Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

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Good_Egg
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Good_Egg »

Consul wrote: September 19th, 2022, 10:00 pm I think that is not what he agrees on, because he thinks all ought-sentences are moral ones, but not all moral ought-sentences express moral obligations or duties.
That can't be right. I thought we'd established that an ought-sentence about a train is irrelevant to morality (unless it's actually a figurative usage about the railway company).

And whilst there is a part of morality that is not about duties (heroic virtue, virtue above and beyond duty) "ought" refers to obligations.

(We can see this in the derivation - "ought" is from "owed" and duty from "due to").

Of course, the act of uttering an ought-sentence has the potential to be a moral or immoral act...
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Consul »

Good_Egg wrote: September 20th, 2022, 2:55 am
Consul wrote: September 19th, 2022, 10:00 pm I think that is not what he agrees on, because he thinks all ought-sentences are moral ones, but not all moral ought-sentences express moral obligations or duties.
That can't be right. I thought we'd established that an ought-sentence about a train is irrelevant to morality (unless it's actually a figurative usage about the railway company).
Leontiskos doesn't seem to agree with us—do you, Leontiskos?
Good_Egg wrote: September 20th, 2022, 2:55 amAnd whilst there is a part of morality that is not about duties (heroic virtue, virtue above and beyond duty) "ought" refers to obligations.
(We can see this in the derivation - "ought" is from "owed" and duty from "due to").
I regard "duty" and "obligation" as synonyms.

The question is whether "ought" always expresses a moral or non-moral duty/obligation. In my view, there are non-moral uses of it which don't express duty/obligation but advisability, recommendability, desirability, or probability; but all moral uses of it express duty/obligation.
I know there are theorists such as Gregory Mellema who deny that moral ought-sentences always represent obligations. He thinks they can stand for "moral expectations" which are not moral obligations; but one can reply that his expectations are best interpreted as weak obligations rather than as non-obligations.

If "morality" means "moral philosophy" aka "ethics", then, of course, "there is a part of morality that is not about duties."

There are different types of ethics:

1. axiological ethics/axiology (value ethics)
2. aretological ethics/aretology (virtue ethics)
3. deontological ethics/deontology (duty ethics)
4. teleological ethics/ethical teleology (consequence ethics)

These types aren't mutually exclusive, so an ethical theory can include and combine two or more of them.
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Belindi »

'Ought' means whatever the speaker wants it to mean. If the speaker is too eccentric in his meanings he will be deemed mad and will not influence others.


E.g. "You ought to be able to expect the sun to rise tomorrow" may be embedded in a social situation where the current topic is the responsibilities of 'they' who are supposed to keep us safe from nuclear attack. Or the claim may be embedded in a social situation where the current topic is cosmology. Or a social situation where an over-anxious personality is addressed. Or farmers deprecating the weather. And so forth.
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Leontiskos »

Good_Egg wrote: September 19th, 2022, 8:37 pm
Leontiskos wrote: September 17th, 2022, 2:22 pm Consul's position is that there are non-moral rational human acts, and this means that we are in no way in agreement.
What I think you agree on is that there are senses of "ought" that are non-moral, i.e do not denote moral obligation.

Such a proposition in language is not to be confused with your proposition in moral philosophy, which is , as I understand it, that no intentional act is of such a nature that it is incapable of being moral or immoral.
Yes, that is right, but Consul has taken the so-called "linguistic turn" whereby philosophy is more or less reduced to linguistics, and therefore he seems to think that the topic at hand is the linguistic usage of the word 'ought'. As I have noted several times, morality is about human acts, not statements or word usage.
Good_Egg wrote: September 19th, 2022, 8:37 pm...Or am I misunderstanding you ?
You seem to be misunderstanding me, but I don't have time to get into the details now. Maybe I will come back to this when I have more time.

...in general you seem to be claiming that an act is moral if it could be or could have been moral (in some circumstance). This follows the way you say that any particular act could be obligatory if it were the subject of a promise. This is not at all my approach. That something could be moral does not make it moral. Thus, on your system an act which bears on no promise is morally neutral (neither moral nor immoral).
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Leontiskos
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Leontiskos »

Consul wrote: September 19th, 2022, 9:55 pm
Leontiskos wrote: September 17th, 2022, 2:22 pmConsul's position is that there are non-moral rational human acts, and this means that we are in no way in agreement.
Is instrumental rationality always a matter of morality? Is it impossible for amoralists or immoralists to be instrumentally rational? I don't think so. For example, the Nazis planning "the final solution to the Jewish question", i.e. the total extermination of the Jews, exhibited a great deal of instrumental rationality.

"Someone displays instrumental rationality insofar as she adopts suitable means to her ends."

Instrumental Rationality: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rati ... trumental/
"Instrumental rationality" is a reified analysis of a particular species of human acts, not a concrete, particular act. Such an analysis is not moral, no, but nevertheless all particular acts will be moral or immoral.

Being able to achieve one's ends in some sphere of life is a practical skill, but whenever that skill is used it will be used in a moral or immoral way (if, that is, the skill itself is not itself evil).
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Belindi
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Belindi »

Leontiskos, regarding your phrase "linguistic turn". There is a social theory of language within which language mediates ideas to the extent that, without language, ideas would hardly be possible, and within which language is a social creation.

Social creations are relatively destructive or relatively creative but are not absolutely true or absolutely false.

E.g. Trump is a social creation. The Trump myth exists by social consent and social creation, and it's mediated largely by language including linguistic memes such as MAGA, and also by other symbols which Trump the man is clever at manipulating.
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Good_Egg »

Yes, language is necessary for two (or more) people to "do philosophy together".

Is it also sufficient ? If my words to you accurately reflect my thoughts about the nature of things, and are accurately understood, and equally in the opposite direction, is that enough for philosophy to be happening ? Or is something more needed ?
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Good_Egg »

Leontiskos wrote: September 22nd, 2022, 5:50 pm As I have noted several times, morality is about human acts, not statements or word usage.
That's true.

But all this started with @Astro Cat , who seemed to be hypothesizing that the only valid meaning of a moral ought-statement would be better expressed by a conditional/instrumental ought-statement.

So that, for example, "rape is immoral" actually means something like "If you want to live according to your value of empathy, you ought to refrain from committing acts of rape".

That's not exactly what you or I would mean by that statement.

So it seems that both her thesis and any refutation of it that you or I might be able to frame are closely tied up with language and the meanings of words.

From what you've said, Aquinas would hold that empathy is not an idiosyncratic value that we're free to hold or not hold as we please. But is part of the end (in the sense of purpose rather than in the sense of conclusion) of being a human being. So that a human who lacks the facility for empathy is a defective human. And a human who possesses empathy but chooses not to act in accordance with it is acting in a way inconsistent with their inherent purpose, which is what moral wrongness consists of.

Aquinas believed in God, and therefore his notion of "inherent purpose" is tied up with God. Purpose exists in the mind.

But my understanding is that he believed that both God and purpose were knowable by reason and not dependent on religious revelation.

One of many things I'm not clear about is whether any notion of inherent purpose can survive the absence of belief in God.
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Belindi »

Good_Egg wrote: September 23rd, 2022, 5:42 am Yes, language is necessary for two (or more) people to "do philosophy together".

Is it also sufficient ? If my words to you accurately reflect my thoughts about the nature of things, and are accurately understood, and equally in the opposite direction, is that enough for philosophy to be happening ? Or is something more needed ?
What else is needed is the attitude to others that they exist and are not imaginary.

The social situation is such that social order is founded upon honesty, which is also a prerequisite for creative (fertile) exchanges. If too many people are criminals or dictators the society will become a mere aggregate of individuals who diverge from each other.
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Leontiskos »

Good_Egg wrote: September 19th, 2022, 8:37 pm
Leontiskos wrote: September 17th, 2022, 2:22 pm Consul's position is that there are non-moral rational human acts, and this means that we are in no way in agreement.
What I think you agree on is that there are senses of "ought" that are non-moral, i.e do not denote moral obligation...
(Written offline on the evening of September 22nd, before I read any of the new replies.)

Sorry Good_Egg, I’ve been rushing my last few replies. A few minutes after I logged out I better understood what you were saying. Yes, you are right in saying that I believe some uses of ‘ought’ are non-moral (such as the train use) and this is a helpful clarification. For example:
  • Leontiskos: All intentional and conscious human acts are moral.
  • Consul: If all human acts are moral, then all uses of the word ‘ought’ are moral, but this cannot be. See my train example.
  • Leontiskos: I admit that the train example is non-moral, but your conditional is false. Not all uses of the word ‘ought’ need to be moral in order for all human acts to be moral.
Now, it may be that somewhere earlier in the conversation I claimed that all ‘oughts’ are moral. If I indeed said such a thing, it was a semantic point, not a syntactic point. I would have been referring to the concept of oughtness, not the mere string of letters “o-u-g-h-t”. In the train scenario the only relevant way that the concept of oughtness would apply would be as an indirect reference to the train company or the conductor or some such thing. Anything less than that would be a metaphorical usage where the word ‘ought’ is being used but the concept does not in fact apply. Again, if we are to do philosophy we should be talking about things, not words.

(When Consul charged me with undermining the nuance of the semantic range of ‘ought’, I assumed he was charging me with constricting the reach of oughtness. Now I see that he may have been quibbling over words by charging me with excluding those cases, as with the train, where people use the word ‘ought’ but intend nothing normative by it. My response to that would be: Who cares? If a word conveys no oughtness in some specific case then it is irrelevant to our discussion, no matter what that word may be.)


Although I do not have your post in front of me, let me also attempt to address your point about circumstantial vs. non-circumstantial conceptions of moral acts. If I am not mistaken this line began when I told you that Consul holds that some species of acts are moral and some are not (this is what Becker calls a “special conception of morality”). In response you said that, on your view, there are no acts which are definitively non-moral since all could become the subject of a promise and therefore become morally obligatory. In your last post you seemed to attribute some variant of that view to me.

Since this could get complicated rather quickly, let me simply try to clarify the difference between our two views. You think that there are morally neutral acts, but that morally neutral acts are not definitively neutral since they are at the same time potentially moral or immoral (in light of the introduction of some promise). My view is that there are no morally neutral acts in the first place, although I do admit that circumstances can alter the permissibility of acts in some cases (and this is a complicated part of Aquinas’ teaching). More succinctly, your claim that all acts are potentially moral or immoral is different from my claim that all acts are moral or immoral. Nevertheless, our aside about the proper specification of the moral act is a rather different disagreement than the one which lies between myself and Consul.

Although it seems that Consul does not have a well-worked-out theory, it is at least clear that he asserts the existence of morally neutral acts, such as fixing a bicycle (I spoke to this counterexample of his in an earlier post).
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Consul »

Leontiskos wrote: September 22nd, 2022, 5:50 pm…Consul has taken the so-called "linguistic turn" whereby philosophy is more or less reduced to linguistics,…
No, I haven't!
Leontiskos wrote: September 22nd, 2022, 5:50 pm…and therefore he seems to think that the topic at hand is the linguistic usage of the word 'ought'. As I have noted several times, morality is about human acts, not statements or word usage.
Yes, but "the language of morals" (to use the title of famous book by Richard Hare) does matter in moral philosophy, and it must be analysed in order to clarify the meanings of our moral terms such as "ought". It is not the case that by doing so "philosophy is more or less reduced to linguistics."

(The logic of morals matters too: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-deontic/)

QUOTE:
"[T]he term “morality” can be used either

1. descriptively to refer to certain codes of conduct put forward by a society or a group (such as a religion), or accepted by an individual for her own behavior, or
2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational people."

The Definition of Morality: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/
:QUOTE
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Consul »

Leontiskos wrote: September 22nd, 2022, 5:54 pm
Consul wrote: September 19th, 2022, 9:55 pmIs instrumental rationality always a matter of morality? Is it impossible for amoralists or immoralists to be instrumentally rational? I don't think so. For example, the Nazis planning "the final solution to the Jewish question", i.e. the total extermination of the Jews, exhibited a great deal of instrumental rationality.

"Someone displays instrumental rationality insofar as she adopts suitable means to her ends."

Instrumental Rationality: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rati ... trumental/
"Instrumental rationality" is a reified analysis of a particular species of human acts, not a concrete, particular act. Such an analysis is not moral, no, but nevertheless all particular acts will be moral or immoral.

Being able to achieve one's ends in some sphere of life is a practical skill, but whenever that skill is used it will be used in a moral or immoral way (if, that is, the skill itself is not itself evil).
Of course, instrumental rationality can be used for morally bad/evil purposes and for morally good ones; but my question as to whether instrumental rationality is "always a matter of morality" concerns the central issue as to whether the ought involved in normative sentences of the form "If you want to realize x, then you ought to do y, because doing y is the most effective and thus instrumentally most rational way of realizing x" is a moral ought, i.e. an ought expressing moral duty/obligation. – It arguably isn't, unless being instrumentally rational is a virtue one morally ought to have and live by.
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Consul »

Leontiskos wrote: September 25th, 2022, 11:48 amSorry Good_Egg, I’ve been rushing my last few replies. A few minutes after I logged out I better understood what you were saying. Yes, you are right in saying that I believe some uses of ‘ought’ are non-moral (such as the train use) and this is a helpful clarification. For example:
  • Leontiskos: All intentional and conscious human acts are moral.
  • Consul: If all human acts are moral, then all uses of the word ‘ought’ are moral, but this cannot be. See my train example.
  • Leontiskos: I admit that the train example is non-moral, but your conditional is false. Not all uses of the word ‘ought’ need to be moral in order for all human acts to be moral.
My train example is merely meant to show that not all uses of "ought" are moral in the sense of expressing duty/obligation. It is not meant to show that not all human actions are moral. However, what exactly is it for an action to be moral? To be morally good or bad, right or wrong? To be morally non-indifferent/relevant/significant?
Leontiskos wrote: September 25th, 2022, 11:48 amNow, it may be that somewhere earlier in the conversation I claimed that all ‘oughts’ are moral. If I indeed said such a thing, it was a semantic point, not a syntactic point. I would have been referring to the concept of oughtness, not the mere string of letters “o-u-g-h-t”. In the train scenario the only relevant way that the concept of oughtness would apply would be as an indirect reference to the train company or the conductor or some such thing. Anything less than that would be a metaphorical usage where the word ‘ought’ is being used but the concept does not in fact apply. Again, if we are to do philosophy we should be talking about things, not words.
My train example does concern the semantics of "ought"!
To say that the train ought to have arrived at the station at 12am is not to use "ought" metaphorically. What does "ought" mean here? It expresses a non-moral and non-normative expectation: "I/We considered it probable/certain that the train would arrive at the station at 12am (but it didn't)."

QUOTE:
"to expect =
a: to consider probable or certain
expect to be forgiven
expect that things will improve
b : to consider reasonable, due, or necessary
expected hard work from the students
c : to consider bound in duty or obligated
they expect you to pay your bills"

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expect
:QUOTE

a is non-normative and non-moral.
b is normative and non-moral (perhaps sometimes moral).
c is normative and moral.
Leontiskos wrote: September 25th, 2022, 11:48 am(When Consul charged me with undermining the nuance of the semantic range of ‘ought’, I assumed he was charging me with constricting the reach of oughtness. Now I see that he may have been quibbling over words by charging me with excluding those cases, as with the train, where people use the word ‘ought’ but intend nothing normative by it. My response to that would be: Who cares? If a word conveys no oughtness in some specific case then it is irrelevant to our discussion, no matter what that word may be.)
Okay, let's ignore non-normative uses of "ought" (like my train example); but then the question is still whether all normative uses of "ought" are moral ones expressing duty/obligation. I think this is not the case. For instance, when I say that you ought to brush your teeth twice a day (because it's conducive to dental health), this is clearly a normative use of "ought", but is it also used morally here, in the sense of "It is your duty to brush your teeth twice a day"?
In my view, this is a prudential use rather than a moral one—unless one has the moral duty to maintain dental health, such that brushing one's teeth twice a day is a derivative moral duty based on the moral duty to maintain dental health.
Leontiskos wrote: September 25th, 2022, 11:48 amAlthough I do not have your post in front of me, let me also attempt to address your point about circumstantial vs. non-circumstantial conceptions of moral acts. If I am not mistaken this line began when I told you that Consul holds that some species of acts are moral and some are not (this is what Becker calls a “special conception of morality”). In response you said that, on your view, there are no acts which are definitively non-moral since all could become the subject of a promise and therefore become morally obligatory. In your last post you seemed to attribute some variant of that view to me.

Since this could get complicated rather quickly, let me simply try to clarify the difference between our two views. You think that there are morally neutral acts, but that morally neutral acts are not definitively neutral since they are at the same time potentially moral or immoral (in light of the introduction of some promise). My view is that there are no morally neutral acts in the first place, although I do admit that circumstances can alter the permissibility of acts in some cases (and this is a complicated part of Aquinas’ teaching). More succinctly, your claim that all acts are potentially moral or immoral is different from my claim that all acts are moral or immoral. Nevertheless, our aside about the proper specification of the moral act is a rather different disagreement than the one which lies between myself and Consul.

Although it seems that Consul does not have a well-worked-out theory, it is at least clear that he asserts the existence of morally neutral acts, such as fixing a bicycle (I spoke to this counterexample of his in an earlier post).
We may be talking past each other inadvertently.
What exactly does "A is morally neutral" mean? Does it mean "A is not morally evaluated or evaluable (= Moral terms/concepts aren't applied or applicable to A)"? Does it mean "A is morally indifferent/insignificant"? Does it mean "A is morally optional"?

See: Deontic Logic > Optionality vs. Indifference: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logi ... OptiVsIndi

If "everything that is neither obligatory nor prohibited is a matter of indifference," and moral indifference means moral neutrality, then there are morally neutral actions, since "many actions are neither obligatory nor prohibited."

In my understanding, an action is morally indifferent/insignificant if and only if it doesn't matter morally at all whether or not you do it; but, as the authors of the above-linked SEP text explain, it is a mistake to equate moral optionality with moral indifference/insignificance.

If for an action to be morally neutral is for it to be morally non-evaluated (not to be evaluated in moral terms), then morally optional actions aren't morally neutral, since the moral concept of optionality is applied to them.

If for an action to be morally neutral is for it to be morally optional, then there doubtless are morally neutral actions, i.e. ones which are neither obligatory nor prohibited.

If for an action to be morally neutral is for it to be morally indifferent/insignificant—in the sense that it doesn't matter morally at all whether or not you do it—, then there seem to be morally neutral actions in this sense too. For example, does it matter morally in any way whether or not I choose to wear one of my blue shorts tomorrow?
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

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A person can be morally neutral about something in the sense of not making any moral judgement about it.
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Re: Oughts and Hypothetical Imperatives

Post by Consul »

Leontiskos wrote: September 25th, 2022, 11:48 amAlthough I do not have your post in front of me, let me also attempt to address your point about circumstantial vs. non-circumstantial conceptions of moral acts. If I am not mistaken this line began when I told you that Consul holds that some species of acts are moral and some are not (this is what Becker calls a “special conception of morality”).
QUOTE:
"The general conception of morality, in a nutshell, is this: moral judgments are judgments about what rational agents ought to do or be, period. Moral acts and states of being are those that conform to moral judgments.…

Special conceptions of morality, by contrast, hold that the moral point of view is just one among many that a rational agent might consider. According to this sort of conception, etiquette, egoism, altruism and so forth are all distinct points of view in terms of which one might choose to act. Morality is another. It is one which a rational agent could in principle reject, without self-contradiction."

(Becker, Lawrence C. Reciprocity. 1986. Reprint, New York: Routledge, 2014. p. 17)
:QUOTE

So, according to Becker, an action A is moral if and only if A conforms to what one ought to do. If my doing A conforms to my duties, then my doing A is morally right. Given this definition, it is not the case that all actions are moral, since not all actions are morally right in the sense of conforming to the agent's duties.
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