The March Philosophy Book of the Month is Final Notice by Van Fleisher. Discuss Final Notice now.

The April Philosophy Book of the Month is The Unbound Soul by Richard L. Haight. Discuss The Unbound Soul Now

The May Philosophy Book of the Month is Misreading Judas by Robert Wahler.

J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
User avatar
Felix
Posts: 2752
Joined: February 9th, 2009, 5:45 am

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Felix » September 9th, 2019, 6:14 pm

Sculptor1: At once you seem to support the theory, then you make a rather obviously false moral claim, obviously "categorically" false.
Oh, I was no longer really talking about social morality, which I think mostly has to do with emotional intelligence. I was talking about broadening one's mental/emotional horizons, which in my experience tends to make one more empathetic and moral. You have no inclination or incentive to hurt others for personal gain, and in fact the very idea of "personal gain" becomes banal to you. I'm suppose I'm saying you can't get there through logic, love and compassion are not logical.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2308
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Hereandnow » September 9th, 2019, 7:43 pm

Felix:
Better still is: what is happiness?, what is pain?, etc. All are relativities. When you contemplate them (not analyse them, that is a mental hamster wheel), you may find that they have no inherent quality of goodness/badness, they become just different sorts of experiences, some more real than others. Then you may ask, what is the nature of their realness?

Eventually you may realize that all experience is Grace, and there is no "good reason" to prefer one variety of experience over another. As long as you're hung up with the objects of awareness, you'll never find it's source.

Let me give you a practical example: You have a "big day" tomorrow, but you can't sleep. Then you may start thinking, if I don't get much sleep tonight, I'll be a physical wreck tomorrow, etc. But how about if you enjoy the insomnia? Contemplate it. What are the properties of this feeling?, who is it that can't fall asleep?, etc. It becomes fascinating, and fascination can lead to... sleep. Curiouser and curiouser!
As to inherent qualities, the issue lies with the understanding that causal accounts have run their course and you've gotten to the foundation of such things. The big day you have tomorrow demands concessions today, but yielding to these does not address the nature of value as such. All defer to something else until the deferences are exhausted. Then, when explanations turn to that foundational assumption, the assumptions shrugs.
In your example, the big day's consequences are significant and the sacrifice of one's love of insomnia for the night wins out over the single night's indulgence.Of course, the value of the big day itself yields to something more general, logically underlying the big day excitment. Now, you may, as you suggest, think that this analysis takes the matter away from the lived reality of the plain and unquestioned excitement, but analysis is not meant to do this. It is meant to put thought to the experience itself in an effort to reveal its structure. In other words, looking through the terms of engagement explicitly acknowledged, the anticipation of the big day and the sacrifice required, has itself a deeper analysis in the characterization of all such acknowledgements. This is value and the metaethical analysis of the "good" dimension of wanting, sacrificing, yielding and so forth.

The most curious part of "the properties of this feeling" are not how weird or entangled our desires can be (after all: Enjoying insomnia?? It does happen, I realize). It is the nature of enjoyment itself. It is difficult to see in mundane events, but take it to a higher level, one where you are being burned alive of falling in love, then the value end becomes clearer, stands out to inspire inquiry: there is something about empirical paradigms that cannot account for this, for the event, as Levinas (a favorite philosopher of mine. If you ever have time to do so, check out totality and Infinity) put it, exceeds the content of the observation. I see the the accused witch on the stake screaming in agony and I know there is the presence here of something not contained within the sight observed, which is where the scientist acquires her content. THIS is the moral Wrongness Mackie (and Wittgenstein) are talking about.

All experience is Grace? I am intrigued, but I need more. How is being speared in the kidney an example of Grace? Not that I disagree; indeed, the poet Walt Whitman said as much, but this needs explaining.

User avatar
Felix
Posts: 2752
Joined: February 9th, 2009, 5:45 am

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Felix » September 9th, 2019, 11:08 pm

All experience is Grace? I am intrigued, but I need more. How is being speared in the kidney an example of Grace?
The power to experience is Grace, realizing this grace in every moment is obviously a bigger challenge. It requires courage, the courage to put aside reason and fully experience whatever comes to you, because reason habitually stands back from experience and defines it in personal terms: good/bad, pleasurable/painful, etc. If one is vigilant, one may even find that, as Sri Aurobindo put it, "all life is yoga."
The most curious part of "the properties of this feeling" are not how weird or entangled our desires can be (after all: Enjoying insomnia?? It does happen, I realize). It is the nature of enjoyment itself.
Well, by "enjoying insomnia," I meant immersing oneself in what you are experiencing, rather than analyzing and defining it, or as Alan Watts would say, "thingifying" it. When you label something, which is our natural tendency, it gets in the way of actually experiencing it.

I don't find the nature of enjoyment to be mysterious, the real mystery is awareness itself.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2308
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Hereandnow » September 10th, 2019, 12:14 pm

Felix
The power to experience is Grace, realizing this grace in every moment is obviously a bigger challenge. It requires courage, the courage to put aside reason and fully experience whatever comes to you, because reason habitually stands back from experience and defines it in personal terms: good/bad, pleasurable/painful, etc. If one is vigilant, one may even find that, as Sri Aurobindo put it, "all life is yoga."
Called Karma yoga. It's metaphysical idea, that is, the positing that our ethical affairs find their redemption in something sight unseen. Ethical/aesthetic, I should say, for these have as their essence the same thing: value. It is the valuing in the world that is at question here, as in not wanting to be late for work, or have you foot caught in a bear trap, or wanting to find true love. Now, for that spear in your kidney to be for the purpose of attaining God's grace (not to mince words), it has to be part of a metaphysical redemptive process, as all yogas are by nature "binding" to liberation, or what lies beyond liberation, Brahman (not the caste), nirvana, heaven (you know, the more you try to make sense of this, the more you realize that they all just talking about the same thing, and the difference lies with a culturally biased interpretation. Best to drop the metaphysics as best possible without losing actuality and leave it to a more disciplined philosophical analysis. This losing of actuality is the most common misuse of Occam's razor). I actually agree with this, but I am not willing to go far into extravagant talk about it. I am mostly an anti metaphysicalist, one in the Kantian sense: talk that has no object is dialetically vacuous. When we speak of God, for example, beyond what is warranted by experience, it has no meaning. All reasonable metaphysics deals with ethics/value and its presence (an arguable point). Which brings me to the spear in the kidney: it is the 'badness" of the event that warrants the metaphysical positing of its redemptive "purpose". So sure, you and Sri Aurobindo are right, I think, as it is by unseen Grace that all of the horrors of the world are redeemed. If this were not the case, then these would go unredeemed and that is impossible.

"The power to experience is Grace." This is true; it is a metaphysical necessity, though I do not understand it. It haunts the soul, or, it should. Why is that orphaned Indian girl on the street in Agra, maligned by local racketeers, living in trash, thrown into this world? One simply has to understand this point: ethics/value are IN the presence of the world, and the world is therefore an ethical place, and so the "wrongess" of this "throwness" is thereby un-relativized. Ethics, as Wittgenstein said, is an absolute, and our joys and sorrows are absolutes, to be a little careless with language here (for our language is NOT absolute; the term 'absolute" is not absolute. Hence, a major thrust of Wittgenstein's Tractatus).
I don't find the nature of enjoyment to be mysterious, the real mystery is awareness itself.
Such an interesting thing to say. It is, in my thoughts, both. Imagine awareness without the caring, the valuing, free of this dimension of existence altogether. Awareness would be no more than a bit of actualized software. No. Behind every moment of awareness if the true mystery, which is valuing. But then, valuing sans awareness? Awareness, it has to be understood, is a conceptual, contextual act, and this among the most profound insights of modern philosophy. Briefly: to acknowledge at all is to implicitly think! The perceptual act would be that of a feral child, an infant's blooming and buzzing, without it.

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 2219
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Consul » September 10th, 2019, 3:28 pm

I think Richard Hare is right with his view that in the context of morality "good" and "bad" ("evil") are the most general terms of commendation or condemnation. That is, we use them to commend or condem actions or forms of behavior. And…

"In making moral judgements we are purporting to commend or condemn actions or people because they have some properties which make them right or wrong, good or bad[.]"

(Hare, R. M. Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981. p. 51)

That is, whether an action is morally good/right (= commendable) or morally bad/wrong (= condemnable) depends on its nonmoral aspects or consequences.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

User avatar
Felix
Posts: 2752
Joined: February 9th, 2009, 5:45 am

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Felix » September 10th, 2019, 3:39 pm

Hereandnow: Which brings me to the spear in the kidney: it is the 'badness" of the event that warrants the metaphysical positing of its redemptive "purpose".
I think you are missing my point, I am talking about a different level of perception and experience. You are still in the analytical phase of experience here, i.e., what is the value of ____ experience (fill in the blank). As human beings, this perspective is necessary and unavoidable to us, but without a greater depth of perception/intuition, one will be forever trapped in it. One will bounce back and forth between the guard rails of sensory perception like a billiard ball on a pool table, which, as you pointed out, can be a living horror. And as long as we do not have a deeper, more direct, perception of life, we will continue to recreate this horror, as we have for thousands of years.

We've been using the wrong tool, i.e., reason, to try to address this problem of man's inhumanity to... I was going to say man's inhumanity to man but of course it does not begin or end there. Reason is one facet of intelligence but it is limited in its capacity to comprehend life. Reason puts nuclear missiles in the hands of immature adolescents.
Hereandnow: So sure, you and Sri Aurobindo are right, I think, as it is by unseen Grace that all of the horrors of the world are redeemed. If this were not the case, then these would go unredeemed and that is impossible.
As I just explained, I was not referring to Grace in the sense you mean. If mankind's current state of consciousness is a necessary phase in the evolution of consciousness than in the big picture view it can be excused. If not, it's disingenuous to claim it can have redemptive value.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2308
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Hereandnow » September 10th, 2019, 8:41 pm

Felix

I think you are missing my point, I am talking about a different level of perception and experience. You are still in the analytical phase of experience here, i.e., what is the value of ____ experience (fill in the blank). As human beings, this perspective is necessary and unavoidable to us, but without a greater depth of perception/intuition, one will be forever trapped in it. One will bounce back and forth between the guard rails of sensory perception like a billiard ball on a pool table, which, as you pointed out, can be a living horror. And as long as we do not have a deeper, more direct, perception of life, we will continue to recreate this horror, as we have for thousands of years.

We've been using the wrong tool, i.e., reason, to try to address this problem of man's inhumanity to... I was going to say man's inhumanity to man but of course it does not begin or end there. Reason is one facet of intelligence but it is limited in its capacity to comprehend life. Reason puts nuclear missiles in the hands of immature adolescents.
Not sure where inquiry is to go if not toward analysis, but, of course, you're talking about the termination of analysis. But it's not at all that I think reason is the be all and end all; in fact, I have argued often that post modern thinking, and by this I simply mean the well reasoned argument that recognizes that the end, the teleos, of philosophy rests with its putting aside dialectics altogether, shows us the end, as in termination, of philosophical progress. There is no more to be achieved, I hold, for we have had the answer in our grasp for centuries: it is within the depths of inwardness that progress has to proceed. Reason, however, is not to be put aside, as this is impossible: we are, if you will, made of reason. The world is structured by it, and as I said, without it, there would be no "I" to have an experience at all. The I is, at least as we are able to apprehend it, composite. Philosophy takes this composite nature of the "I" as proof that the historical idea, which has (had been) been standard for so long, that there is a singular agency called a soul, must be dismissed: the Age of Reason came to a startling halt with the failure of reason to confirm God, the soul, reality, for all knowledge has been revealed to be contingent, contextual, composite, which is why theists are so threatened by post modern thinking: Even the notion of the presence of presence, of existence qua existence is abandoned.

No, I haven't gotten off track. I have just come to the point where I agree with you, but insist that the way to understand how to get beyond the post modern crisis is through understanding of value. Talk about value is, as you note, talk, and the Zen master's fan comes flying at your head. But what is being offered here is a form of yoga, jnana yoga, and it goes like this: The crisis before us is the loss of a religious and philsophical foundation, and when reason was put to the test, it could not preserve this loss of metaphysical affirmation. Hence my agreement with you regarding the "bouncing back and forth" which is in philosophical terms, the circularity of rational discourse on the basic themes, the so called hermeneutic circle (which Heidegger embraced). Where to go?

I won't repeat the argument, but to summarize: Thinking is a vehicle (there are other kinds of yoga: dyana, bhakti, ???) that concludes its own failings. Take a look at Kiekegaard, Levinas, Buber, Otto, see the Cloud of Unknowing, Meister Eckhart, see Husserl's epoche and so called verticality, and on and on.They all point to a release of presuppositions, that is, assumptions about the world in order to make way for your "different level of perception and experience." My argument is that this letting go of "attachments" as the Buddhist/Hindu will call them, is an embrace not of a new conceptual scheme (though Tibetan Buddhists claim that among the accomplished there is a language about their recondite world of interiority) but of an existential movement inward. My talk of Value is the clue in the world that such a thing is possible, for ethical value is indicative of a transcendence in the fabric of experience itself. Desiring as such presents qualitatively different from all other material relationships. It shows depth meaning.
Sorry for all the writing. A habit of mine.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2308
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Hereandnow » September 10th, 2019, 8:44 pm

As I just explained, I was not referring to Grace in the sense you mean. If mankind's current state of consciousness is a necessary phase in the evolution of consciousness than in the big picture view it can be excused. If not, it's disingenuous to claim it can have redemptive value.
You said it is disingenuous to claim suffering has a redemptive value if it doesn't have a redemptive value. I am missing something.

User avatar
Felix
Posts: 2752
Joined: February 9th, 2009, 5:45 am

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Felix » September 11th, 2019, 12:49 am

Hereandnow: My argument is that this letting go of "attachments" as the Buddhist/Hindu will call them, is an embrace not of a new conceptual scheme (though Tibetan Buddhists claim that among the accomplished there is a language about their recondite world of interiority) but of an existential movement inward.
I agree with that, the "how to" is of course a problem, because it is rather inexplicable.
Hereandnow: You said it is disingenuous to claim suffering has a redemptive value if it doesn't have a redemptive value. I am missing something.
Well, please clarify what you meant by: "it is by unseen Grace that all of the horrors of the world are redeemed. If this were not the case, then these would go unredeemed and that is impossible."

Is this a faith based position? Why is the redemption impossible?
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2308
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Hereandnow » September 11th, 2019, 10:43 am

Consul
I think Richard Hare is right with his view that in the context of morality "good" and "bad" ("evil") are the most general terms of commendation or condemnation. That is, we use them to commend or condem actions or forms of behavior. And…

"In making moral judgements we are purporting to commend or condemn actions or people because they have some properties which make them right or wrong, good or bad[.]"

(Hare, R. M. Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method, and Point. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981. p. 51)

That is, whether an action is morally good/right (= commendable) or morally bad/wrong (= condemnable) depends on its nonmoral aspects or consequences.
Here is what Mackie says about Hare:
Hare suggests that both where it precedes a functional noun and where it precedes a non-functional one, say ‘sunset’, ‘good’ means (roughly) ‘having the characteristic qualities (whatever they are) which are commendable in the kind of object in question’. Commendation, he holds, is the thread that ties the various uses of ‘good’ together. Where there is a functional noun about, commendable qualities are those that enable the thing to perform its function; but what is commendable in sunsets is determined, presumably, by the preferences of those who like looking at them. But what is it to commend something? Putting together two dictionary definitions, Hare infers that to commend is to mention as being good. But if so, to define ‘good’ in terms of what is commendable, though not

Mackie, J. Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (p. 54). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
Of course, this remains contingent for the good, that is, for x's being good (a sunset, an action, an activity, and so forth) x is to be commended; or, to be good is no more than to be commended, but the who and what of commendation varies. This is clearly right, when we say something is good it cannot be, for someone or something (rain is good for ducks, and good for making mud), commended for that person, animal or thing.

Ethics, is far more "queer" than this, and I will not argue here what this is. As i have said in the past, take a lighted match and apply it to your finger and observe. Your commendation of avoiding such things does not touch upon the very queer "presence" of pain; commending simply is another world for good, and this is as far as it goes. My thinking is that the nature of what presents itself is indicative of something far more important about the world. It is a presence that exceeds the categories of empirical content.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2308
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Hereandnow » September 11th, 2019, 10:48 am

This: 'it cannot be, for someone or something (rain is good for ducks, and good for making mud), commended for that person, animal or thing"
should read "it cannot be extracted from being commended for that person....." the point being that commendation and goodness is no ore than a tautology.

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 2219
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Consul » September 11th, 2019, 2:01 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 10:43 am
Of course, this remains contingent for the good, that is, for x's being good (a sunset, an action, an activity, and so forth) x is to be commended; or, to be good is no more than to be commended, but the who and what of commendation varies. This is clearly right, when we say something is good it cannot be, for someone or something (rain is good for ducks, and good for making mud), commended for that person, animal or thing.
Factual goodness-for/badness-for (* isn't moral goodness/badness!
(* For example, that smoking is bad for your health is a nonmoral fact.)
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2308
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Hereandnow » September 11th, 2019, 8:18 pm

Consul
Factual goodness-for/badness-for (* isn't moral goodness/badness!
And therein lies the rub: If the badness of torturing someone ( complex justifications aside) is, as morally bad, different from the badness of over chlorinating your pool or high winds being bad for trees, then how do we understand this? Is there some qualitative difference? Or is it just a categorial difference: moral badness is just for humans and perhaps animals and moral language is reserved only for these because they are blissful and suffer and and all contained therein, and moral language is reserved just for these, just as talk of quantum physics is reserved for particle behavior under certain well defined conditions. This is what categorial talk does with the world. But ethics: something Mackie will have no truck with, which presents a qualitative difference, a sui generis called value. This is what Wittgenstein was on about. Why he refused to speak of it, mostly. There is something unspeakable about torture (love, music, heartbreak, depression, and all the like) just as one cannot "speak" the color orange. one can only contextualize it, and speak relatively, contingently, about it.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2308
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Hereandnow » September 12th, 2019, 12:04 pm

Felix:
Well, please clarify what you meant by: "it is by unseen Grace that all of the horrors of the world are redeemed. If this were not the case, then these would go unredeemed and that is impossible."

Is this a faith based position? Why is the redemption impossible?
I'm saying the world without redemption is impossible. What is redemption in the philosophical/religious sense about? I never liked this word because of its associations with figures and events out of religious narratives, and this I try to avoid at all costs, for they present an interpretation dogmatically rather than dialectically, and that's just bad thinking. But, it is the only word I know that brings the matter ethics to its metaphysical grounding.

I could go into this, but you wouldn't appreciate it. Suffice it to say, there are things the mind will not accept, like arguments that contradict themselves and in genereal, breaking the rules of logic. Can't be done and any attempt to do so possesses a contradiction, for in the denial itself there is logical adherence. Causality works like this: it is not an empirical rule that says an event must be preceded by a cause, it is an intuitive rule, like logic, or, equally binding, for, unlike gravity where things could start rising instead of falling and while it be strange, no intuitive rules are broken, only those of familiarity, the law of sufficient reason/cause is impossible: it cannot be imagined that an event has no prior. Nothing occurs ex nihilo. Causality is apriori, apodictic, as they say.

I say ethics is like this. The flames that lick the soles of the feet of the condemned witch, this must be redeemed just as events must have causes. The need for redemption is built into the the suffering itself; it is part of the analysis of suffering. Simply put, there is no way the girls suffering stands alone in eternity. Suffering as it is so deemed is impossible, just as a causeless event is impossible.

There is a lot to say about this, but, as usual, it depends on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. I learned my thinking and interpreting from others.

User avatar
Felix
Posts: 2752
Joined: February 9th, 2009, 5:45 am

Re: J.L .Mackie's Moral Error Theory

Post by Felix » September 12th, 2019, 12:54 pm

Hereandnow: I say ethics is like this. The flames that lick the soles of the feet of the condemned witch, this must be redeemed just as events must have causes. The need for redemption is built into the the suffering itself; it is part of the analysis of suffering. Simply put, there is no way the girls suffering stands alone in eternity.
So that we may retain our humanity you mean? I just do not know that the Universe cares that we do, life here on Earth may be just one experiment in a practically infinite number of them, and it need not be the stage on which Spirit, or Consciousness, to keep it secular, succeeds in knowing Itself. But since it apparently takes billions of years to construct a stage, it is wise not to take this marvelous opportunity for granted.

Are we wise? It's hard to say, humankind has become hypnotized now by it's own ingenuity, which is often merely barbarism wearing a finely tailored suit. I am by nature an optimist but there is only so far one can descend into the abyss before the climb back out becomes impossible.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

Post Reply