that:
“Goods and ills must all be pleasures and pains of one sort or another,”(Hume, 1978, p. 439). We can make the conclusion here that because Hume discounts all rational bases of morality, that he is taking an empirical approach. When a good deed is performed it is usually to benefit something or someone by relieving pain or causing pleasure. When a bad deed is performed it is to harm or to cause pain to something or someone.
Though Hume argues that deeds are done because of moral sentiment, is it not possible that our moral sentiment is triggered by our morality? For example, if a man who is generally more interested in his own welfare approaches a crying baby, he might be indifferent. The almost universally accepted moral act of attending to a crying child does not produce a positive emotional response in the man. This man could possibly be dubbed an immoral person by someone who would get pleasure from the act. According to Hume, this man was either confused in his moral sentiment, or, if somehow he wasn’t, his ‘moral action’ cannot be held for most people and therefore can be discounted as a ‘decent’ moral.
Another example of an argument against morals coming about from emotions or pleasure and pain is the “Do your chores!” example. Everyone at one point in their life has had to do what they believed was what they ought to have done, and yet did not actually enjoy doing it. Why did they do it if not for their own pleasure? Hume, when speaking of moral sentiment, was not ignoring the fact that duty is (can be) part of morality. Duty itself is described as a ‘necessary action’ for some ends or another. Hume would argue here that the duty of doing your chores will be sentimentally driven because you did not want to ‘make your mom upset’ or because if you had cleaned the kitchen you wouldn’t have gotten sick. Of course if one enjoyed the simple act of being moral, then it is arguable that doing a disliked task does not outweigh the fact that it is in the long run, a morally just action. Also it is possible that we believe such acts are moral simply because we have been told they are many times. To do an act just because you were told many times however, is to not see the positive ends to your act (or at least not understand them), and therefore you would not be doing the act for the sake of good morals. You would only be doing it out of habit due to psychological conditioning.
Hume addresses the problem that some moral actions do not produce pleasure by saying that if you stray from your duty, it would cause you pain. He seems to be confident that there is more than simply experience (whether or not the experience is the cause of morals.) involved, because, if this were true, then all of reality would be limited to our senses and memory, which Hume does not believe. He discusses non-selfish actions by referring to examples that include loved ones and how certain circumstances involving loved ones gives us a purpose to do moral deeds other than just for the sake of morality. In other words, instead of doing it for its intrinsic ‘goodness’, one can perform moral deeds for selfish reasons. One of the greatest examples of this is the fear of Hell. Many fundamentalist Christians base their faith on the fear of hell or the wrath of a god. Obviously, this can not be a logical or empirical reason for our morals to exist lest they are completely based on our own selfishness.
Hume was now faced with this problem: Even if morals came from our emotions, which come from our perceptions, was it the immediate perception that caused the action to be of moral significance? Or was it from something that we feel when we remembered or thought about them? His conclusion is that moral ideas are neither from objects or their relations present in our mind. For Hume, morality would only count as objective if the proposed moral action was moral or immoral before, and independently of, the reflection on them, and from any feeling that might arise in such reflection.
Hume makes an important remark regarding the consciousness of a moral action, if it were derived from the natural world. Does one need to be aware that the action they are taking is immoral in order to have performed the immoral action? If this were not true, then sharks could be held morally responsible for killing a human. Of course it could be argued that humans were committing the immoral action of invading their territory, or the fact that sharks need to eat and the human might have been easy prey, but the fact of the matter is that the shark has no sense of morals and therefore cannot perform a moral or immoral action.
An interesting fact about Hume’s ideas is that not only do moral values not come from reason, but that reason never actually controls any of our wills at all. In an incite full review of Hume’s argument, Bran Blanshard exclaims that: “Hume is assuming in his argument that reason in fact never does move the will, and he assumes this on the strength of evidence given in his book on the passions... unless this often questioned and somewhat questionable premise is true, the argument obviously fails”(Blanshard, p.83). Here we can see the premise that the rest of Hume’s argument is based on. Which is whether or not reason has anything to do with our wills. If this argument is not correct, Hume further goes to tell us that it would be absurd to say so.
By saying that ‘rightness’ is due to reason, it follows that rightness is truth. This he says, proves that rightness cannot come from reason. Reason deals with only propositions that are either true or false. This would make all rightness necessarily true or false, but what would we base it’s truth value on? It helps us to know that rightness has a true and false value, but it still doesn’t explain how we know what is true and what is false.
So is morality residing in the relation of external objects that can be discovered by our reason? For Hume, reason consists either in knowledge of the relations of objects or the belief of a fact that is derived from another fact, such as in mathematics. If it was not true that 1+1=2, it would not hold true that 2-1=1. If a rock was on top of a table, one could use reason to distinguish the true and false statements that “the rock is not below the table,” and “the rock is on the table”.
Hume attacks the first of these examples by showing that resemblance, degrees in quality and their proportions in quantity, are incapable of distinguishing moral and immoral. Sure, an act might be arguably more or less moral than something else, but unless we first define the premise of ‘morality’ as a whole we cannot distinguish the two. This is just like how we would be unable to do so with degrees in mathematics.
Hume admits that even if there was a knowable relation of objects that we derive morality from, he does not know what it is. Although he goes on to say that if there was, it would have to fulfill two conditions that are seemingly impossible to meet.
Firstly, to be a knowable and still be a completely moral relation, it can only be relating two types of objects: those internal and those external to the mind. Otherwise, the actions of the mind alone could be moral or immoral. Also, if it were not so, then deeds without any mental action would be held moral and immoral. Hume still thought, though, that this relation of ideas seemed impossible to realize to its fullest extent.
Secondly, if the relationship somehow became known to us, it would still have to be demonstrated by the one who understands it to determine the will, which sounds more or less devine that human.
Hume concluded that: "by the simple consideration of the objects," since "all beings in the universe, considered in themselves, appear entirely loose and independent of each other. 'It is only by experience we learn their influence and connection; and this influence we ought never to extend beyond experience”(Hume). Because relations of objects are nothing beyond our experience of them, it seemed to Hume that relations of moral experience allow for the existence of morals that come out of the natural world.
Because Hume was a firm believer that our values do not come from either a ‘non natural’ world or from our reason alone, it might be said that moral relativism or moral skepticism are our only two options left. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, moral skepticism is defined as:
A diverse collection of views that deny or raise doubts about various roles of reason in morality. Different versions of moral skepticism deny or doubt moral knowledge, justified moral belief, moral truth, moral facts or properties, and reasons to be moral.(Stanford)
In other words, it is the grouping of view points that doubt just about all moral knowledge if not all of it. I believe that by calling a moral theory a theory, it follows that it is fallible. This would lead one to see that no matter what moral theory they choose, there is always room for skepticism. So in a way, Hume’s position does lead us to skepticism, but it is a natural consequence of any moral theory, unless it is dubbed a moral law.
Moral relativism, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is:
The term ‘‘moral relativism’’ is understood in a variety of ways. Most often it is associated with an empirical thesis that there are deep and widespread moral disagreements and a metaethical thesis that the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to some group of persons. Sometimes ‘‘moral relativism’’ is connected with a normative position about how we ought to think about or act towards those with whom we morally disagree, most commonly that we should tolerate them.
I believe that moral relativism is not a consequence of Hume’s position. Although I agree skepticism might be an implication of Hume’s position, I believe that anything that is held as a theory must have some degree of skepticism lest it be a law of nature. Relativism in itself is not flawed, rather it is another way of putting an anarchist view of morality. A moral relativist will claim that all groups, cultures or countries (etc.) of people are right in their morals no matter what they may be. What a moral relativist doesn’t realize is that by saying this he is contradicting himself. By posing the scenario of a group of people on an island who do not believe in relativism, we can see how this group does and does not participate in relativism. Anything that participates in ‘X’ and does not participate in ‘X’, is logically impossible.
There is another problem with moral relativism. The problem lies in it’s inability to distinguish between two independent groups of people with differing morals. Aside from the most tightly knit groups of people with very strict moral structures, we can see that most people today have a customized set of morals that arise from their own personal experiences. How does a relativist show that a group of people who are atheist, disagree with each other on a particular issue? How does a relativist explain how one man might have his very own set of moral values unlike anyone else in the world? Does this man represent his own group? The man would represent his own group, and would be right in doing whatever it is he wanted to, according to the moral relativist. This leads to full fledged anarchy, which denies the existence of any morals whatsoever. I believe this makes relativism not a moral theory, rather a theory in which morals do not exist at all. If a scientific theory denied the natural world, I do not believe it would be called a scientific theory. So why should moral relativism even be classified amongst moral theories? Even if a moral relativist was to say that an individual does not count as a group, he would have to admit the gray areas between groups do exist, and that determining such groups in a black and white manner is impossible.
The ‘is-ought problem’ was eventually turned into the modern day Naturalistic Fallacy by G.E. Moore. According to Moore, anyone who states anything as good or evil, or right or wrong, because of observations made of the natural world, has committed the naturalistic fallacy. The ‘child in the well’ example commits this fallacy no matter what decision the man makes, as long as he uses the empirical evidence of the natural world to justify his decision.
The man might say something along the lines of, “I saved the child because I have seen other good people make such decisions, and in doing the action of a good person, it makes my decision the ‘right’ one to do.” This has two large problems. One is that he assumes the person he saw making a similar decision was actually a ‘good’ person. Two is that the decision in his case was the exact same decision that the ‘good’ man made.
He makes the claim that if anyone was to express ‘x’ as good, it could be reconfigured to say ‘x’ is acceptable or ‘x’ is pleasurable. In his Ethics Moore states; “My report that I approve of x and your report that you disapprove of it can be both true”(Ethics 58-61). This leads Moore to make the claim that moral properties are only explained and analyzed in other moral terms. Here I would like to add that this kind of reasoning can be applied to many subjects. If one was to say that the use of magic in Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings was only explainable in magical terms, would this not prove that magic exists just as much as Moore’s justification of morals existing? I believe that both Tolkien’s magic, as well as morals, do not actually exist as something tangible in the natural world, but rather they are actions that are taken by physical conscious agents. For the ‘magic’, the agents would only be in the possible world of Tolkien. If an object is moral, it must be expressed as an object participating in a moral action.
The Naturalistic Fallacy has posed many problems to naturalists and non-naturalists alike. It is a problem that many believe has no answer. Although, like any great theoretical problem, it is wise to consult other theories to begin working your way around it. Before posing my own solution, let’s look at others who have attempted to tackle the fallacy.
One man, who’s student was no other than Moore himself, was Henry Sidgwick. Hume’s ‘is-ought problem’ and Sidgwick may have led Moore straight into the naturalistic fallacy. In his Method of Ethics, we can see Sidgwick’s take on how he attempts to avoid the issue of the fallacy:
I have thought that the predominance in the minds of moralists of a desire to edify has impeded the real progress of ethical science: and that this would be benefitted by an application to it of the same disinterested curiosity to which we chiefly owe the great discoveries of physics. It is in this spirit that I have endeavored to compose the present work: and with this view I have desired to concentrate the reader's attention, from first to last, not on the practical results to which our methods lead, but on the methods themselves. I have wished to put aside temporarily the urgent need which we all feel of finding and adopting the true method of determining what we ought to do; and to consider simply what conclusions will be rationally reached if we start with certain ethical premises, and with what degree of certainty and precision. (Sidgwick, 1907)
This clearly shows that Sidgwick thought the fallacy encroached on anyone
who attempted to adopt a, ‘true method of what we ought to do’. What Sidgwick attempts to do in his book is filter out as many of the other ethical theories of his time that he could, and attempt to see where they conflict and where they are similar, in order to find an overall understanding between them. In order to get around the fallacy, he takes a route where he believes he won’t have to deal with it. This, as his student Moore pointed out, does not entirely work.
Sidgwick was also specifically worried about the scientific implications of his time that attacked the commonly held beliefs, religions and ethics of his time. Sidgwick never tells us concretely what we ought to do. What he does come up with is what he calls a ‘method’ of finding out what we ought to do. Because he had consulted previous ethical theories to come up with his method, you have to consult some of those principles either directly or indirectly to understand his as well.
It ends up that Sidgwick relies heavily on an indivisible and universal principle of reasoning in order to justify what we ought to do, but doesn’t seem to come up with a concrete answer to what this principle is. By dismissing “moral faculty,” he seems to leave such a term up to debate. For Sidgwick there is something that is right in a moral situation and we ought to do this ‘right thing’. ‘Right’ and ‘ought’ become one and the same, and he believes this notion can be found in the natural world. His very general notions of what is right and what we ought to do are further defined as irreducible naturalistic terms.
Sidgwick tried very hard to appeal to as many forms of ethics as possible and find a method that would reach a universally agreed upon answer. He was mistaken in thinking he was so impartial, as seen when he speaks of “ought” or “right” as irreducible naturalistic terms.
This view was upheld by Moore, who declared Sidgwick’s view as untouched by the “naturalistic fallacy.” We can now see where Moore came up with what he thought was the solution to the fallacy, which was that if you state the most basic moral principle as an irreducible naturalistic term, it can conceivably exist naturally (like ‘oneness’ or ‘existence’ does). Due to this way of thinking, Sidgwick was forced to abandon his notions of empiricism and that our will is motivated by our reason, as opposed to the common view that our reason is motivated by our wills. This also lead him to reject the more hedonistic claims of “reason to satisfy our will.”
Sidgwick was also greatly influenced by Emanuel Kant. Kant’s idea of moral ought and goodness seemed to have a direct influence on Sidgwick’s conclusion of what we ‘will to do’ stemming from what we ‘ought to do’. Along with being influenced by Joseph Butler, Sidgwick came to realize that there exists other actions than those that were selfishly derived. Although Sidgwick was influenced by Kant, he still held that certain elements beyond simply pure reason can account for what we ought to do. This is a far different thing to say than anything that could be said of Kantian ethics.
One thing worth mentioning about the Naturalistic Fallacy is that its name is very misleading. It is neither Naturalistic necessarily, nor is it actually a logical fallacy. The problem of determining a right and wrong action is not a fallacy, rather it is an enthymeme. This is when a conclusion or a premise in an argument is not expressed. In the case of the explanation that the man in the previous example had given as a reason to save the child in the well, we can see that he does not have a premise to his argument. He argues that he has a conclusion, when he states that he had seen what he believed to be good men doing such acts in the past, but as we have seen this premise is lacking in the defining of a ‘good’ man. To better define this lack of premise it might be wise to rename the Naturalistic Fallacy something along the lines of “The Grand Ethical Enthyeme”. For the problem at hand I will still refer to the Naturalistic Fallacy as Moore intended.
Moore particularly states that naturalists commit this fallacy. A Naturalist is someone who believes that ethical practices are derived from natural data. An example of a naturalist might be a scientist who believes that he does not kill innocent people because it would threaten his species.
According to Moore, these naturalists are necessarily committing the fallacy, and I believe that this is technically true when put in Moore’s terms. The definition of a naturalist seems to be close, if not exactly, the definition of someone who commits the naturalistic fallacy. Although it seems naturalists are the only ones who commit the fallacy, there are others as well who try to determine moral laws from seemingly observed data.
Even though Moore names the fallacy naturalistic, he admits that there are other practices that are not naturalistic but still commit the fallacy. One of the practices that he states particularly is that of metaphysical ethics that believe ethical properties such as good and evil exist not in this reality, but in what he calls a “supersensible reality”. For example, an argument that considers ‘goodness’ a command by God and accepts that God exists outside of nature, comes to the conclusion that goodness must therefore exist in the realm of God outside of natural reality. This realm of God becomes part of the natural reality in this way and falls subject to the fallacy as well. Even if it does not, then morals only exist in supersensible reality where we are not. This would conclude that we do not have any morals in our reality.
Moore comes up with his own version of non-naturalism because of the Naturalistic Fallacy. Two of the main topics of moral realism and autonomy of ethics were not specifically Moore’s own ideas. Although they had been around when he wrote his own, Moore did contribute two unique aspects of his own moral theory that stem directly from the Naturalistic Fallacy.
Firstly, his conception of ‘goodness’ indicates that it is simple and unanalyzable both in moral and non-moral terms. One can see how this view would come about if you considered your definition of good to involve the word ‘ought’ and ‘be’ about what we ‘ought to do’. Instead of Hume’s view of what we ought to do consisting of what we find desire in, Moore took the stance that what is good can be defined as what one ought to desire. He specifically says in Principia Ethica that ‘good’ and ‘ought’ are just about interchangeable. Saying that one ‘ought to do x’ is no different than to say one ‘x will produce the most good possible’(Principia Ethica, 76-77). The problem with saying this is simple. It fails the open question argument test. To say “one ought to do what will produce the most good,” now becomes “one will produce the most good by producing the most good.” Therefore, Moore argues in his later works that ‘ought’ is a distinct moral property other than ‘good’ and yet he still says that ‘good’ is a simple concept.
It may seem hard to say that goodness, when compared to desire and ‘ought’ is a simple property, but, according to Moore, any judgement that describes the goodness of something is not just a kind of shorthand for how we should respond to it, but are independent moral judgments that help further explain why we ought to respond.
Moore’s second unique point he makes in Principia Ethica is that the intrinsic value of a state of affairs only need depend on its own properties that are apart from any possible relations of other states. This would allow for a term such as good to exist only within its own definition, allowing for a possible non-naturalist solution.
So if the term ‘good’ is unknowable by empirical evidence, then how do we know what we ought to do? According to Moore, terms such as good exist not in the natural world, but do not not exist all together. He believes there is a non-natural metaphysical realm in which these terms exist. If this is true, how do we, who live and interact in the natural world, connect to these terms? Moore states that we seem to have some unknowable faculty of intuition that allows us to relate them to the natural world. His explanation, using metaphysics, is sharply debated and does not seem to provide us with a sensible non-naturalism.
To combat the metaphysical ‘complaints’, he later says in Principia Ethica that goodness exists as numbers exist. They have ‘being’ but do not exist, so to speak. If one was to believe that morals were completely intuitive, for every moral proposition that is ‘true’, we can think of a ‘false’ one as well (Principia Ethica 36, 193). By claiming that goodness is self evident, he goes so far as to say, “the right is always what most promotes the good”(112). This again falls subject to the ‘goodness as goodness’ argument previously presented, and can be rephrased as, “the good is always what promotes the most of itself.” This does not explain what good is, rather it assumes we know what it is, and that we should do the most good we can.
Moore establishes moral truths by taking judgements that can be made at many different levels about the natural world but at the same time must be brought to a whole, or apply to everything and everyone. The problem here lies in the fact that any non-naturalist claim like his faces the problem of explaining how certain truths about the natural world exist independently of it. Also, that these truths are knowable by non-empirical means. Is this coherent? If we were to say that goodness does not exist in the natural world, how does a natural being come to understand goodness at all? This might possibly be a contradiction unless one holds goodness to be just a property of natural things and not a natural thing itself.
The term ‘goodness’ is a property and sometimes behaves like other properties. To better understand what kind of property it is, we should compare it to another physical property. There are many examples of properties that are spoken of as natural entities and even spoken about as if they really were objects in the natural world. Take the term ‘tall’ for example. It is completely possible to speak of tall buildings and tall people, but is it possible to see ‘tall’ without an agent that it is a property of? To say that ‘goodness’ does not exist in the natural world is not to say that things in this world do not participate in goodness, rather goodness is a property of the actions that they might take. One view holds that ‘tall’ exists in our world as a property of natural objects, and the other says that ‘tall’ exists in a
metaphysical world that natural objects seem to magically attune themselves to.
It might seem that ‘tall’ and ‘goodness’ are no different when speaking of how they effect the natural world, but there is a significant difference. Compare two buildings where one is obviously smaller than the other. By use of your sight, you can make the judgment that one is taller than the other. You can even measure the two and subtract the difference. This is where ‘goodness’ has problems when compared to an easily measurable natural property such as tallness.
A note that is sometimes overlooked in Moore’s ethics (or meta-ethics) is that it relied heavily on the reduction of concepts. Moore, in Principia Ethica,, originally stated that there existed only one ethical concept, which was ‘good’. He later concluded, with the help of the current times he was living in and the necessity to explain ‘ought’ as a different term than good, that there were only two concepts that could not be reduced. They were ‘ought’ and ‘good’.
When attempting to show that anything at all exists in the natural world, it is helpful to consult physicalism. Physicalism is a similar, yet broader, thesis that encounters such problems as the Naturalistic Fallacy. The Naturalistic Fallacy might attempt to find out if it is possible to derive an ‘ought from an is’, but how would we know this if we do not know what ‘is’ is? Physicalism arguably helps describe what exists in the natural world and what does not. What physicalism tells us is that the actual world, that truly exists, conforms to the condition of being physical. They do not deny that certain aspects about the world might not seem physical, but insist it to be wholly physical. This has implications for Hume’s moral sentiment argument, and supports his premise of moral sentiment existing in the natural world as a natural entity.
Physicalism is sometimes called materialism. Materialism can be defined as the view that everything that exists in the natural world, or exists at all, is matter itself. Materialism runs into problems when it attempts to explain phenomena like gravity and elements of physics. This is similar to the problems one faces when defining good in the natural world. In the case of the physicalists, gravity can be compared to good and physical reality as the natural world. The fact is that we can see evidence of gravity, but cannot specifically explain it in natural terms, because it does not exist as a natural form independent of the objects it is effecting. We can see evidence of people’s actions being controlled by what they call ‘good’, but cannot explain ‘good’ in natural terms, as if it were a natural object. What we can see is that natural objects are effected by this term ‘good’, and also that it seems to have a causal relation with moral sentiment.
Moore seems to attack only shallow words such as good and ought, and steers clear of concepts like love and respect and other complex moral agents. Moore would take a concept such as courage and reduce it to both its core and the other ‘less important’ parts of the concept, and separate them to try to get at a true definition of what is good. He had a problem with reducing the smaller, already reduced terms. Which brings me to a point I would like to make about terms that look as if they are entirely reduced, such as goodness.
Once a term is reduced to its simplest form, is it possible for it to exist naturally regardless of it’s meaning? Goodness may have been the struggle that the Naturalistic Fallacy seems to tackle fairly well, but what of other reduced terms? Take a term that exists naturally, such as ‘pyramid’. This is a natural term only if we are referring to a natural pyramid, such as the ones in Egypt, so we will accept it for being such a term for this example. We can use reductionism to reduce a natural pyramid to something along the lines of ‘being a three dimensional object composed of four triangular sides that exists in the natural world.’
Here is where we reach our final reduction, using something like set theory to determine that a pyramid is made up of a set of four (sets of) three-sided faces, all connected and existing in the natural world. This term ‘one’ seems to be the core element of all the mathematics and geometry to develop a decent definition of a pyramid. Now let us analyze the term ‘one’, as one would analyze ‘good’. Does ‘one’ exist? This question comes about the same way the term ‘good’ comes about, and also falls into a kind of naturalistic fallacy.
The next point I would like to make is that we see evidence of both ‘one’ and ‘good’ in the natural world, but not ‘one’ and ‘good’ independently of natural objects. To say that either of them do not exist in either a natural world or a metaphysical world because of the fact that they are just properties and not objects is to treat them as objects.
So why is it more difficult to say something is ‘good’ compared to saying that something is participating in being ‘one’? What ends up being the answer is due to good being a property that relies on a situation. For example, you can say something is good for one person, and bad for another, but if you say something is ‘one’ you cannot say it is not ‘one’ from someone else’s perspective. Because ‘good’ must be a universal ‘ought’, according to Moore, it must function as the term ‘one’ does, and there can not be any disagreement from differing perspectives. This means that ‘good’ requires an ‘ends’ to its ‘means’. Hypothetically, let’s assume cows are conscious and rational beings for this example. It may be a ‘good’ thing for a human to eat a hamburger, but it might be a terrible thing for a cow. Either way it is just ‘one’ hamburger. So what ‘ends’ does ‘good’ need to make it universally accepted by rational beings?
Is it possible that ‘goodness’, when spoken of in moral terms, is relative? Does this mean that relativism finally prevails? Not necessarily. Just because one ‘thing’ might be good for one person and bad for another, does not mean that there are ‘good’ things that transcend all natural things. The simplest of which, is existence. For any natural thing to exist, it must not-not exist naturally. One might conclude that it is ‘good’ for natural things to exist. Now we are faced with the problem of finding a ‘goodness’ that transcends all natural and conscious agents. Sure it might be ‘good’ for a chair to exist in order for it to be a chair, but that chair cannot decide whether it exists or not.
This is where conscious actions come into play. When a conscious action takes place, it is done by a conscious being who is conscious of the action he is taking. Deciding whether or not our actions are conscious ones, is a problem of knowing our selves well enough to know who we really are, as well as believing we have free will. This makes for an interesting scenario when those kinds of actions are taken into consideration. A rock that falls off a cliff and kills a man is not guilty of murder, but if another man throws the rock, he might be guilty. So in order to find out if a conscious action of a conscious being is ‘good’ or not we need to find some kind of universal ‘ends’ to the good that is present.
Examples of ends to natural acts of goodness come from religion, philosophies, emotions and desires. Now we have to decide which one of these is the proper reason to do the good and to uphold it. Because ‘good’ needs a ‘reason’, to exist as the property it is, we can see why religions and philosophies are so important for anyone who believes they are either moral or immoral.
The Naturalistic Fallacy is more an attack on reductionism than simply naturalistic views. It also looks at the point that all ethical beliefs stemming from vocabulary such as good and evil are required to define good and evil, therefore making them necessarily reductionist in order to uphold their point of view. I believe this problem is present for ethical arguments, but is also similar to the common problem of identity that exists for any property of anything in the natural world.
There is another example of describing reduced universals that shows a difference in kinds of universally fully reduced terms. The words ‘beauty’ and ‘ugliness’ have a similar problem that ‘good’ and ‘evil’ have. They both do not exist independently of the objects they are describing in the real world. This means that they require a definition that works universally. The only difference, once again, is the ends to such terms. Aside from questioning what pleasure truly is, we can see that this definition is generally more obvious than that of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Although in this case, which is different than the case of ‘tall’, beauty can be seen as relative in the same way that goodness can be seen. This is because the ends to good and evil are what we ought and what we ought not to do, and beauty and ugliness are what we ought to look (hear etc.) at and what we ought not to look at.
Moore attempts to argue against the nature of the word ‘good’ through what he calls the “Open Question Argument”. What this consists of is the question that lies open when a statement is made such as, “X is Y” where Y is a moral predicate. One can always assert that X exists but can always question whether or not this X is Y. Whether or not ‘goodness’ is a natural property, or consists of a grouping of natural properties, is in this way open to questioning.
To reverse the analysis with an assumed knowledge that X truly is Y, we can not question whether X is X or not, because it logically must be, even though he admits that even his definition falls to the Open Question Argument. He even ends up reducing righteousness to goodness, but fails to no longer be able to question goodness itself.
Now, I would like to pose my own possible solution to the Naturalistic Fallacy. It seems that Hume and Moore both attempt to take the term ‘good’ as an object rather than a property. This is his first mistake. Of course properties cannot be seen aside from the evidence of their existence, when actual natural objects participate in them. To argue over whether properties exist naturally or not, because they cannot be seen independently of natural objects, is futile when attempting the argument of what a conscious and rational animal ought to do with its life.
The next evident problem in many naturalistic views is that they assume this term ‘goodness’ has a fixed identity throughout all time. It is possible that this term can have a meaning that changes with time and yet does not allow for relativist claims of good being ‘anything’. There may be infinite possible definitions of the word ‘good’, but what the term ‘good’ is describing in our world is independent of its current label of ‘good’. The term itself would also require an ‘ends’ to it, such as ‘ought’ or ‘wrath of god’. In my own opinion I believe ‘existence of consciousness’ is the most vital ends for any rational and conscious being in any natural world, and even for the existence of ethics itself.
A possible problem with ‘existence of consciousness’ is whether our own existence be weighed against that of another consciously rational being. Is one man’s existence more important than another? I believe that by saying ‘existence of consciousness’ I did not state that the consciousness had to be that of a single individual. We should strive to allow all instances of an existing conscious to exist (for it would give consciousness a better chance to survive through higher instances of it existing), and those instances should do the same, otherwise they would be attempting to not exist and be taken out of the picture entirely.
Assuming I am a conscious and rational being most of the time, I cannot see a better ends to our oughts than the survival of our own conscious existence. With ‘existence of consciousness’ acting as a universal maxim, it acts as the ‘ends’ of our ‘oughts’. This existence is for now my best possible solution to my oughts, and I must allow for a possible change in the future, lest I fall victim to the same problem that any theory has when it is exclaimed as concrete. It becomes a fact or natural law and not a theory at all. Rather it should become an assumption that I would have to believe was the best possible solution at this time. We must think of ethical properties such as goodness in theoretical terms, as scientific theories, are and also think of them as properties, not as actual natural objects. Science is grounded in naturalism, so when stating a naturalistic ethical theory does it not make sense to treat it as a scientific theory?
This can be seen as a kind of Scientific Naturalism, where our ‘ought’ is derived from ‘existence of consciousness’, and can be viewed as the conservation of a property of natural things and must exist within those natural things in order to exist at all. It also makes logical sense in order to satisfy those who cannot believe properties exist naturally, for this property of existence applies to logic as well. The logical form of my conclusion can be simply stated as; To ‘P’, or not to ‘P’? ‘P’ being ‘existence’, one must ‘P’ in order to not ‘P’, but one cannot ‘P’ if one does not ‘P’, so as mine as well ‘P’. Now we can see why we ‘ought’ to ‘P’. “‘Oughting to ‘P’, being ‘goodness’, therefore we ‘ought to do goodness’.
The Naturalist form of my conclusion can be seen as Naturalist because it derives its ‘best possible solution’ from observing the interactions of conscious agents in the natural world. By seeing that morals themselves require a conscious agent, we can take the conscious agents in the natural world (humans etc.) and realize that without them there would be no morals at all. This follows that we must strive to keep conscious beings existing, otherwise we toss out all conceptions of morals. Therefore, we ought to do goodness, which is ‘to keep the existence of consciousness’ existing in the natural world, because without conscious agents, not only would ethics cease to exist, but we would fail exist as well.
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