Can Moral Nihilism Be Successfully Refuted?

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Night Ripper
 
Reply Fri 14 May, 2010 10:42 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;164265 wrote:
If we call a moral judgment false, we are implying it is a factual issue. Right? But that is to say that all moral judgment are factual judgments.


To say that a moral judgment is false is to imply that moral judgments are the kinds of things that are able to be true or false which is called "moral cognitivism". (See: Moral Cognitivism vs. Non-Cognitivism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy))

To get back to the issue, as you put it, saying "abortion is wrong" is like saying "the King of France is bald". There is no King of France and there is no wrongness. The only question left is whether sentences like "abortion is wrong" or "the King of France is bald" are false (error theory) or meaningless (non-cognitivism).

What part of that do you not understand?
 
shelved neurosis
 
Reply Tue 6 Mar, 2012 09:13 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper wrote:

kennethamy;164257 wrote:
Wrong about what? To say that all moral judgments are factual judgments is to conflate the two even if the converse is not true.


That's false. That's not conflating the two. The fact that the converse is not true means that they are still separable ideas. By your reasoning, to say that all Ford trucks are Ford vehicles is to conflate trucks and vehicles. That's false. That's simply not what the word "conflate" means. If I was actually conflating something, that would be cause for concern. However, I'm not and you haven't provided evidence that I am.



I'd have to agree with you on this. I think you could make it easier for kennethamy to understand that what you are saying is indeed not conflating trucks and vehicles by providing an example of actual conflation. You can still distinguish between a ford truck and a ford vehicle. The differences between a ford truck and ford vehicles have not become lost when you compare the two, therefore they are not being conflated.


even though this is completely off the OP's topic, which, in truth is something that I am very highly interested in -- i still couldn't resist commenting on this.


Moral nihilism is a philosophy which I battle with every day. I consider myself a nihilist on many levels but to accept nihilism as true is to accept all of existence as meaningless -- which is ultimately depressing. The more I accept nihilism the less I desire to live.
 
Driekone
 
Reply Thu 26 Apr, 2012 10:03 am
First, why does objectivity in regards to truth have to belong within the "metaphysical" realm? Even if it is in our moral intuition, or innate within us somehow, why can't that be grounds for an objective truth? I think philosophers get so caught up in objectivity residing in metaphysics, stemming from Plato's Forms, that they lose sight of the possibility of objective truths pertaining to the human animal. We don't need metaphysics to search for objective morality. It is absurd to even ask the question, "Is murder bad?" Or, "Is rape okay if your culture says it is?" Or "Can we argue for the validity of torturing a small child to death, by first spanking her buttocks with a belt until they bleed in order to prepare the meat of the child for a tender roast in the oven, as Albert Fish did?" Why is this such a difficult philosophical debate? Could it be that philosophers go a little too far at times in their analysis?
 
scottmas
 
Reply Mon 10 Dec, 2012 04:31 am
chap9898 wrote:

Lately, I have found myself attracted to moral nihilism, as espoused by Mackie and Joyce. I define moral nihilism as the denial of the existence of objective moral truth. However, as moral nihilism is both counterintuitive and uncomfortable, I would like to ask whether any of you are aware of any convincing arguments that refute this position. As I am an atheist, please keep in mind that any arguments that invoke God would not be convincing. In the following, I will summarize the case for moral nihilism:

The only evidence for the existence of objective moral truth is our so-called moral intuition. However, this intuition is unreliable, and it may be alternatively explained by natural selection. It is unreliable because there is wide disagreement over the actual content of objective moral truth (Mackie's "argument from relativity"). It may be explained by natural selection by noting that empathy (the basis, in my view, of moral intuition) would likely promote group coherence and cooperation for mutual benefit, thereby enabling those with empathy to survive and reproduce more successfully than those who are non-empathetic. Furthermore, if objective moral truth existed, it would be a strange metaphysical entity indeed (Mackie's "argument from queerness"), as it would be intrinsically motivating, yet not confirmable by sense-data. Therefore, applying Occam's Razor, one should not posit such a strange entity if the only evidence for it (so-called moral intuition) is unreliable and may be explained instead by a scientific theory (natural selection) that is widely accepted.

For those who reject moral nihilism, I propose the following challenge: How would one motivate a non-empathetic atheist--who is convinced that he will not get caught--to refrain from a harmful action (such as torturing a child for fun)? And if one cannot do so, how can one posit the existence of objective moral truth (objective in the sense that it applies to everyone, and moral truth in the sense that it should provide at least some motivational force)?

Again, I am looking for convincing arguments against moral nihilism. Thank you for your time.


This is a great question Chap9898 and there's been some really good discussion discussion here. But I still don't think the question has been successfully answered. To rephrase it in another way:

How could you logically convince a technologically advanced alien species that derived unspeakable joy from eating man-flesh (IE the flesh of a now extinct beast formerly found on their home planet which by a quirk of fate almost exactly resembles man-flesh in both taste and consistency) from enslaving humanity and treating us in the exact same manner in which we treat cows currently? (IE injecting growth hormones, selective breeding, butchering at the prime of life when the meat is most desirable, etc)

Obviously this isn't an exact rephrasing of Chap9898's question but more like another representative example of the class of ethical dilemmas he proposed. And obviously, I'm presupposing that this is a real ethical dilemma, not one that can be gotten out of by some technological innovation. IE "Give us some time alien invader species because we're on the verge of inventing this new human flesh generator machine that will give you all the human flesh you want."

I'm personally not convinced the question can be satisfactorily answered. I would find such an occurrence certainly lamentable from the perspective of my own sentiments but I doubt that would provide a very convincing case to our would-be alien enslavers. (They need a name...the "Xorlac" lets say...)
 
TomBlackstone1
 
Reply Tue 25 Dec, 2012 08:34 pm
@chap9898,
chap9898 wrote:

Lately, I have found myself attracted to moral nihilism, as espoused by Mackie and Joyce. I define moral nihilism as the denial of the existence of objective moral truth. However, as moral nihilism is both counterintuitive and uncomfortable, I would like to ask whether any of you are aware of any convincing arguments that refute this position. As I am an atheist, please keep in mind that any arguments that invoke God would not be convincing. In the following, I will summarize the case for moral nihilism:

The only evidence for the existence of objective moral truth is our so-called moral intuition. However, this intuition is unreliable, and it may be alternatively explained by natural selection. It is unreliable because there is wide disagreement over the actual content of objective moral truth (Mackie's "argument from relativity"). It may be explained by natural selection by noting that empathy (the basis, in my view, of moral intuition) would likely promote group coherence and cooperation for mutual benefit, thereby enabling those with empathy to survive and reproduce more successfully than those who are non-empathetic. Furthermore, if objective moral truth existed, it would be a strange metaphysical entity indeed (Mackie's "argument from queerness"), as it would be intrinsically motivating, yet not confirmable by sense-data. Therefore, applying Occam's Razor, one should not posit such a strange entity if the only evidence for it (so-called moral intuition) is unreliable and may be explained instead by a scientific theory (natural selection) that is widely accepted.


I have a few questions here.

#1. Why do you assume that morality is a product of intuitions?
#2. Why do you assume that moral truths cannot be confirmed through sense-experience?

Also, later on in your post you consider a person who wants to torture a child and believes he will not be caught if he does so. You want to know how to convince him not to torture the child. My question is why do you begin with this example? Suppose we begin with this example instead:

"There is a person who wants to stab his own eye out with a knife. What could we say to convince him not to? Is there any empirical evidence that he should not stab his own eye out? Or is it just a matter of opinion that he should not do so?"

Some will say that this example misses the point. If the guy wants to stab his own eye out that is not a moral issue but just a personal decision of his. But is it? Are there not some grounds for saying that certain actions are irrational and SHOULDN'T BE DONE regardless of whether they harm other people or not? And if so, how does one make sense of moral nihilism, of the idea that we cannot say what a person "should" or "should not" do?

To sum up this point, I think that you are on the wrong track in the way that you are posing the question of moral nihilism. The first thing we need to get clear is the question of what morality is and why we are thought to need it. Once we get that clear we can then decide whether it really is necessary to human life or if it is instead just a superstitious remnant left over from religion.
 
Thomas
 
Reply Wed 26 Dec, 2012 12:06 am
@chap9898,
chap9898 wrote:
The only evidence for the existence of objective moral truth is our so-called moral intuition. However, this intuition is unreliable, and it may be alternatively explained by natural selection.

That's rather like saying that since our eyes are unreliable and explainable by natural selection, we therefore have no evidence that there's objectively something out there for us to see. The logic here seems fuzzy.

chap9898 wrote:
For those who reject moral nihilism, I propose the following challenge: How would one motivate a non-empathetic atheist--who is convinced that he will not get caught--to refrain from a harmful action (such as torturing a child for fun)?

The same way I would convince a blind person that there is such a thing as light: maybe I couldn't. You cannot prove the objective existence of light to people without eyes --- just as as you cannot prove the objective existence of moral rules to someone without empathy, goodwill, or a conscience. But why place a higher standard of evidence on the objective reality of good and bad than on the objective reality of light?
 
sprinic1501
 
Reply Sat 29 Dec, 2012 04:55 am
@chap9898,
if ur an athiest moral nihilism is one of ur only options. u cant have ethics (absolute morality) without God. ur just being intellectually honest with yourself and ur worldview. now i would argue their are arguments for God. But i refuse to argue ppl into believing in God. I use personal encounters to prove God. Altho a nice friendly conversation about God i always enjoy Smile
 
Thomas
 
Reply Fri 4 Jan, 2013 03:23 am
@sprinic1501,
sprinic1501 wrote:
if ur an athiest moral nihilism is one of ur only options.

One of your options or your only option? I suggest you make up your mind.

sprinic1501 wrote:
u cant have ethics (absolute morality) without God.

Who says ethics has to be about absolute morality? Who says ethics can't, for instance, deal in degrees of approval and disapproval, proportioned to changes in happiness and suffering? Utilitarianism, the label for this kind of godless ethic, certainly isn't absolute, but it's an ethic nevertheless.
 
MattDavis
 
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 04:29 pm
@Thomas,
Utilitarianism as all ethical systems must rest upon an assumption of value somewhere.
This may be multiple values, but there is a minimum of one.
To do otherwise would be like building an economy with the currency of value zero.
There still has to be something to measure, as in your analogy with light. We must still make a determination somewhere to establish preference.
 
Deadsoul
 
Reply Mon 22 Apr, 2013 10:04 pm
No one has answered his question; appealing to morality, how would you convince a non-empathetic atheist not to torture a child for fun?
I also ask; if the person believes that torturing the child for fun is Not immoral,
is that moral belief just as valid as the belief that is IS immoral?
Since morals are subjective.
 
Cyclops
 
Reply Sun 30 Jun, 2013 05:45 pm
Twirlip:

Thanks for you signature!
I agree completely.
If we followed Wittgenstein's maxim there would be no philosophy.
 
 

 
Copyright © 2014 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.04 seconds on 09/30/2014 at 11:52:31