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Old 10-15-2010, 01:29 PM   #1138484  /  #101
Preno
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I'm not sure if I'd say you can test moral statements by observations (probably not, but then again I wouldn't say that you can test whether someone is generous by observation, either), but you can certainly learn or revise your moral beliefs through experience.
And that process, I suppose, is part of what I was clumsily trying to capture with my proposed unpacking. To get more vague (sorry), moral opinions seem to be some sort of distillation or reorganization of our emotional responses to (real or hypothetical) events.
Again the question here is whether you aren't confusing reasons and causes. What causes us to adopt a certain position doesn't in general constitute a reason for doing so. When the meaning of moral claims is concerned, what's relevant is how they function in our reasoning. Very few people would argue that because I don't like X (where "like" would have to take on some special meaning it doesn't ordinarily have), X is wrong. They might, of course, (argue that X is wrong) because they don't like X - just like people might, and in fact ordinarily do, (argue that X is true) because they believe X - but that's entirely irrelevant.

In this vague formulation, it may not be any more objectionable than the claim that our beliefs about physical objects are a reorganization of our physiological responses to light stimuli, but, of course, that doesn't imply that claims about physical objects are claims about our physiological responses to light stimuli.
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Precisely so that my proposed definition wouldn’t be purely indexical!
That, as I'm sure you acknowledge, is not a very good motivation for including a clause in a proposed definition.
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An equivalent formulation could be made without a “those who disagree are wrong” clause, but I found it convenient.
Could it? How (without thereby become purely indexical)?
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The biggest problem with my unpacking proposal is that I was implicitly claiming that everyone is at bottom some sort of consequentialist. And that’ll probably get me into deep philosophical trouble.
First, your definition isn't consequentialist, second, even if it were what you would be claiming is not that everyone is a consequentialist, but that people who aren't consequentialists are wrong, which is a perfectly plausible claim.
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Firstly, if what you're basing your condemnation of those who disagree with you about X on is simply that this will lead to more X, then it's not clear to me why you're proposing it as an additional condition in your definition.
That was just an example of how disapproval of X could go along with disapproval of approval of X. More to the point, it seems to me intuitively that when people have a revulsion toward X but no revulsion toward those who are OK with X, the revulsion is unlikely to be expressed as a moral claim. That’s what differences in taste (for food or art) look like.
I disagree, but this whole line of argument is secondary, so I don't see much point in continuing it further. If you want to stipulate for the purposes of the argument that this holds, that's fine by me.
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Old 10-19-2010, 04:04 PM   #1143107  /  #102
Brother Daniel
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Again the question here is whether you aren't confusing reasons and causes.
Ouch. I hate to admit it, since this is a very elementary and rather embarrassing error, but I think that's exactly what I've been doing wrong. So perhaps the best thing at this point would be for me to accept that I've been thoroughly pwned, and bow out.

(There are several minor points in your post that I still feel I could argue with, but they seem rather unimportant now.)
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