Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Armchair politics, ethical soapbox and current affairs. Place to discuss vegan ethics and general ethics and politics. Be nice.

Moderators: hardcore iv, bronco, fredrikw, JP, Rochellita

Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby Fallen_Horse » Sun Mar 04, 2012 6:01 am

First, some info from Wiki:

"Philosophical theories on the nature and origins of morality (that is, theories of meta-ethics) are broadly divided into two classes:
Moral realism is the class of theories which hold that there are true moral statements that report objective moral facts. For example, while they might concede that forces of social conformity significantly shape individuals' "moral" decisions, they deny that those cultural norms and customs define morally right behavior. This may be the philosophical view propounded by ethical naturalists, however not all moral realists accept that position (e.g. ethical non-naturalists).[7]
[/b]Moral anti-realism, on the other hand, holds that moral statements either fail or do not even attempt to report objective moral facts. Instead, they hold that moral claims are derived either from an unsupported belief that there are objective moral facts (error theory, a form of moral nihilism); the speakers' sentiments (emotivism, a form of moral relativism); or any one of the norms prevalent in society (ethical subjectivism, another form of moral relativism).[b]
Theories which claim that morality is derived from reasoning about implied imperatives (universal prescriptivism), the edicts of a god (divine command theory), or the hypothetical decrees of a perfectly rational being (ideal observer theory), are considered anti-realist in the robust sense used here, but are considered realist in the sense synonymous with moral universalism."


I was recently in a debate about veganism with a moral anti-realist, and I realized I didn't have a good reason to give him to persuade him to go vegan. He argued that all a person's morals are simply constructs they create to fit their actions and upbringing, and that nothing has an absolute moral value. Therefore animals have no moral value, and veganism has no moral basis. There is no reason to not eat animals, because animals only have the value you assign to them. When I told him that humans assign value everyday, AKA why there is punishment for murdering a human, he replied that values and laws are assigned only for us to 'cover our own asses', and that there is no more value in a plant than in an animal. I was taken back, because I had never dealt with this philosophical approach before, and I am not sure what to think.

Thoughts?
Lovin' it!
Fallen_Horse
Active Member
 
Posts: 1788
Joined: Sun Feb 19, 2006 8:07 am
Location: Bakersfield, CA, USA

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby etherspin » Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:44 am

My question would be "which would you object to more, me running my lawn mover over 50 square metres of lawn or 50 square metres of kittens ?" :mrgreen:
User avatar
etherspin
Active Member
 
Posts: 175
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:15 pm

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby Lordmuppet » Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:18 am

Hi FallenHorse,

1) There aren't many things I know about but moral philosophy is one of them having studied it for about 10 years now. Never specialised in meta-ethics but I do like to thing I have a good grasp of the basics. That wikipedia entry isn't the worst thing I've seen but it does contains some problematic stuff. The talk of moral naturalism and ethical subjectivism are, at least, very unhelpful.

Thankfully there is an excellent free encyclopedia for such things which I would recommend you use instead (the material is of the highest quality and it is the first place most professional philosophers will look on subjects they don't know about http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-anti-realism/

2) I'm actually an anti-realist myself (specificially I'm a non-cognitivist, probably some sort of expressivist which is a modern version of emotivism) but still an ethical vegan :)

In my view (which is mostly just Sartre and Camus) Ethics boils down to a question about 'what sort of person do you want to be?' and I'm willing to make the empirical bet that with most human beings the answers to that will involve heavy overlap. Where people's answers to that question are pretty monstrous (e.g. I want to be the person that hurts the most people) then we lock them up (if they are dangerous) and/or morally condemn them because valuing certain things morally requires (sometimes) condemning certain things.

3) Whether someone is a moral realist OR an anti realist you will often get to a point where arguments just fail because all there is is your assertion and their assertion. This, however, isn't anything bad about morality, this is just how reasoning in general works. A chain of justification/reasoning can't go on forever (well most of us think this ... a tiny minority of 'infinitists' i think believe it can). It either ends in a bedrock of beliefs that are taken on faith/self-justifying or there is an interlocking web of beliefs that all support each other or *fill in the blank*. In the latter case, however, the problem is just pushed back a step. Assuming mine and a Nazi both have entirely coherent belief webs how do we choose between the two webs?

So yeah basically all you can do when you get to this point is appeal to them to see the world in a particular way which is what etherspin is doing :) Myself I would just drop all the talk of right/good/value for a moment and just talk to them about what sort of person do they want to be (it's is possible that their answer won't involve ethics but i think this is rare). Also note again that this is not a weird feature of ethics but a feature of reasoning in general.

important: note that i'm not saying all discussion of ethics is like this. If you share even one premise with the person you can do a lot in terms of argumentation. The situation I'm talking about is where there are no shared premises between the two people talking.

I'll maybe write more if I think of something I left out :)

edited to add the *fill in the blank* bit as I realised I was talking as though the bed rock is true or false.
JS - They think it will open the door to folk like LordMuppet campaigning for a threeway?
User avatar
Lordmuppet
Muppet Moderator
 
Posts: 1892
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:19 pm

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby xrodolfox » Sun Mar 04, 2012 11:28 am

I am quite sure I've debated anti-realists before... but when I successfully argue, I tend to have most success if I get the person to talk about how they form values. Going from there, i can usually make sense for people, that is unless they are recalcitrant and just want to argue for the sake of argument... which is most common amongst privileged males of college age.
Taking theoretical bullshit really helps no one. It gets stuck in talk rather than action and in my opinion often covers up a real fear of real change.

I think that if you had a hard time making sense of someone else's manias when they came up with some philosophical BS, it was most likely nothing to do with their philosophy but rather with their inflated ego and their own problematic world view. In those cases, there is no arguing.

After all, there is something that is correct about the anti-realist point of view: we form our values and ethics based on our experiences. Without the proper experiences, no one turns vegan. With the proper experiences, even the most nihilistic individual goes vegan. Having a good philosophical bedrock with which to explain veganism is very very important, but that's mostly for explaining yourself. What I've found works most is less explanation and more action and experiences. Rather than figuring the right argument for that person you argue with, if instead you find a way to share experiences of positive veganism, you might find a that the person moves in action much father than with any argument.
"The worker has the right to leave his boss, but can she do it? And if she does quit him, is it in order to lead a free life; where she will have no master but herself? No, she leaves to sell herself to another employer. She's driven by the same hunger. Thus the worker's liberty is only a theoretical freedom, lacking any means of realization; an utter falsehood."
-Bakunin
User avatar
xrodolfox
Site Admin
 
Posts: 3579
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2006 7:29 pm
Location: Eugene, OR

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby skoptic » Sun Mar 04, 2012 3:20 pm

I'm an anti-realist... it's difficult to persuade one about anything when you don't believe in any objective or absolute moral values.

You can however, still have very lengthy discussions in the pub ;)
User avatar
skoptic
Facebook Admin
 
Posts: 1070
Joined: Thu May 21, 2009 4:12 pm
Location: Kensworth

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby Lordmuppet » Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:02 pm

skoptic wrote:I'm an anti-realist... it's difficult to persuade one about anything when you don't believe in any objective or absolute moral values.


I disagree! :) I am an anti realists and I have such debates all the time. As I'm sure you know regarding yourself, just because one doesn't believe in 'objectivity' doesn't mean one doesn't believe/have value commitments :)

In most cases there is common ground and enough to make the argument work (against factory farming at least).
JS - They think it will open the door to folk like LordMuppet campaigning for a threeway?
User avatar
Lordmuppet
Muppet Moderator
 
Posts: 1892
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:19 pm

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby skoptic » Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:30 pm

As I say - you can still have very lengthy discussions in the pub :)...

The persistently contrary anti-realist can refuse to find common ground, however.. so depending on the person it can be fruitful or futile. Like you say - you end up 'appealing' for them to see the world in a different way.
User avatar
skoptic
Facebook Admin
 
Posts: 1070
Joined: Thu May 21, 2009 4:12 pm
Location: Kensworth

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby Lordmuppet » Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:51 pm

skoptic wrote:As I say - you can still have very lengthy discussions in the pub :)...

The persistently contrary anti-realist can refuse to find common ground, however.. so depending on the person it can be fruitful or futile. Like you say - you end up 'appealing' for them to see the world in a different way.


right, If someone is insincere about their anti-realism and really just being contrary for the sake of contrary it is probably a waste of everyone's time.

classics like "well morality is just like um your opinion" tends to be a giveaway for insincerity. ha ha ha :lol:

Also worth asking people if they are religious. I would give a speech at the start of Ethics courses I've taught/TA'd on with the following take homes

1) even if you are an anti-realist you can probably still talk about applied ethics
2) if you think you are a monotheist and also a anti-realist you should probably talk to your priest/rabbi/iman (is that the term?)
3) Atheism doesn't commit you to anti-realism

amazing how many first year undergrads claim to fall into category 2 :lol:
JS - They think it will open the door to folk like LordMuppet campaigning for a threeway?
User avatar
Lordmuppet
Muppet Moderator
 
Posts: 1892
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:19 pm

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby Fallen_Horse » Mon Mar 05, 2012 6:09 pm

Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful replies. A special thanks goes to Lordmuppet, who actually has some 'training' in this stuff! :D


I suppose I am also a moral anti-realist, since I believe our morals are a product of our culture. But I also believe in 'moral evolution', that is to say, as time goes on, humanity is slowing becoming 'more moral' overall. AKA killing is perceived as more wrong than it used to be, slavery is now more wrong, etc. More and more minority groups of people have universal rights now than before (gays, blacks, etc.). Even animal rights issues are starting to crop up around the world (ape life rights, bull fighting legality, etc.).

The real challenge, I suppose, is to make a strong argument for veganism while fitting a moral anti-realist framework, since I had never considered this point of view before.
Lovin' it!
Fallen_Horse
Active Member
 
Posts: 1788
Joined: Sun Feb 19, 2006 8:07 am
Location: Bakersfield, CA, USA

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby Fallen_Horse » Mon Mar 05, 2012 6:15 pm

Also I have this thread on VBB and someone posted this article, which I found to be good:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/confessions-of-an-ex-moralist/
Lovin' it!
Fallen_Horse
Active Member
 
Posts: 1788
Joined: Sun Feb 19, 2006 8:07 am
Location: Bakersfield, CA, USA

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby JP » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:45 am

etherspin wrote:My question would be "which would you object to more, me running my lawn mover over 50 square metres of lawn or 50 square metres of kittens ?" :mrgreen:


hole in one :D
User avatar
JP
Site Admin
 
Posts: 19225
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2004 4:14 pm
Location: Berlin, Germany

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby rattus » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:11 pm

JP wrote:
etherspin wrote:My question would be "which would you object to more, me running my lawn mover over 50 square metres of lawn or 50 square metres of kittens ?" :mrgreen:


hole in one :D


And if the answer is "I couldn't care less"?
rattus
Active Member
 
Posts: 219
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2011 9:44 am

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby JP » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:54 pm

rattus wrote:
JP wrote:
etherspin wrote:My question would be "which would you object to more, me running my lawn mover over 50 square metres of lawn or 50 square metres of kittens ?" :mrgreen:


hole in one :D


And if the answer is "I couldn't care less"?


they are lying.

some people, especially those with just a bit of interest and knowledge in moral philosophy and have knocked back a few books, get excited about some theoretical position which they never hold in real life.

And if they did, so what, they are as big of a concern to vegan movement as few psychopaths are - we dont have to turn everyone vegan, once we have the critical mass there is no meat for them to eat :)

its a waste of time and mental energy to argue with such timewasters, best thing is not to let them control the discussion on their own terms, say few nice things (mainly thinking about people who read or listen to the discussion, not the person you are discussing with), maybe ridicule their position just a bit, and use the time more wisely to those thousands who actually are interested in the issues.
User avatar
JP
Site Admin
 
Posts: 19225
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2004 4:14 pm
Location: Berlin, Germany

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby rattus » Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:31 pm

JP wrote:
... they are lying ...

... excited about some theoretical position which they never hold in real life ...

... its a waste of time and mental energy to argue with ...


Found those comments quite interesting.
rattus
Active Member
 
Posts: 219
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2011 9:44 am

Re: Debating a 'moral anti-realist'?

Postby xJimx » Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:14 pm

Fallen_Horse wrote:Thoughts?


He sounds like bit of a ponce. F*ck him.
Meat is still murder, dairy is still rape.
xJimx
Active Member
 
Posts: 2771
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 3:51 pm
Location: Derby, UK

Next

Return to Ethics, Politics and Current Affairs

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest