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klloyd comments on Why I left EA - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: klloyd 20 February 2017 10:47:17PM 0 points [-]

You're probably correct, reading up I realise I didn't understand it as well as I think I did, but I still have a few questions. If one is a particularist and anti-realist how do those judgements have any force that can possibly be called moral? As for moral uncertainty, I meant that if one ascribes some non-zero probability to there being genuine moral demands on one, it would seem one still has reason to follow them. If you're right then nothing you do matters so you've lost nothing. If you're wrong you have done something good. So, it would seem moral uncertainty gives one reasons to act in a certain way, because some probability of doing good has some motivating power even if not as much as certainly doing good. I think I was mixed up about non-cognitivism, but some people seem to be called non-cognitivists and realists? For example David Hume, who I've heard called a non-cognitivist and a consequentialist, and Simon Blackburn who is called a quasi-realist despite being a non-cognitivist. Are either of these people properly called realists?

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 21 February 2017 02:41:19AM *  3 points [-]

If one is a particularist and anti-realist how do those judgements have any force that can possibly be called moral?

The antirealist position is that calling something moral or immoral entails a different kind of claim than what the realist means. Since moral talk is not about facts in the first place, something need not be a factual claim to have moral force. Instead, if a moral statement is an expression of emotion for instance, then to have moral force it needs to properly express emotions. But I'm not well read here so that's about as far as I understand it.

I meant that if one ascribes some non-zero probability to there being genuine moral demands on one, it would seem one still has reason to follow them.

Sure, though that's not quite what we mean by moral uncertainty, which is the idea that there are different moral theories and we're not sure which is right. E.g.: https://philpapers.org/archive/URAMIM.pdf

You're referring to a kind of metaethical uncertainty, uncertainty over whether there are any moral requirements at all. In which case this is more relevant, and the same basic idea that you have: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/505234 And, yeah, it's a good argument, though William MacAskill has a paper out there claiming that it doesn't always work.

I think I was mixed up about non-cognitivism, but some people seem to be called non-cognitivists and realists?

Generally speaking you cannot be both. There are antirealists and there are realists. Noncognitivists are antirealists and so are error theorists.

For example David Hume, who I've heard called a non-cognitivist and a consequentialist

Just as one can be an antirealist particularist, one can be an antirealist consequentialist.

Simon Blackburn who is called a quasi-realist despite being a non-cognitivist.

So, quasi realism is different, probably best considered something in between. There are blurry boundaries between antirealism and realism.

I would recommend reading from here if you want to go deep into the positions, and then any particular citations that get your interest:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-anti-realism/

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-realism/

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-anti-realism/projectivism-quasi-realism.html

Or, if you want a couple of particular arguments, look at sources 3 and 4 linked by Rob.

Once you've read most of the above, you might want to look at things written by rationalists as well.

Comment author: RobBensinger 20 February 2017 10:58:07PM *  2 points [-]

I think the intuition that moral judgments need to have "force" or make "demands" is a bit of a muddle, and some good readings for getting un-muddled here are:

  1. Peter Hurford's "A Meta-Ethics FAQ"
  2. Eliezer Yudkowsky's Mere Goodness
  3. Philippa Foot's "Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives"
  4. Peter Singer's "The Triviality of the Debate Over 'Is-Ought' and the Definition of 'Moral'"

Kyle might have some better suggestions for readings here.