And, as we have seen, Copan's question begging arguments do not refute naturalistic ethics. In this article, the concept of moralistic fallacy introduced by B. D. Davis is elaborated on in more detail. If every aspect of the well-being of all sentient beings in the present and future are reduced by action A more than action B, there is just no way to defend the claim that A is the morally right action.  Michael Martin, "Atheism, Christian Theism, and Rape," July 23, 1997, /library/modern/michael_martin/rape.html. You can have your “what is right”, whatever that means. Activities? I would think he’d misunderstood the meaning of “well-being”. But it must also be because to reject the fallacy in any form is to give voice to a compelling thought: that there is something special about ethics. The part before ‘furthermore’ says in effect that ethical writers have committed the naturalistic fallacy with respect to that concept. The Fallacy of the Stolen Concept was coined by Ayn Rand, to point out the absurdity of arguing against a position when the argument depends upon that position – setting up a kind of indirect (and hence not so obviously paradoxical) version of Epiminedes-style “this sentence is false”. We shouldn't expect there to be one correct criterion. This is all we need to speak about ‘moral truth’ in the context of science.”. Conclusion) Accountants can (indirectly) measure the economic success of businesses. The Fallacy of the Stolen Concept was coined by Ayn Rand, to point out the absurdity of arguing against a position when the argument depends upon that position – setting up a kind of indirect (and hence not so obviously paradoxical) version of Epiminedes-style “this sentence is false”. But, as I discussed in the post, that sort of claim demands an argument drawn from moral reasoning or moral philosophy, not from science. d. are human universals. When the theory you defend is that the only things of value are conscious states, failing to mention that objection can only be either negligent or deceptive. As a semantic theory it is acceptable if the Ideal Observer analysis captures what we mean by key moral expressions. So it seems unfair that you characterize Harris’ position as stating that science can answer moral questions “on its own”. Science can’t answer that question. Reply Delete Suppose that over their whole lifetimes, Blue would have a well-being of 10, and Red a well-being of 5, all other things are equal, and you could either give an additional 6 units of well-being to Blue or 5 to Red. On that topic, certainly nothing I’ve said rules out the view that, “you can, as a normative statement, say ‘X is a morally good person exactly to the extent that X maximises well-being’ ” (even if “well-being” is defined in descriptive terms). The same applies to “well-being”. Two Experts Discuss. Now, you may not like the way he addresses the issue you raise, but that’s different than him not addressing the issue at all. I’d be interested to see you follow up with an article that attacks his approach head-on. Moral naturalism appeals to many, since it combines the advantages of naturalism and realism, but others have argued that moral naturalism does inadequate justice to central dimensions of our practice with moral concepts. If so, then I understand what you mean when you talk about the descriptive component of the meaning of “well-being”. Even if we accept that fulfilling the subject's preferences must play some part, it needn't be the whole criterion. For someone to be simultaneously in a state of maximum misery and maximum well-being seems like a contradiction in terms. In your response to me, you define the “right” action to be what you ought to do in order to “be moral”. This is because it could not have been science that told us what is the criterion of well-being (defined as something it is right to maximize). ... Hegel gave a highly developed treatment of this inalienability argument. An Analysis of the Moore's Definition of Naturalistic Fallacy (392 words, 1 pages) Why is good indefinable and what is moores definition of they naturalistic fallacy? Your article presents this gap as if it is a problem that Harris had not even considered. Could you explain to me what “X ought to A” means without an explicit or implicit goal? In his online articles, Harris mostly seemed to treat this as a substantive claim. Moore has a very unique version of good. It is that *if* he provides one, then science can measure it but can’t possibly tell us that it is right to maximize it. So my evaluation of well-being will still depend on my choice of criterion. Paul Copan has replied in the form of a letter to my rebuttal of his critique of my Secular Web paper. But the boundary between science and other empirical reasoning is not a fundamental one, and is poorly defined. Moore criticized the grounding of moral claims in non-moral observations. The error Harris makes in his is-ought argument is that he fails to distinguish between normative (or moral) oughts and descriptive (or non-moral) oughts. “X maximizes [conscious states C & physical states P]”. It considers from four points of The Paleo Movement and the New Naturalistic Fallacy David Ropeik. I would say that _purely_ normative statements cannot be truth-apt (or possibly that they’re incoherent). Today I will show why such a move is fallacious, and draw attention to the way that Harris’s use of the ambiguous term “well-being” masks the fallacious move that his argument makes use of. In his Principia Ethica G.E. In contrast, premise 1.1 of the Scientistic Argument does not seem to be true by definition (though the possibility that it is will be considered later). Suppose someone says, “action X is morally right.” No matter how outrageous his X was (even inflicting the worst possible misery on someone), I wouldn’t consider that a contradiction in terms. A magnified form of the same problem arises when it comes to moral rightness. ", In my reply to Copan's critique I pointed out that Copan failed to note that there are facts such as the existence of evil and widespread nonbelief which prima facie count against theism. In other words, it’s a value-laden term, but is not purely a matter of value. As Crisp points out, there is still a third possible way to defend premise 1.1: Even if its concepts refer to two different properties, premise 1.1 might still be true if the rightness of an action “is anchored” in, or supervenes on, its maximizing well-being (i.e. “X is a morally good guy” and “X maximizes well-being” are both positive descriptive statements. Copan goes on at great length about the arbitrariness of atheistic morality and asserts that in an atheistic worldview there would be no reason not to have slavery. My impression that Harris attempts an immodest and fallacious argument, by the way, is confirmed not only by the the book’s subtitle, but also by Harris’s claim to have bridged the is-ought gap and avoided the “naturalistic fallacy” in the section on Facts and Values in ch. Sorry that was unclear. You have pointed out more than once that you prefer to avoid the latter topic here, and that’s fair enough. If we use this ordinary, normative definition of “well-being” to understand premise 1.1 of The Scientistic Argument, then that premise may seem obviously true. But Crisp raises the worry that the property of being the right action and the property being whichever action maximizes well-being are not the very same thing: they might be, as Derek Parfit claims, “too different” to be the same thing. His attempt to deal with these points in his letter is unsatisfactory. Hare goes further than Moore in explaining why “good” eludes definition in this way in his reformulation of the ‘naturalistic fallacy’.  Michael Martin, "A Response to Paul Copan's Critique of Atheistic Objective Morality," Philosophia Christi, Vol. Ironically, Copan assumes that religion advocates the immorality of slavery and he cites the New Testament (100) to support his views. I would put it differently, because I don’t consider purely goal-based statements to be normative. Infant mortality: anyone in favor? This is to say that if two actions differ as to their rightness, then they must also differ as to whether they maximize well-being, although rightness and maximizing well-being are not the very same thing. A lot of “moral naturalists” mistakenly take utilitarian statements of this sort to be definitions. The philosopher G.E. On your second point I agree, that’s a better way of putting it.  Martin, "A Response to Paul Copan's Critique of Atheistic Objective Morality," pp. If we instead define “well-being” in a normative way – for example, as “the measure of that which makes a person’s life better” – then similar difficulties will arise for defending premise 1.2, as Kwame Anthony Appiah’s fine review of Harris’s book points out. The naturalistic fallacy has other meanings, but we will focus on this meaning. But *science* cannot tell us any of these things. I’d also add that using a vague term like “well-being” helps Harris to avoid seeing his fallacies of equivocation. But is it good enough? Copan does not begin to answer all these points. We probably aren't influenced much by reasoning (even subconscious reasoning) about preference fulfillment. Intentional fallacy. Naturalistic fallacy - determining what "ought" to be by observing what "is" Summary: many domain-specific psychological adaptations; learning is not a general capacity; other characteristics of adaptations = develop w/o conscious effort, used w/o awareness of logic; environment of evolutionary adaptedness http://bnreview.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Reviews-Essays/The-Moral-Landscape/ba-p/3477, Thanks Dennis, that’s a good review. In 1985, Philip Kitcher criticized the “vaulting ambition” of E. O. Wilson's (1975) sociobiology program on grounds that it committed the naturalistic fallacy. Wikipedia: The phrase naturalistic fallacy, with "fallacy" referring to a formal fallacy, has several meanings. This fallacy arises when we infer something is good because it is natural, or something is bad because it is unnatural. Regarding well-being, first let me correct an error I made. The Doctrine of Ineffability 6. Such bridge statements would be justified by how well they cohere with other statements and how well they explain our moral experience. Hi Richard, I can confirm that Harris is no clearer in the book about the status of premise 1.1; sometimes he talks about defining “good” in terms of well-being, at other times he says that what is good is “determined” by well-being. Copyright © 1995-2020 Internet Infidels®. The NYT is the American paper of record, and I have always taken its journalism seriously. 2020 Internet Infidels Fundraising Drive / $33,018.52 of $40,000.00, /library/modern/michael_martin/glynn.html.  See Theodore Drange, Evil and Nonbelief (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998), Chapter 5. It has sufficient descriptive meaning that we can say some outcomes involve more well-being than others. The concept of positive law is related to the concept of legal rights. Peter: Thanks for your question. The Connotation of Proper Names 10. 'God is Good': An Analytic Proposition 9. The statement which is labelled “Premise 1.1” above seems ambiguous to me. I will just add one caveat: they do describe a reality, but the reality they describe (sometimes imperfectly of course) is nothing more or less than the speaker’s own values. I’ve just been trying to give my own analysis of the term “well-being”, partly in response to your objections and questions. On the first I think I misinterpreted your statement: “I don’t consider purely goal-based statements to be normative.” So the issue you were taking with Greg was on whether goal-based statements are normative at all (as he implied), not whether “other” normative statements are coherent or not.  In the text of his paper Copan does not attempt to reply to my arguments and only offers some programmatic remarks on how theists can avoid inconsistencies by following the Bible more carefully. Didn’t think so. No, I didn’t transpose the words “speaker” and “subject”. The statement also has a value element insofar as it depends on the speaker's values with regard to well-being (as I've discussed). I would reject your conclusion on the grounds that there’s a limit to how far the descriptive meaning of the word can be stretched. 1. –In particular I agree with him that normative statements don’t have to be explicitly goal-oriented to be coherent (as Greg asserts).–. Yellow is yellow that is as far as one can get when trying to define it. Although, it might be possible to commit that fallacy, placing ethics beyond the realm of natural facts is certain to commit the anti-naturalistic fallacy. T he naturalistic fallacy and Hume's 'law' are frequently appealed to for the purpose of drawing limits around the scope of scientific inquiry into ethics and morality. But it cannot give us the answers on its own. I think speakers of moral statements are also normally attempting to describe a moral reality, but they fail because there is no moral reality to describe. Let’s suppose we can all agree on this.  See William Frankena, "The Naturalistic Fallacy," Mind, 48, 1939 reprinted in Readings in Ethical Theory, (ed.) Hi, I’m new to this blog, and I’d like to join in this interesting discussion. Hi Simon. The person who created the mental age concept was: Stern If an 8-year old boy is as smart as a 16-year old boy then his IQ is equal to ____ according to the original mental-age calculation of IQ. These run from explaining the origin of the universe to accounting for the emergence of sentient life. 1) Many people argue it is morally permissible to eat cows and pigs because it is natural. You say that there are “no normative facts”, and that the statement “You ought to give to Oxfam” prescribes giving to Oxfam. I differ with you on a couple of points, or at least on the way you express them. If not why? As far as I’m concerned, rational empirical reasoning is the only way we can learn anything about the world. If this is really his view, then his argument that science can help us answer moral questions is really a very modest one. In addition, even if it were a fallacy to infer "ought" from "is," this would not defeat naturalism. If, on the other hand, you define it as a value-free description, e.g. a substantive claim about what it is). These cannot be easily refuted since the postulated meaning relation between "ought" and "is" may be covert or opaque. Understanding “well-being” in the ordinary way, suppose there is a population of morally praiseworthy individuals in World1, in which each has a well-being of 1, and an otherwise equal World2, in which each member of the population has a well-being of 2. In my rebuttal I argued that theism cannot possibly be thought to be an ontological foundation of morality or anything else since the concept of God is inconsistent. Thus, Moore has given an analysis of the concept of obligation, but it is not purely naturalistic. I’m not sure how he’s using the word “incoherent” here, but in any case this position seems to rule out of court any statement that is not either a tautology or of a scientific nature, including the one I propose above. By focusing purely on internal gestalt, you may be betraying your own biases — as someone who suffers from few if any of these external symptoms of deficient well-being. And The Scientistic Argument seems superficially analogous to The Accountancy Argument. We only find it appealing to think that feeling tired supervenes on brain states because each of us starts from our own individual experiences of feeling tired. All the best. Let me focus on (3), since I think that it is my key point, and the main point of your article. The OQA is as follows. Since science can’t tell you what to prescribe or not, it would seem that science can never on its own justify the statement “X would promote well-being”. However, I show God's knowledge, for example, of how to ride a bike conflicts with His disembodiedness. Disappointingly, though, Harris does none of these things (I note that there’s a whole section in the book entitled “moral paradoxes” which is really a list of some standard objections to his preferred kind of view, and they go largely unanswered!) It might be fair to say that longer life and good health are both conducive to well-being, but there is no fact of the matter as to their relative contribution. However, there are a couple of serious difficulties for the claim that we “experience” the property of rightness: First, we often seem to deeply disagree about which are the right actions. Mandatory Morality: When Should Moral Enhancement Be Mandatory? Tim Brunson PhD The International Hypnosis Research Institute is a member supported project involving integrative health care specialists from around the world. Perhaps I should also clarify that none of my posts here have been aimed at your critique of Harris, except insofar as I didn’t like your label “scientistic argument”, as I don’t think scientism is relevant here. I said there's a limit to how far we can stretch the meaning of "well-being". I haven’t come across it! And presumably the same is true for everyone else. : saying “You tell us that A is the right thing to do, but the real reason you want us to do A is that you would personally profit from it). The Naturalistic Fallacy: What It Is, and What It Isn’t. Greg: Recall that according to this argument either morality is not dependent on God or else morality is arbitrary and thus God could make wanton cruelty good. Navigate; Linked Data; Dashboard; Tools / Extras; Stats; Share . However, that is not to say that science can answer no moral dilemmas. (Photo Credit: Transmediale) For example, Brink devotes an entire chapter in his book to the is-ought issue yet Copan seems unaware of Brink's arguments and merely dismisses his point concerning the supervenience of the mental on the physical. Harris commits what philosophers call “the naturalistic fallacy”: of attempting to draw conclusions concerning what we ought to do (normative conclusions) directly from premises that are purely factual, or scientific, and value-free (purely descriptive premises). Copan gives no reason to suppose it does not do this. As far as I can see we are all basically in agreement that Harris is wrong to assert, assuming this is what he does, that science alone can tell us what is morally right and wrong. Harris writes as if there is no significant disagreement about such matters, and as if there are no serious and well-known objections to the vague but still questionable ideas he presents himself. In short, he has given no reason to reject atheism or to accept theism. >Good, now we have a (descriptive) necessary condition that some state must meet if it counts as “well-being”. All rights reserved. That is, in a way, the same fallacy as the Naturalists commit, only t h e type of t h e reduction s t a t e m e n t is different. These are difficult *moral* questions; they concern how we ought to handle competing values and priorities. My impression that Harris attempts an immodest and fallacious argument, by the way, is confirmed not only by the the book’s subtitle, but also by Harris’s claim to have bridged the is-ought gap and avoided the “naturalistic fallacy” in the section on Facts and Values in ch. I am not claiming that most of us personally care about the experience of all conscious beings; I am saying that a universe in which all conscious beings suffer the worst possible misery is worse than a universe in which they experience well-being. Alleged fallacy, identified by Moore in Principia Ethica (1903), of identifying an ethical concept with a ‘natural’ concept, or description of the features of things in virtue of which they are supposed good or bad. Moore’s naturalistic fallacy? The Naturalistic Fallacy and Other Mistaken Arguments of Paul Copan (2000) by Michael Martin In this response to Paul Copan ("Can Michael Martin Be A Moral Realist? Roger Crisp’s post on this blog last week points toward one important disanalogy between The Scientistic Argument and The Accountancy Argument. I’ve continued to follow this discussion with a lot of interest. Indeed, he does not even try to show this. Hi Simon. What if they are more akin to questions such as, “What shall I have for dinner today?” Then we cannot “find” the answers: we must rather choose them. Introductory Comments. He admits that the IOT is compatible with atheism but he pounces on Charles Taliaferro's statement that the IOT is also compatible with moral skepticism and assumes that this remark is a decisive point against me (92). And simply calling your preferred set of states “well-being” doesn’t answer it either. But Harris might now reply that I am just being difficult: perhaps I should accept premise 1.1 as true because it is obviously true. The Naturalistic Fallacy mimics good reasoning by claiming to be factually based, i.e.  Michael Martin, Atheism (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1990), p. 289. Moore (1873–1958) contended that goodness cannot be analyzed in terms of any other ... Moore’s notion of the non-reducible nature of goodness became for a while a concept and standard for other ethicists to both refute and match in rigor. T he naturalistic fallacy and Hume's 'law' are frequently appealed to for the purpose of drawing limits around the scope of scientific inquiry into ethics and morality. You are, rather, prescribing an action that meets the descriptive condition set out above. 7) Appeal to Authority Fallacy. I’ve been busy. On the other hand, it seems to me that you can, as a normative statement, say “X is a morally good person exactly to the extent that X maximises well-being”. Knowledge? Then it is worth noting that, on either your view or his, we could not properly say that “some outcomes involve more well-being than others” purely on the basis of scientific investigation. 2,2000, pp. I wrote, “That’s a matter of personal preference, i.e. The Naturalistic Fallacy 2. Indeed, it is difficult to see how one can hold MOS and yet accept the IOT since on Firth's analysis moral properties by definition are constituted by certain natural facts. Good, now we have a (descriptive) necessary condition that some state must meet if it counts as “well-being”. It directs philosophical attention toward the concept of ideology, ... On the Inappropriate Use of the Naturalistic Fallacy in Evolutionary Psychology. I consider this equivalent to the factual descriptive statement: “leaving now is the course of action most likely to result in you catching the 5 o’clock train”. The question “Why ought we maximize well-being?” is both irrelevant and incoherent. Science is part of the broader continuum of empirical reasoning, which also includes history and philosophy. 07 October, 2014. Indeed, it is unclear to me that Copan has even read some of the naturalistic ethicists I have cited. This is so not just in real world cases, but in hypothetical ones where the natural facts can be agreed on by stipulation (e.g. I admit that premise 1.1 does understandably invite the kind of reading on which it can easily be seen as tautologically or obviously true, just like the first premise in the Accountancy Argument which is true by definition. M. Zacharski *. The fallacy is similar to affirming the consequent and denying the antecedent. Science can – and should – inform the answers to them, and nobody sane denies this! The Paleo Movement and the New Naturalistic Fallacy David Ropeik. Presumably he is appealing to the Fine Tuning Argument, which normally proceeds from this delicate balance to the conclusion that only theism can account for it. B) the framing effect. Cognitive scientist and professor at Rutgers University, Julien Musolino takes … I failed to distinguish between the values of the speaker (of a statement about well-being) and the values of the subject (whose well-being is under consideration). Palexanderbalogh: I’m not “setting up a … straw man” by characterizing well-being as “[conscious states C]”, I’m responding to what Sam Harris says himself in various places, e.g., “morality can be linked directly to facts about the happiness and suffering of conscious creatures” (p.64). Although the term straw man is a recent coinage, the concept is ancient. The same goes for a vague scientific defintion of well-being, although a vague definition would make measurement of well-being rather more difficult. However, as William Frankena pointed out long ago, to say that someone commits the NF begs the question. ... designed to prime the concept of other people. Copan's argument against naturalistic metaethics is elusive. We need to do a good deal of moral reasoning to discover the link between well-being, defined in such a way, and what it is right to do/maximize (that’s where Nozick’s Experience Machine, among other things, comes in).
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