philoreaderguy wrote:What makes an action immoral? How do we know if a certain choice, action, or behavior is immoral?
Arguing for one particular view is illfounded if we have not made clear the various contenders.
First, which all agrees upon:
What makes an action morally good is the fact
that it conforms to morally valid norms.
That should be eatable for both relativists and objectivists, deontologists and teleologists of all kinds (perhaps not virtue ethicists, but **** them).
What is a moral fact, then? And what things count as such? The first answer narrows in whatever might be said to occupy the set of things that fall under the second sentence, i.e. things that count as moral facts. We could go the other way, of course, and argue from a substantive theory to an ontological thesis. There is, however, widespread controversy about the logical relationship between metaethical views and normative theories. I think the connections are more clear than most contend, but who am I? Hehe.
So, we have various theories of moral facts and reasons. The question "What makes an action right or wrong?" is perhaps best framed in terms of reasons: "What counts as a reason for doing or not doing an action?". The battlefield is pretty well mapped (check out Shafer-Landau's awesome articles on the subject, he summes up every view out there!):
We have reasons internalism and externalism, basically. Internalism holds that a reason is never external to an agent. That is: you can't have a reason to act without being disposed, upon deliberation, to act on that reason. Externalism hold's that a fully rational agent can, logically, resist acting on a reason, since it holds that reasons are external to an agents motivational profile. The most plausible versions of both theories lie very close in their practical consequences. It is mainly a dispute about whether one can sincerely hold a moral judgement without being motivated to act in accordance with it. So the views link to two opposing theories of motivation: does judgements about morality nec. motivate? Yes: motivational judgement internalism, no= externalism. If you are a MJI, then most likely you are also an internalist about reasons. Very often these two views are the reason for scepticism, since they couple well with humeanism: beliefs never motivate. So if a belief don't motivate, and if a moral judgement nec. motivate, then moral judgements are not beliefs, hence they don't have a truthvalue = moral scepticism. We are forced to hold, on this picture, that moral "judgements" are a mere matter of beliefs about the world coupled with desire. Since moral judgements motivate, and since beliefs never do, the "moral" component seems linked to the desire. We can easily believe, say, that the water is cold without being motivated to anything on account of the belief. We can't judge that murder is wrong without being in some sense motivated to abstain from murdering, hence what "wrong" has a normative input only at the price of killing cognitivism.
If you want to remain a cognitivist and a humeanist, then we must say that moral judgements are merely reports of inner motivational states of the form "I disapprove of murder", hence the cognitivist ingredient does nothing to save morality.
To argue for an objectivist thesis we must either accept reasons externalism or deny motivational judgement internalism. Since reasons externalism is trivially true if we take "external" to refer to all reasons outside an agents actual motivational profile and beliefset, we must idealize it slightly: external means external to an ideally rationally deliberated agent. That is: an agent that acts on good reasons and know the relevant stuff. So basically, this view collapses into judgement externalism: can an agent judge something to be morally relevant as a reason, and not be moved in some sense? The answer, of course, is simply the answer to this: what is a moral reason? I think looking at normative theories would inform us. Take Kant. A moral reason is simply a duty. You have a duty no matter what you care about or believe, since a duty is derived from reason alone. This implies, I think, that an ideally rational being is disposed to act morally. So on this weak reading of externalism, externalism is false. The answer to the question can thus be said to be:
what makes an action moral is that it conforms to the dictates of morality, which could be, for instance, the categorical imperative.
Hope this makes sense.