Monday, 12 April 2010

Why consider others when you don’t need to?

71 comments

Kip has replied to my post Why consider all desires that exist?  which was a response to some emailed questions from him. There are three parts to his reply and I will only address the last part in this post, which is the most important issue.

Kip says:

Group A may have very many prudential reasons for ignoring the desires of Group B -- or perhaps they just don't have any prudential reasons to consider the desires of Group B. In other words, none of their desires will be fulfilled by considering the desires of Group B. Or, perhaps even, more of their desires will be thwarted by considering the desires of Group B.

So, without begging the question, why should Group A consider the desires of Group B, if 1) more of their desires will be fulfilled by not considering them, and 2) Group B has no way of influencing the desires of Group A (though force or social tools).

The impression is that Kip considers this an objection to (at least some aspect of) Desirism but this is no objection at all.

Consider, that for the above situation, anyone and everyone who has any moral theory in the world agrees with the desirist analysis (whether they are aware of it or not).

That is moral realists, desire-based or otherwise, reductive and non-reductive naturalists and non-natural intuitionists all agree. Normatively consequentialists, utilitarian and non-utilitarian, deontologists (duty-based ethics) and aretists (virtue-based ethicists) all agree to the same conclusion too.  Similarly subjectivists, including divine command theorists might agree. And non-cognitivists too, whether of the emotive, expressive or universally prescriptive variety also agree.

The issue of inter-theoretical disagreement, that one group’s reasoning to the right conclusion in this situation is no guarantee that their (claimed) fallacious reasoning might work in others is not relevant. Nor too is any dispute over whether there are objective grounds or not to come to this conclusion. Subjectivists agree regardless.

Now Group A in defence – if they ever hear or allow such criticisms of their position – might answer as moral nihilists – hence any such criticism have no force. Or they they might take the position of normative relativists – this is the way we do things here and no-one else has any grounds to judge them otherwise. Or, more likely they prevent – suppress, censor and hide -such criticism and basically ignore them.

What then? The whole world agrees that Group A’s practices are “wrong”, their values are “bad”, they “should not” continue as they are.

The world can try and use the social forces of condemnation – published and vocal criticism of Group A in the media and the internet - and social punishment such as refusing to buy from them or through more formal trade sanctions... and still Group A can  belligerently carry on and choose to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.

At this point the issue is beyond morality per se and to do with international law (if that can even be said to exist), just war and so on. Now there are ethical issues underlying these but they are different now to the original challenge posed by Kip.

One can all too easily think of international examples that do conform to the above – although people might very well disagree over the examples e.g. The first Iraq War had a large amount of cross-cultural agreement, the latest Afghanistan far less so and that second Iraq War it was virtually non-existent. But feel free to disagree such a characterisation as just presented.

The point is what action is to be taken or actions to refrain from taking are beyond the type of moral considerations here. Yes there are different moral issues over further actions but that is a different issue to the question that Kip asked and I answered.

So this is not an objection to desirism, rather it is an objection that could be raised against any and all ethical analysis of the relation between Group A and Group B. That is the issue is nothing specific to Desirism per se. It is part and parcel of the inherent limitations of any institution of morality.

One of the challenges of the institutions of morality is to create a world where Group A/Group B situations do not occur, where they are inhibited and discouraged from occurring in the first place, where such scenarios are prevented. That is an ongoing effort and one of the reasons why searching for the provisionally best ethical models is worthwhile and important, to help make the world a better place for everyone.

71 comments:

Charles said...

Here is what I take from your post. If you lack the desire to be moral, then desirism has nothing at all to say about what you should to do, it merely describes what you will do. However, if you have as one of your desires, “I want to be a good person,” then desirism says what you should do to realize the state of affairs where “I am a good person” is true.

Is that about right?

faithlessgod said...

Hi Charles

This post was addressed to a particular concern of Kip's. However the question you ask is more basic, to which the same post title would still apply.

Why should one be a morally good person? Well if the social forces of praise and condemnation, reward and punishment are coherently and consistently applied - on a rationally and empirically grounded basis - by oneself and others this will serve to modify one's and other's desires such that all our desires - whatever they are, whatever ther targets of those desires are - will also tend to fulfil and not tend thwart other desires (or at least be less likely to).

Desirism is about identifying those desires that tend (indirectly and directly) to fulfil other desires and those that tend to thwart other desires. Or alternatively what generally, people have reasons to promote and inhibit, those reasons being desires that tend to fulfil others and those that tend to thwart others, respectively. This is how it offers ratio-empirical grounds to the above.

Further this will work even if one does not have the specific desire to be a good person - although it helps to think that way when one is critically analysing what to do.

However this is not guaranteed to work. There is no overriding "should/should not" that magically does the trick. It does not exist.

If one lacks the desire to be moral or the desire to be a good person, then these social forces can still beneficially influence one, but as just said this is not guaranteed to work, such is the variability of human psyche and biology.

For those it fails we should have an ethical consistent set of laws that reinforce the message of the social forces and failing this, the application of those laws to those who transgress in terms of material rewards and penalties.

Clearly we have some way to go to achieve this.

By extension the same principle can be expanded to cover groups, as in the Group A example discussed in the post.

Kip said...

I should have stipulated that Group A and Group B are the only 2 groups in the entire Universe/Multiverse.

This would have to have been the case for it to represent the argument that I'm putting forth:

I think a group of moral agents should (prudential reason for action) only consider the desires that are able to influence their desires (either through moral tools or force). The agents using the social tools should (prudentially) consider any and all desires that need to be harmonized. They should not (prudentially) consider desires that do not need to be harmonized, and they could not consider all desires that existed even if they wanted to (since they are not omniscient).

If there are *other groups* that are able to use social tools to influence Group A, then the harmonization of desires would have to consider those desires.

Kip said...

> The impression is that Kip considers this an objection to (at least some aspect of) Desirism but this is no objection at all.

The point of objection is that if Group A has no reasons for action to consider the desires of Group B, then it is not the case that they should consider the desires of Group B, and therefore the claim that "moral-ought is relative to all desires that exist" is false. Of course, as Alonzo pointed out, that claim is a stipulation -- it is a definition -- and it is subjective. He even acknowledged that it was just something he was asserting. Group A might define "moral-ought is relative to all desires that exist within Group A". Their moral language will reflect that set of desires. Other groups, if they are able, can try to have Group A change their language, which would have some influence in how they perceive the world, which would influence which desires they value, and thus what they find "moral".

But... only if someone is able to influence Group A. Either someone within Group A, or someone outside of Group A. There is no "universal ought" that exists that says that Group A must use a certain definition of "good", or that they should consider all desires that exist.

Yes, it is still the *fact* that if Group A doesn't consider the desires of Group B, then they will be thwarting Group B's desires. But, if you say that is "bad" or "wrong", that's because you think you *should* consider Group B's desires.

Now, if Group B can affect Group A, then it will be the case for Group A that if they don't consider the desires of Group B, then they will be hurting themselves -- thwarting their own desires -- and so it will be *bad* for them. That's why I say:

I think a group of moral agents should (prudential reason for action) only consider the desires that are able to influence their desires (either through moral tools or force). The agents using the social tools should (prudentially) consider any and all desires that need to be harmonized. They should not (prudentially) consider desires that do not need to be harmonized, and they could not consider all desires that existed even if they wanted to (since they are not omniscient).

It is the case that on this Earth, every person is able to influence the desires of every other person either directly or indirectly. Thus, we are all in the same "moral sphere". I'm not sure about other animals, though. Some, perhaps. Maybe not all.

Kip said...

> Desirism is about identifying those desires that tend (indirectly and directly) to fulfil other desires and those that tend to thwart other desires. Or alternatively what generally, people have reasons to promote and inhibit, those reasons being desires that tend to fulfil others and those that tend to thwart others, respectively.

Which people are the people who have the reasons to promote and inhibit particular desires? It is the people whose desires will be fulfilled by the promotion or inhibition of those particular desires. I have no reason to promote or inhibit desires that do not affect my desires.

Thus, if I am in Group A, and Group A has a desire that tends to fulfill desires of those in Group A, but thwart the desires of those in Group B, then unless there is some other reason for action(*) that can be given to me I have no reason to stop promoting this desire within Group A. In other words, within Group A, it's a good desire.

(*) The only reason for actions that exist are desires. The members in Group A must either have their desires changed, or have their current desires thwarted due to their inconsideration of Group B's desires.

faithlessgod said...

Kip

"I should have stipulated that Group A and Group B are the only 2 groups in the entire Universe/Multiverse."

Granted that, it is still the case that there are reasons to act that exist (Group B's desires) that Group A are not considering. These are of course external to Group A.

If they claim that their moral "should" is a universal consideration of reasons to act then their claim is false.

If, on the other hand, they have, as I read you, a moral relativist definition of "should", it is still the case that another level of harmony could be achieved by a universal consideration of reason to act - whether there is a term in their language for it or not. In this case, they could not claim that theirs is the objectively and impartially most harmonious social solution.

Maybe they make neither claim. Would things change? No. But as noted that is a limitation with morality in general and nothing in particular to desirism.

Kip said...

> If they claim that their moral "should" is a universal consideration of reasons to act then their claim is false.

> If, on the other hand, they have, as I read you, a moral relativist definition of "should"....


I guess we now come to the heart of the matter. I object to the "universal" or "absolute" notion that you are positing. You object to the "sub-universal" or "relative" notion that I am positing. From reading Alonzo's work, it seems to me that he's fine with morality being relative -- like other properties in the universe. The thing that he asserts, though, is that it is relative to "all the desires that exist" (the universe of desires).

For the reasons I've already outlined, and you've partly agreed to, that can't be the case. It must be a subset of desires. Then, the question is: which subset? I argue that it should be the set of desires for which reasons for action exist to harmonize. In other words: real world reasons for action. I'm not asserting anything.

> ...it is still the case that another level of harmony could be achieved by a universal consideration of reason to act - whether there is a term in their language for it or not. In this case, they could not claim that theirs is the objectively and impartially most harmonious social solution.

True. They could claim that it was the best solution for them, though. As it is, nobody can claim that their solution is the "universally most harmonious solution", since that would require omniscience.

RichardW said...

Kip, I think you've hit the nail right on the head. Desirism seems to be claiming that I have (justifying) reasons to act other than just in the fulfillment of my own desires. (You've written about groups, but you can just as well think about it at an individual level.) This is essentially the claim that all moral realist theories make, and none of them can justify that claim.

If desirism is not making this claim, then it seems to be only a theory of prudential/practical oughts, telling each of us how best to achieve his own desires.

Kip said...

> If desirism is not making this claim, then it seems to be only a theory of prudential/practical oughts, telling each of us how best to achieve his own desires.

I think it's a lot more than that. However, it does seem to me in everything that I've read of Alonzo's work, that he never explains in his moving from "prudential ought" to "moral ought", why must we consider "all desires that exist". Clearly a "prudential ought" refers to the "desires in question" -- this varies based on context.

He seems be saying that if morality is anything, then it must refer "all desires that exist". I object. I think there is a middle ground. And I think our current moral system and tools operate within that middle ground. I could be wrong, though.

faithlessgod said...

Kip, in reply to your second response.

First it is inherent in the meaning of "should" (or "ought") that it is a) describing rationally reasons for action that are not internal to the recipient of the "should" and b) prescribing emotively to internalise such reasons for action.

All language terms are inherently subjective and there is no necessary connection to any objective feature of the universe. e.g. if you want to define bachelor as a married man go ahead but do not to expect others to understand.

The same goes for moral terms, however it important to note part of their prescriptive power comes from the belief that they do have objective referents. If one relaxes that feature much of the expressive power of such language is deflated or neutralised. AFAIK desirism provides the only generally applicable and consistent definition with such an objective referent.

Much moral language usage is based on this presumption then fails to deliver on it, being internally self-contradictory. Desirism can point that out.

Still as you say "There is no "universal ought" that exists that says that Group A must use a certain definition of "good", or that they should consider all desires that exist". That is correct. So they use their own term, we can use another.

Some Communists did not believe in morality but could not avoid some equivalent terms and used "revolutionary and "counter-revolutionary" instead with, they hoped the same factual and expressive power, even as they denied morality!

We do not need moral-speak at all, it is redundant and optional and the analysis still remains the same. Or people can play all sorts of games over "maps" but they still presume they refer to the same "territory" even as they often do not.

The final point on your comment was raised by Alonzo. We will all be in positions of not being able to influence others, due to age (both young and old), illness and so on. So it is in the general interest of people to ensure that and encourage that such reasons to act are considered.

That might still limit things to your Group A and never Group B as you envisage it. Then Group B is doomed to suffer forever in your Group A/Group B universe. Still we can observe that universe objectively and come to such a conclusion, not that we could do anything about it.

faithlessgod said...

Kip

I think you are taking "omniscience" out the context that we were using, this was, as in my asbestos example, over the fallacy of hindsight bias and retroactive condemnation.

Now, for clarification, I am assuming in your Group A/Group B universe that members of both groups are both a) moral gents and b) cognitively equivalent to us.

When we examine this universe we are assessor-neutral and there is no a priori reason to prefer A over B or vice versa. One does not need to be omniscient in your sense to observe that there are is a disharmony of desire due to the differential influences of each group on the other. Given the two features a) and b) just noted, members of both groups are just as capable of being assessor-neutral, no omniscience required.

RichardW said...

Faithlessgod, I agree it is inherent in the meaning of moral oughts that they refer to external reasons for action, i.e. those which are not just about fulfilling the desires of the agent. The question is whether any such external reasons really exist. Moral anti-realists (like me) say they don't. Moral realists say they do but cannot justify this claim, or explain how anyone could be motivated to act in a way that is not in fulfillment of his desires (and may be contrary to them).

You seem to have confirmed that you do think external reasons for action exist. But you seem no more able than other moral realists to justify this claim. You seem to be accepting this, and saying that this is a limitation of all moral theories. Is that correct?

Kip said...

> First it is inherent in the meaning of "should" (or "ought") that it is a) describing rationally reasons for action that are not internal to the recipient of the "should" and b) prescribing emotively to internalise such reasons for action.

You mean "moral should", right? "Moral ought" might be partially relative to the recipient of the "should" -- if that recipient has some of the desires that will tend to be fulfilled by the moral proposition.

As RichardW and others object, if the recipient does not have any desires that will be fulfilled by the moral proposition, they may not think the proposition is prescriptive for them. But, it's "normative" in that we are trying to give them the reasons they need to make it prescriptive.

> The final point on your comment was raised by Alonzo. We will all be in positions of not being able to influence others, due to age (both young and old), illness and so on. So it is in the general interest of people to ensure that and encourage that such reasons to act are considered.

Agreed. And this is a very good reason, indeed, to give others a desire to be concerned about the desires of creatures that can suffer. The fact that we might at some time be in a position to not be able to influence the desires of those in the moral system, gives us reason to promote a desire in others to be concerned with other desires, despite the inability of them being able to express their desires. We saw this in the case of Terri Schiavo (albeit, it was misappropriated, as Terri was, according to the papers I read, not able to have any desires).

> That might still limit things to your Group A and never Group B as you envisage it. Then Group B is doomed to suffer forever in your Group A/Group B universe. Still we can observe that universe objectively and come to such a conclusion, not that we could do anything about it.

We could do something about it if we had reasons to, and were able to interact with Group A. And, the thing is... we might be Group A. Are there desires that we are not considering in our moral calculus -- such as the desires of various animals on this planet? Perhaps. Should we consider those desires? I'd love for Alonzo to have a series of posts on this.

faithlessgod said...

Hi RichardW

"Desirism seems to be claiming that I have (justifying) reasons to act other than just in the fulfillment of my own desires."
I disagree.

Note first that the fulfilment of ones own desires is all anyone can do and desirism does not demand or assume otherwise. There is a caveat in that this does not imply that all such desires are self-regarding, they can be other-regarding.

Second, a side effect of fulfilling one's own desire is that they can tend to fulfil or thwart other desires (or neither), even if they are self-regarding. Desirism, by evaluating any desire as a means to all other desires enables such an identification. At the same time this identifies what generally people have reason to promote and inhibit, in virtue of the desire under evaluation tending to fulfil or thwart other desires.

"This is essentially the claim that all moral realist theories make, and none of them can justify that claim."
The claim is based on what everyone does to each already, albeit in a haphazard, inconsistent, incoherent and often empirically ungrounded fashion. Any time you convince someone to see a film you want to see and they do not you are doing it or even convincing them to see a film with you. And vice versa.

Regardless of other moral realisms, this is what desirism is built on, on what every does and claims to do already - based on philosophical, cognitive and social psychology. It just determines the inconsistencies between what they claim and what they really do.

Kip said...

> You seem to have confirmed that you do think external reasons for action exist. But you seem no more able than other moral realists to justify this claim. You seem to be accepting this, and saying that this is a limitation of all moral theories. Is that correct?

Good question. I think I'm a moral realist, but I think that any person only has internal reasons for action -- their own desires. They will act in order to fulfill the most and strongest desires given their beliefs.

But, we can change people's desires using "moral tools": praise & condemnation. People want to be appreciated, and they don't want to be shunned. By using these social tools we are able to have people internalize desires that are "good" (i.e. that tend to fulfill more and stronger desires). You see this most apparently with parents instructing their children. But, no doubt it continues through adulthood -- although, it would seem we do tend to reject change as we get older (thus, it's a good idea to instill good values in people when they are young).

faithlessgod said...

RichardW

Interesting thoughts:
"The question is whether any such external reasons really exist. Moral anti-realists (like me) say they don't."
So you deny that Group B has reason to act that are external to Group A?! Such reasons to act surely exist?

"Moral realists say they do but cannot justify this claim,"
I just did above!

"or explain how anyone could be motivated to act in a way that is not in fulfillment of his desires (and may be contrary to them)."
Noting the "or" this is a non sequitur based on the prior phrase quoted above. I certainly make no such claim! Yet I am, for want of a better label here, a moral realist. (Although I am equally happy to say that morality does not exist or that all moral theories are false, desirism is what remains when you jettison all that, note that is a result of this being reductive naturalism).

No-one acts in ways that is not in fulfilment of their desires. However we all operate in a co-created social environment, being reciprocally subjected to social forces that mutually influence and modify each others desires. We all change our final (end) desires as well as our intermediate (mean) desires as a result. These social forces are culturally and biologically evolved to influence each other desires, there is no other... cough... reason for them.

"You seem to have confirmed that you do think external reasons for action exist."
Agreed. And they can only have an effect when internalised otherwise they are inert. It is the social environment that internalises them.


"But you seem no more able than other moral realists to justify this claim. You seem to be accepting this,"
See above

"and saying that this is a limitation of all moral theories. Is that correct?"
This final phrase is the result of a subtly different argument, that I did address in this post but, as I noted to Charles, the title is equally applicable to what we are discussing.

That post was not intended as a critique of moral realism, although I did not think of it that way and it is interesting for you to point this out. My short response is that it is making an unreasonable demand of morality of whatever form, but then I said that in this post. This final point of yours probably warrants another post. Next week sometime (or I will juggle my scheduled posts and put a response in earlier, when I have time to write it).

RichardW said...

Hi Faithlessgod,

>So you deny that Group B has reason to act that are external to Group A?! Such reasons to act surely exist?<

You've misunderstood me. I wrote:
>I agree it is inherent in the meaning of moral oughts that they refer to external reasons for action, i.e. those which are not just about fulfilling the desires of the agent.<

I'm focusing on one agent and asking what he ought to do, i.e. what reasons for action he has. By "external" reasons for action I mean reasons which he has to do something apart from fulfilling his own desires. I think this is standard terminology:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internalism_and_externalism
Anyway, we seem to be in agreement now that there can be no reasons of this sort. The only reasons for action that exist are those which are about fulfilling the desires of the agent. As you wrote:

>Note first that the fulfilment of ones own desires is all anyone can do and desirism does not demand or assume otherwise. There is a caveat in that this does not imply that all such desires are self-regarding, they can be other-regarding.<

But then you must agree that the only valid type of oughts are prudential/practical/non-moral oughts (whatever we call them), i.e. those which only tell the agent how best to achieve his own desires (including non-self-regarding ones). You said earlier:

>First it is inherent in the meaning of "should" (or "ought") that it is a) describing rationally reasons for action that are not internal to the recipient of the "should" and b) prescribing emotively to internalise such reasons for action.<

I assume, like Kip, that you are referring here to moral shoulds/oughts. Then since you agree that there are no reasons for action that are not internal to the recipient of the "should", you should agree that there are no valid moral oughts/shoulds.

>Yet I am, for want of a better label here, a moral realist. (Although I am equally happy to say that morality does not exist or that all moral theories are false, desirism is what remains when you jettison all that, note that is a result of this being reductive naturalism).<

But desirism does make moral claims. At least Luke's and Alonzo's versions do. Luke certainly considers desirism to be a moral theory that makes objectively true moral claims. I think he'd be very surprised to hear you say what you just have. And if you really believe that morality does not exist and all moral theories are false, you certainly should not be calling yourself a moral realist.

Kip said...

faithlessgod, can you comment on this comment I made:

"As RichardW and others object, if the recipient does not have any desires that will be fulfilled by the moral proposition, they may not think the proposition is prescriptive for them. But, it's "normative" in that we are trying to give them the reasons they need to make it prescriptive."

Do you agree? (I'm not sure I worded it very well.)

RichardW said...

P.S. Reading your latest bog entry, faithlessgod, I see that you use internal/external in a very different sense from me. Hence the confusion. I'll try to avoid these terms from now on.

Kip said...

> But then you must agree that the only valid type of oughts are prudential/practical/non-moral oughts (whatever we call them), i.e. those which only tell the agent how best to achieve his own desires (including non-self-regarding ones).

The way I see it, when someone uses the term "should" (or "ought"), either prudentially or morally, they are also referring to a set of desires.

If I say: "Richard, you should take out the trash." And you ask "Why?" I can then point to your desires, and show you that you have desires that will be fulfilled by your taking out the trash. Or I could point to your spouse's desires. Of course, if you don't desire that your spouse's desires are fulfilled, then you won't take out the trash, but the desires that "you should take out the trash" refer to are your spouse's desires, not yours. There must (to meet the meaning of the term) be some desires that are fulfilled by your taking out the trash -- that's what we mean by "should". I don't think people restrict "should" to only refer to the desires of the person being addressed by the proposition, though.

To break it down, I think several things are being implied when I say to you: "you should take out the trash".

1) A desire(s) will be fulfilled by having the trash taken out.

2) A desire(s) will be fulfilled by having you comply with the request.

3) There will be potential positive benefits for you (e.g. appreciation, praise, reward) if you comply with the request.

4) There will be potential negative retribution (e.g. condemnation, punishment) to you if you fail to comply with the request.

and sometimes:

5) "Taking out the trash" is a good desire for you to cultivate in yourself and other people in society. (This is the main target for our moral tools.)

These implied meaning comes about because of the different levels of moral development people are on (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlberg's_stages_of_moral_development).Our moral language has adapted to be "fuzzy" enough to let people hear what they need to hear to get the job done.

RichardW said...

P.P.S. Oops, blog entry!

faithlessgod said...

RichardW

With regard to internalism /externalism there are many versions with sometimes subtle distinctions between them. In particular there are two that might be causing confusion.

Following your wikipedia link (although Stanford is usually a far better reference on philosophical terms):

Motivational externalism has better empirical grounds since the existence of sociopaths refutes motivational internalism, for which such amoralists are metaphysically impossible. Further,even as a non-sociopath, it can be quite consistent to know that a desire that one has, is also one that generally people have reason to inhibit, yet still have and operate on that desire.

When it comes to Williams' reasons internalism has better empirical grounds, since it is difficult to see how anyone could seek to fulfil the more and stronger of their desire.

What connects motivational externalism and reasons internalism are the social forces as the process which operates to internalize what is external.

(Note Fyfe has a different approach to this but to the same outcome, dunno about Luke).

"But then you must agree that the only valid type of oughts are prudential/practical/non-moral oughts (whatever we call them)"
Sorry I still disagree, hopefully the above will make clear why this does not exclude "moral" "oughts"

Desirism does make moral claims but they are all reducible to non-moral claims. In that sense labels like moral realism are irrelevant. I think ethical reductive naturalism is probably the best label for this, but I am not really bothered by labels, only the arguments behind them. Like moral-speak itself, these labels can either help or hinder communication.

RichardW said...

Kip, I probably didn't express myself clearly. It's tricky to find the right words. What I'm calling a prudential/practical/non-moral ought is one that tells the agent the best way to fulfill his own desires. Of course, that best way of doing things may also involve fulfilling other people's desires because (a) the agent desires to fulfill other people's desires, or (b) fulfilling other people's desires may cause them to do what the agent wants. But within the context of a a prudential/practical/non-moral ought, fulfilling other people's desires (apart from the agent's) is only a means to an end. The ultimate ends in terms of which the "ought" is evaluated are the desires of the agent.

A moral ought, on the other hand, is one which assumes the agent has some reason to act apart from reasons that are ultimately motivated by his own desires. But there can be no such reasons.

Perhaps it would help to refer to "desires that constitute ultimate ends" and "desires that are means to an end". In evaluating an "ought", the only desires that constitute ultimate ends are those of the agent. However other desires are relevant as means to those ends.

faithlessgod said...

Kip, you asked me to comment on

"As RichardW and others object, if the recipient does not have any desires that will be fulfilled by the moral proposition, they may not think the proposition is prescriptive for them. But, it's "normative" in that we are trying to give them the reasons they need to make it prescriptive."

There are two ideas intermingled in this question.

First, it is usually part and parcel of the inherent meaning of a moral prescription that is universally applicable. However just because such a prescription has been made does not mean it is correct. One can be sceptical about any prescription and if it passes such scrutiny then that would mean to the recipient it is applicable to the recipient.

However the motivational externalism/reason internalism distinction can come into play. And this brings us, secondly, to the process of internalisation.

It is not usually a question over "the recipient does not have any desires that will be fulfilled by the moral proposition" rather it is about moulding the recipient's desires so that they would more likely tend to fulfil desires that drive the prescription, than they would have without the prescription.

And whether this is works, or not, is due to motivational non-cognitivism, not rational analysis of prescriptions.

faithlessgod said...

"P.S. Oops, blog entry!"

LOL!

faithlessgod said...

Kip

Great last comment. Plus have not read Kohlberg since my AI days in the 80s.

Kip said...

> A moral ought, on the other hand, is one which assumes the agent has some reason to act apart from reasons that are ultimately motivated by his own desires. But there can be no such reasons.

Agreed. Those don't exist. Let's talk about what does exist. You have desires. So do I. So does everyone else in society. We're going to try to live together harmoniously by shaping each others desires. We're going to use the term "moral ought" to refer to desires that you *should have* in order to live with us harmoniously. That "moral ought" is going to imply the things I outlined above.

RichardW said...

Hi faithlessgod,

>When it comes to Williams' reasons internalism has better empirical grounds, since it is difficult to see how anyone could seek to fulfil the more and stronger of their desire.<

Williams' reasons internalism is the position I'm taking.

>Sorry I still disagree, hopefully the above will make clear why this does not exclude "moral" "oughts"<

No, I'm afraid it doesn't help at all.

Oh dear. We're back to where we ended up the last two times I discussed desirism with you. I still have no idea what your position is. It seems to me that you're holding two contradictory positions at the same time!

Kip said...

> First, it is usually part and parcel of the inherent meaning of a moral prescription that is universally applicable.

Why can we not have a moral prescription that says: "people with attribute X should have desire Y"?

faithlessgod said...

Kip and RichardW

Just to glue things together so I can let you guys carry on, I have to go out now.

I agree with Kip over moral oughts, when I say generally people have reason to promote X that is inclusive of the recipient not exclusive. And yes, there are multiple levels as to how that is addressed to the recipient, both cognitively and connatively.

Let me add something of my possibly cryptic thought over moral theories. I do not think there is any special form of moral reasoning, logic or entities.

At the same time there is no a priori basis to just limit the scope of analysis of desire to just one's own desires, or prudence analysis in comparing one's own desire to their others.

The same type of analysis can be performed over groups or everyone and any other combination. The only thing that changes is the scope of desires under same type of analysis.

Great debate BTW. Thanks!

faithlessgod said...

"Why can we not have a moral prescription that says: "people with attribute X should have desire Y"?"

Would you have Christian anti-abortionists saying "We are not going to have abortions because we believe it is murder, but you don't believe it is murder so that's fine, go ahead"?

Maybe you would but then would you agree that, in reference to my post fisking the Westminster Declaration, I could say "I do not think we should be prejudiced and discriminate and so I will not, but you do, so go ahead"? I certainly would not.

faithlessgod said...

Aaah. Hi Richard. I wondered if it was you.

Interestingly I just thought of you (but could not remember your name then) when I wrote my last reply to Kip's original first set of comment questions. You might find it interesting, I think it will be posted on Friday. It is called "Irrational and Rational Justifications"

Looks like I will need to write a post on internalism too. Giving me lots of food for thought, or is it thought for food?

Kip said...

Kip> "Why can we not have a moral prescription that says: "people with attribute X should have desire Y"?"

> Would you have Christian anti-abortionists saying "We are not going to have abortions because we believe it is murder, but you don't believe it is murder so that's fine, go ahead"?

> Maybe you would but then would you agree that, in reference to my post fisking the Westminster Declaration, I could say "I do not think we should be prejudiced and discriminate and so I will not, but you do, so go ahead"? I certainly would not.


Well, here's the thing: there are clearly cases where it is not good that everyone have the same desires. It may be the case that it is only good that 50% of the population have a certain desire. Or 75%. Or 90%.

If you want to restrict "moral ought" to only those desires that 100% of the people should have, then it's just going to be limiting the potential usefulness of the tools. Or, maybe the argument is that the tools don't work unless they are applied universally? But I disagree with that. Clearly we can target subsets of the population.

This is not a "do whatever you feel like" morality. It's a "it's best that this part of the population have X desires".

Kip said...

Example: "People who are over the age of 18, and out of school, and are of sound mind and body, should desire to provide for their own cost of living."

Would you say that this is not a moral ought? How would you rephrase it to be one, then? Clearly there are many strong desires that are fulfilled by promoting the desire in people who are old enough and able to provide for their own cost of living.

faithlessgod said...

Kip


"Well, here's the thing: there are clearly cases where it is not good that everyone have the same desires. It may be the case that it is only good that 50% of the population have a certain desire. Or 75%. Or 90%"
However "clear" this is, it is in my view missing the point.

The, if you will, "moral value" of a desire, is an evaluation of it in terms of its effects, deliberate or not and direct or not, on all other desires, however it does not follow that this requires the promotion of the same desire with the same sates of affairs as its target in everyone (or even some percentage). Rather such evaluations serves as the basis to promote certain desires and inhibit others desires, whatever they are, whatever the states of affairs that targets of those many desires are.

As such the idea that there may be a sub-species of desires, labelled "moral desires", categorised in terms of the targets of the those desires, is not required.

But that is what you seem to be assuming and complaining about in the above quote.

Note that agents can chose to have such desires, however they are not obliged to under the above analysis and also, if they do have such desires, then these can also be evaluated to see if they are indeed "moral". Often they are not. Indeed many moral arguments are over this issue, what one claims is a moral desire, actually is not.

faithlessgod said...

Kip

"Example: "People who are over the age of 18, and out of school, and are of sound mind and body, should desire to provide for their own cost of living."
Whether this is a "moral ought" or not and a desire to be promoted, inhibited or neither, we can ignore here.

What this certainly is, is a prescription - a description of reasons to act, objects of evaluation and the relations between them. Whether this description is an objectively true proposition of such states of affairs we can ignore. Let us stipulate here that it is true.

It is still universally applicable to all those who fit those circumstances, where the conditions of applicability of the prescription include the age of the agents, not being in school and so on.

faithlessgod said...

RichardW

"Oh dear. We're back to where we ended up the last two times I discussed desirism with you. I still have no idea what your position is. It seems to me that you're holding two contradictory positions at the same time!"
So I defintely need to make a post on internalism/externalism. It is quote consistent AFAICS. So I will write a post explicating my argument and hopefully you can show me the inconsistency here. Or yours, if mine does not exist!

As for the other post I noted over the OP you implied being only about moral realism I, after consideration, think that is a non-issue. If you beg to differ, please tell me why.

However a post based more directly on the issues underlying "should" is warranted based on both your and Kip's questions here.

They might be the same post or not. We shall see.

faithlessgod said...

Kip and RichardW

Kip, the post in answer to your last part of your original comments is posted today.

The post on Monday is a simpler take on "should" and that is required to lead to Tuesday's post which deals with what I think is RichardW's issue over the consistency of motivational externalism and reasons internalism.

Kip said...

> It is still universally applicable to all those who fit those circumstances, where the conditions of applicability of the prescription include the age of the agents, not being in school and so on.

That's a weird definition of "universal". I guess everything is "universal" to the subset of the universe it applies to, then.

I don't find this definitely 1) useful, or 2) consistent with common usage. Any reason you are using it that way?

Kip said...

> As such the idea that there may be a sub-species of desires, labelled "moral desires", categorised in terms of the targets of the those desires, is not required.

It's unclear what you are saying. Are you saying that reasons for action don't exist for people to promote some desires in a subset of the population? If so, that's clearly false. If you agree that those reasons for action exist, and just think that there is no "reason" to use moral terminology in referring to those reasons for action to promote particular desires in a subset of the population -- then I just disagree. I'm not sure if you disagree with me on semantic grounds or empirical grounds, but the case is that a) we do use moral terminology that way, and b) we have reasons to do so.

faithlessgod said...

Kip

Regarding "universal" it clearly has a number of meanings and applications. However the idea of "universal applicability" and that no-one is excepted from the prohibitions and obligations is at the core of moral usage through the world then and now. So to say it is "That's a weird definition of "universal"" is contrary to what is 1) useful, or 2) consistent with common usage. That is the reason I use it that way.

Indeed I find it strange that you reject this and very strange that you used such arguments as you implied since I use the same ones in the opposite direction - hence my re quoting your arguments to opposite effect above.

faithlessgod said...

Kip regarding "moral desires" it is over the states of affairs that are the targets of a desire.

We can label a desire moral or immoral but that is an evaluation of a desires, as a consequence of what states of affairs it brings about

"Are you saying that reasons for action don't exist for people to promote some desires in a subset of the population?"
Not at all but what is that to do with the question at hand, that is not morality.

"If you agree that those reasons for action exist, and just think that there is no "reason" to use moral terminology in referring to those reasons for action to promote particular desires in a subset of the population"
Prescriptions and prescriptive langauge such as good and bad are used whether the scope is of one person, a sub-set or everyone. I do not see you point here.

"a) we do use moral terminology that way, and b) we have reasons to do so. "
I am confused, surely, we use value terminology that and we have reason to do so? If there is no reason to generally promote or inhibit a desire it is not a moral desire, at least in common usage of the term.

In particular those who promote or inhibit a desire in only one sub-set of the population, letting everyone else pursue such desires uninhibited can be evaluated to see if they are promoting a double-standard and if it is, then there are moral reasons to condemn that a double-standard and remove it.

You seem to be developing an argument to support and endorse bigotry and prejudice. I presume, knowing your arguments elsewhere, that you are taking the position of the devil's advocate? There definitely is unclarity going on here! :-)

Kip said...

> Regarding "universal" it clearly has a number of meanings and applications. However the idea of "universal applicability" and that no-one is excepted from the prohibitions and obligations is at the core of moral usage through the world then and now.

How is "no-one is excepted from the prohibitions and obligations" consistent with:

> It is still universally applicable to all those who fit those circumstances, where the conditions of applicability of the prescription include the age of the agents, not being in school and so on.

Are you speaking English? Clearly if some people do not "fit the conditions of applicability", then they would be "excepted from the prohibitions and obligations". You've contradicted yourself according to my understanding of normal usage of the English language.

Please explain.

Kip said...

> "Are you saying that reasons for action don't exist for people to promote some desires in a subset of the population?"

> Not at all but what is that to do with the question at hand, that is not morality.

Really? Alonzo would disagree with you.

Kip said...

> In particular those who promote or inhibit a desire in only one sub-set of the population, letting everyone else pursue such desires uninhibited can be evaluated to see if they are promoting a double-standard and if it is, then there are moral reasons to condemn that a double-standard and remove it.

If there is anything immoral with "promoting a double-standard", then it is because it tends to thwart more desires than it fulfills.

In general, I think that's probably true. It's an empirical question. However, as I pointed out, we do discriminate (promote "double-standards") based on certain factors (e.g. the scenario with the youth in school not being morally obligated to provide his own cost of living).

faithlessgod said...

If it is established that it is a double standard, then it is a fallacy and it is not a rational justification.

The examples based on age you give are not a double standard, they are a single standard applicable to all, since everyone goes through these different stages due to age changing with time!

If, on the other hand, the selection of a sub-set of a population is based on a double standard then any such "moral" or non-moral claims are challengeable on the basis of this being a fallacy and there is no rational justification, since the beliefs are false, for their conclusions.

Kip said...

Kip> "Are you saying that reasons for action don't exist for people to promote some desires in a subset of the population?"

faithlessgod> Not at all but what is that to do with the question at hand, that is not morality.

Kip> Really? Alonzo would disagree with you.

Reference: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=348

Luke> Under Desire Utilitarianism, is the ideal world one that is heading toward unified desire — that we would all want the same thing?

Alonzo> Well, actually, giving everyone the same desires isn't necessarily a good thing. So, for example, when it comes to eating chicken, I like dark meat, my wife prefers white meat. So, when we have a chicken, I get the dark meat, and she gets the white meat. If my wife and I had the same desires, one of us would have to settle for something less.

Alonzo> So, we're not always going for the same desires. Now, there are some desires that are good if everybody had them. Or, some desires that would be good if nobody had them — such as, for example, the desire to rape. What would be the cost, if nobody wanted to rape? You would have no victims of rape — suffering, and the thwarting of their desires — and you'd have nobody with the desire to rape whose desires are being thwarted by those who are preventing rape. So, there's a case of a desire which, for all practical purposes, should be zero. We have reason to make that desire zero.

Alonzo> But, not all desires fit into that type of category. There are some desires we have a reason to have some people have, but not others. It's better to have some people that want to be teachers, and some people who want to be firemen. And there are some desires that we have reason to want everybody to have — such as the desire to help others who are in distress. If everybody had that desire, then all of us would have somebody that we could depend on if we happened to be the person who was in distress. If everybody had that desire, our desires when we're in distress are more likely to be fulfilled, and their desire to help somebody in distress can be fulfilled.

==============

So, desires we have a reason to have some people have, but not others — they exist. And we use our social tools to promote those desires. We praise our firemen, and encourage others to want to be firemen, but we don't want everybody to be a fireman. Same with teachers. And military officers. And doctors.

To claim that this is not "morality" -- when we are using the same social tools to accomplish the same thing, for the same reason... is just not useful. It is what it is. You can call it something else if you want, I guess.

faithlessgod said...

Kip

Your quotes from Luke and Alonzo I agree with but they are to do with morally neutral desires.

"To claim that this is not "morality" -- when we are using the same social tools to accomplish the same thing, for the same reason... is just not useful."
Yes it is. The same tools are used for many other reason that just moral reasons.

The issue of "morality" is the over clash of conflicting universal prescriptions and how they are resolved.

faithlessgod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kip said...

faithlessgod> Your quotes from Luke and Alonzo I agree with but they are to do with morally neutral desires.

Whatever you want to call it. It's a reason for society to promote desires that tend to fulfill other desires and demote desires that tend to thwart other desires. I call that morality, and notice that those in society use the same moral terminology to talk about those desires.

Here's another pertinent post from Alonzo on this subject: http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2007/10/harmony-of-desires.html

faithlessgod said...

Kip

Morally (or universally) neutral desires are not "a reason for society to promote desires that tend to fulfill other desires and demote desires that tend to thwart other desires."

You can subjectively define morality however you want, and you are not alone, however here we are addressing how moral terms are used and this is how they are used.

Across time, places and cultures moral terms as used are universal (in application) prescriptions.

Kip said...

> Morally (or universally) neutral desires are not "a reason for society to promote desires that tend to fulfill other desires and demote desires that tend to thwart other desires."

That's begging the question. I'm saying that reasons do exist for society to promote desires that tend to fulfill other desires and demote desires that tend to thwart other desires but not have same desires held by everyone in the society. This is clearly the case. You are saying those are not moral prescriptions, since they are not universal. Okay. Whatever. They still exist.


> You can subjectively define morality however you want, and you are not alone, however here we are addressing how moral terms are used and this is how they are used.

That's how some people say they are used. It's an empirical question.


> Across time, places and cultures moral terms as used are universal (in application) prescriptions.

What is the purpose of the "(in application)" conditional, here? What ways do you think the prescriptions are not universal?

faithlessgod said...

Kip

That's begging the question."
How is this begging the question when you say

"I'm saying that reasons do exist for society to promote desires that tend to fulfill other desires and demote desires that tend to thwart other desires but not have same desires held by everyone in the society. This is clearly the case."
Of course it is, football supporters want other inhabitants of the town where the time is based to support their, if I don't live there, this if of no concern to me, in other words, so what?

This has nothing to do with issues of moral that is universal concern, it is the universal element where which can be the cause of clashes and conflicts occur that concern us all.

Of course, some people use morality with respect to themselves and no-one else (which is a religious and not secular additional use of the term) but again so what (unless they equivocate but the issue again is over universal prescriptions).

If you still think this is an an issue then give a real-world example which is a problem, at least to someone.

Kip said...

> How is this begging the question...

Because the argument is over how a particular word is commonly used. Which is a really stupid argument to be having, I think... because it's clearly a matter of empirical evidence. We disagree -- which means one of us is wrong on an empirical matter. Or maybe you are arguing something else? I'm not really sure.


> If you still think this is an an issue then give a real-world example which is a problem, at least to someone.


http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2007/10/harmony-of-desires.html

faithlessgod said...

Kip

I fail to see what the harmony of desires has to do with the question at hand.

I asked for a real-world example, you still have not given one. I will not try and guess what you are talking about.

RichardW said...

Hi Faithlessgod,

I wanted to make one more reply in the thread at commonsenseatheism, but it doesn't seem to be accepting any more posts, so I'll post it here instead.

"You made a direct complaint over my use of motivational externalism and reasons internalism that they were inconsistent and I replied."

I didn't write anything remotely like that. Check my posts if you don't believe me.

Unfortunately you misunderstood my definition of "self-motivated reasons" and so misunderstood much of what I wrote in my last post. Given how much difficulty we're having understanding each other (and it's not the first time we've tried) I don't think it's worth continuing our discussion.

But at least it looks like we're in agreement on what is for me the central issue:

I wrote: "But this is not what is generally considered a moral claim, because it only tells the agents how best to fulfill their own desires."

You replied: "So what? The goal is to get people to have less desire to murder and this is the only way to do it. Any other type of moral ought can only work by magic, that is not at all."

You seem to be accepting that you're not using moral terms in the same sense that other people use them. That's the main point that I've been trying to establish.

May I suggest that in future when discussing your position you start by saying that your "moral" oughts tell people how best to fulfill their own desires (including non-self-regarding desires), and give an example that makes this clear, like the one we've been discussing. If you said this at the outset, people would immediately see that what you mean by "moral" is not what most people mean by "moral", and it would save a huge amount of time wasted talking at cross-purposes.

faithlessgod said...

Hi Richard


"You seem to be accepting that you're not using moral terms in the same sense that other people use them. That's the main point that I've been trying to establish."
I quite disagree - my usage is different to your understanding but AFAICS your view is quite atypical and not typical. I am talking about morality in the real world.

And this what moral terms are used for. This is their primary purpose.
That is the three key features of moral language across cultures and time is that they are universally applicable, prescriptive and descriptive (truth-apt). I have sought the best approach to capture the pragmatic meaning of such language and that is, to date, desirism.


"May I suggest that in future when discussing your position you start by saying that your "moral" oughts tell people how best to fulfill their own desires (including non-self-regarding desires), and give an example that makes this clear, like the one we've been discussing"
I do not argue this at all. Moral oughts - universal prescriptions - show how "best to fulfil everyone's desires" - I would say increase harmony of desires - by promoting desires that tend to fulfil other desires and demoting desires that tend to thwart other desires.

"f you said this at the outset, people would immediately see that what you mean by "moral" is not what most people mean by "moral", and it would save a huge amount of time wasted talking at cross-purposes."
This is bizarre Richard. I have repeatedly explained to you what I mean by moral terms and how these can explain moral behaviour and judgements. Whether it is what "most people" mean or not, it is what it is that is being discussed.

I really have no idea what you are asking of me sine I have either already do otherwise or I disagree with what you think morality is, it is you that appears to have an atypical understanding of it.

But, of course, using moral language is optional, so all the above can be avoided, as I have said before, if or when we discuss morality in the future lets not use moral terms.

cl said...

"May I suggest that in future when discussing your position you start by saying that your "moral" oughts tell people how best to fulfill their own desires (including non-self-regarding desires), and give an example that makes this clear, like the one we've been discussing. If you said this at the outset, people would immediately see that what you mean by "moral" is not what most people mean by "moral", and it would save a huge amount of time wasted talking at cross-purposes." (Richard W)

I agree completely, and wonder, if desirism is so objective and relevant to the real-world, why does the desirist seemingly need to resort to word-play?

Where is the desirist argument that doesn't rely on "moral speak" or allusion to the generic "WE"?

One of my initial criticisms I voiced to Alonzo was that he should omit the word "good" in favor of something like "capable." That a particular desire tends to fulfill more than thwart other desires doesn't necessarily make it "good" in the sense most people use the term "good."

Yes, let's drop the moral speak and double-standards, please.

Kip said...

> Where is the desirist argument that doesn't rely on "moral speak" or allusion to the generic "WE"?

I'm trying. I do think "morality" is a word that is very "confused" -- people use it to mean a lot of different things. I think some of those things don't exist, and some of those things are not worth talking about. What remains is worth talking about -- and is very important. The same is true of other words like: "friendship", "love", "marriage", "justice", "person", etc. We could come up with new words that just refer to things that actually exist -- or we could try to get people to start using the existing words in a way that refers to those things that exist. It's a judgement call as to which strategy would be more optimal. In the case of "morality", I tend to think that it would be very confusing. I can't imagine not using words like "hurt" or "good" or "helpful", for instance.


> That a particular desire tends to fulfill more than thwart other desires doesn't necessarily make it "good" in the sense most people use the term "good."

How do most people tend to use the term "good", then? "Fulfills the desires in question" seems to me capture the generic meaning of the term.

RichardW said...

[RichardW:] "May I suggest that in future when discussing your position you start
by saying that your "moral" oughts tell people how best to fulfill
their own desires (including non-self-regarding desires), and give an
example that makes this clear, like the one we've been discussing"

[Faithlessgod:] I do not argue this at all. Moral oughts - universal prescriptions -
show how "best to fulfil everyone's desires" - I would say increase
harmony of desires - by promoting desires that tend to fulfil other
desires and demoting desires that tend to thwart other desires.


This is what causes so much confusion. You say you agree (or don't argue) with what I said. But then you respond with something that contradicts it.

There is a big difference between "how best to fulfill one's own desires" and "how best to fulfill everyone's desires". I want to know which of those it is that your moral oughts tell people how to do. Please tell it to me straight.

I think you've agreed before that an agent has no reason to fulfill another person's desires, unless he cares about that person's desires (in which case fulfilling that other person's desires will contribute to fulfilling the agent's own desires). But there are many people whose desires I don't care about. So I have no reason to fulfill everyone's desires. If you tell me that what I morally ought to do is what best fulfills everyone's desires, then you're attributing to me reasons for action that don't exist.

RichardW said...

P.S. I think I misread your last reply. I took "I do not argue this at all" to mean "I do not argue with this at all". On reflection I think you meant "I do not take that position at all". In other words, you were rejecting my interpretation of your position.

If that's the case, please ignore the first two paragraphs of my reply. But then the final paragraph of my post still applies. You are invoking reasons for action that don't exist.

Kip said...

RichardW> You are invoking reasons for action that don't exist.

Previously you wrote:

RichardW> A moral ought, on the other hand, is one which assumes the agent has some reason to act apart from reasons that are ultimately motivated by his own desires. But there can be no such reasons.

And I replied:

Kip> Agreed. Those don't exist. Let's talk about what does exist. You have desires. So do I. So does everyone else in society. We're going to try to live together harmoniously by shaping each others desires. We're going to use the term "moral ought" to refer to desires that you *should have* in order to live with us harmoniously. That "moral ought" is going to imply the things I outlined above.

Was that reply not sufficient? Am I invoking reasons for action that don't exist?

RichardW said...

Kip:

Agreed. Those don't exist. Let's talk about what does exist. You
have desires. So do I. So does everyone else in society. We're going to
try to live together harmoniously by shaping each others desires. We're
going to use the term "moral ought" to refer to desires that
you *should have* in order to live with us harmoniously. That "moral
ought" is going to imply the things I outlined above.

Was that reply not sufficient? Am I invoking reasons for action that
don't exist?


It's not clear what you meant. It would help if you gave examples. Since you haven't, I'll supply some. If they don't address your point, you'll need to supply your own.

If you say to me "if you want to live with us harmoniously, you ought to cultivate desires that are conducive to living with us harmoniously", then you are telling me how best to fulfill my own desires. That's not a moral ought. It's just advice. If you call it a moral ought, then you're misusing the word "moral".

If you say to me "I know living with us harmoniously won't fulfill your desires, but you ought to cultivate desires that are conducive to it anyway", then you're invoking reasons for action that don't exist. I have no reason to do what you say.

RichardW said...

Faithlessgod,

You may have a coherent position (I'm not sure), but your explanation of it is so confusing that no one can understand you.

It's also far from clear that your position is the same as Alonzo's and Luke's, so when you pop up at their blogs offering to clarify desirism, you only end up making people even more confused. To be honest, I wish I'd never responded to any of your posts.

Instead of going over the same ground again and again in hastily and poorly written posts, I suggest you write a full explanation of your position, taking plenty of time to write it as carefully as you can, and then post it on the web where you can refer people to it.

In any case, this will be my last post here. I've just cancelled my subscription to this thread, so I won't receive any posts by email and won't be tempted to post again.

Goodbye to you all.

faithlessgod said...

Richard Wein might have left the building but at least Kip and I have found something we agree upon (which I always knew was the case).

Anyway for anyone else reading this thread
"If you say to me "if you want to live with us harmoniously, you ought to cultivate desires that are conducive to living with us harmoniously", then you are telling me how best to fulfill my own desires. That's not a moral ought. It's just advice. If you call it a moral ought, then you're misusing the word "moral"."
Of course moral oughts are advice, what else can they be ? All oughts are both advice and predictions.If the advice is based on facts, then they will be accurate predictions, in the moral or universal cases as to how other will react to your actions.

Whether that motivates one to respond, favourably or otherwise, is down to how consistently , coherently and empirically grounded such advice is produced and executed.

It seems Richard is confused over morality. He has defined it so that it does not exist, yet refuses to acknowledge that people go ahead and give advice and recommendations to each other anyway.

I think what Richard wants to achieve is that no moral advice can nor need have any effect on people who think like him. He appears to be arguing for a form of ethical egoism, and I highlighted some issues of that to Richard which he has inconsistently denied. As soon as one allows that there are other regarding desires then everything else argued for follows, based purely on reason to act that exist.

Anyway, onwards and upwards!

Kip said...

> at least Kip and I have found something we agree upon (which I always knew was the case).

Indeed. We disagree on some definitions — which is really no big deal, as it seems to me that those words are mostly "confused" in usage. So, I suppose the real disagreement is over how we should use the terms — which will then "define" the scope of what we are talking about, and how we implement these things in practice.

It may be the case that we have reasons to make our moral systems "universal" (whatever that means) — but if we do, it's not because of anything inherent or intrinsic to "morality" — it's because we have desires that are fulfilled by doing so. Those are the only reasons for action that exist. On the other hand, we may have reasons to have some of our "moral prescriptions" not be "universal" — but if so, it would be because that would tend to fulfill more and stronger desires. This is an empirical question — not one answered by appeal to definitions, but by real–world evidence of what results in more and stronger desires being fulfilled.

cl said...

Kip,

I can't imagine not using words like "hurt" or "good" or "helpful", for instance.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating the rejection of moral speak per se. It's just that Alonzo and now faithlessgod have both claimed desirist arguments can be made as forcefully without moral speak. Since it is their moral speak that mostly seems to confuse people, perhaps a reformulation of desirism without it would help.

How do most people tend to use the term "good", then?

Well, different people use it different ways, of course, but I think there are two threads of commonality running through them: utility and "the right thing".

People *do* use 'good' to refer to something like "fulfills the desires in question," in the generic sense, but that just refers to utility or pragmatic value. In my experience, people also use 'good' to refer to something like "the right thing" or "the best thing" (which of course isn't much help either). I have observed that "the right thing" or "the best thing" aren't necessarily that which "tends to fulfill the desires in question." It is often the case that doing "the right thing" entails the thwarting of affected desires, generally.

"Fulfills the desires in question" seems to me capture the generic meaning of the term.

If we're talking utility / pragmatic value, certainly, but again, far too many people use 'good' to refer to something like "the right thing" or "the best thing" to focus only numerical comparisons of desires thwarted / fulfilled.

Kip said...

> many people use 'good' to refer to something like "the right thing" or "the best thing"

It seems to me that "best" means "most good", so we're just back to "good". "Right" would also be a species of "good", so again, we're back to "good". I don't see how either of these meanings of "good" mean anything without "good" meaning something else, first. And, as far as I can tell, it means only: "fulfills the desires in question". It's the "desires in question" that change, depending on the species of "good" being used.

cl said...

Kip,

Let's say 10 thugs want to kill a rat who screwed them over [rat as in a human snitch, not the rodent. Further, this rat has no surviving family members or friends that would miss him if he were gone. Further, the thugs are going to take care of the burial, thug-style. No detectives will have to work the case, nobody will have to conduct an autopsy, and the trial will never go to court. The salient point is that not one single person would have a desire thwarted if this rat were killed, and killing this rat would tend to fulfill the desires in question, but killing the rat is certainly not an act your average contemporary individual would call good or right.

Why is that?

faithlessgod said...

In this case "your average contemporary individual" would be correct, since desirism would predict that people generally have reasons to inhibit the desire to kill someone based on such purported excuses such as that they are a "rat", even if that is true.

Why are you producing a variant of an old criticism of act utilitarianism, which BTW AU can easily handle, when desirism is a result of rejecting act utilitarianism?

cl said...

..desirism would predict that people generally have reasons to inhibit the desire to kill someone based on such purported excuses such as that they are a "rat", even if that is true.

Such as?