Moral Truthmakers

I have been having a very nice discussion with the Semantic Terrorist on my post A Simple Argument for Moral Realism. I thought I would move the discussion to the front since the post was from alomost a year ago. ST gives detailed responses to the seven points I made in response to him; I won’t respond to them all (though all are worth responding to) since I want to honor ST’s request to focus on the issue he (?) is interested in…but I can’t resist saying a couple of things about some of the side issues… 

R. Brown’s point #1: “I never said that [Kant’s] categorical imperative was a truth. What I said was that it allows us to generate truths.”

As far I can tell, no one ever literally generates any truth. Rather we discover certain truths; or, in some cases, mistakenly believe that we do.

I do, of course, understand how one’s discovery of a given truth can lead to the discovery of other truths by deduction. What you seem to be saying, however, is quite different; and I genuinely don’t understand how one can reasonably believe that a mere command can lead to the discovery of any truth at all. [Note: it’s necessary to distinguish between the command (or imperative) itself, and such facts as so-&-so issued such-&-such a command on a certain date to a certain audience.] At any rate, my key point here is that, since commands are not propositions, no command can logically imply any truth.

Logical implication is a truth-preserving semantic relation. So if there’s no truth at issue to begin with then there’s no truth to be preserved by any inference that can be made from it. Indeed, I claim that you can no more cogently infer any truth from a command than you can cogently infer a truth from a cow, or a rock. That being the case, it’s not clear to me what you mean in saying that we can generate moral truths from Kant’s categorical imperative.

Well, I don’t really see why you think this, and you certainly haven’t given any argument for it. So, I like Hare’s view expressed in chapter two of The language of Morals. He there convincingly argues, to my mind, that we can have a logic of imperatives. So, take his example

1. Take all of the boxes to the station

2. This is one of the boxes

3. Therefore, take this to the station

This is clearly a valid inference even though it has an imperative as one of its premises. This is very differnt from the case of rocks or cows, so I think that your argument is a non sequiter

R. Brown point #2: “I was hasty when I said that some actions are contradictory, what I meant, as I suppose you well know, was that some actions cannot be willed without contradiction…”

That’s hardly a significant improvement on your first (goofed-up) claim; for I clearly can will to perform immoral acts. In order for me (or any other non-cognitivist) to take this claim seriously you must first explain what it’s supposed to mean for an ACT OF WILLING to be contradictory. And good luck with that; for ‘tis an obvious logical truth that every act of willing is an act; and so you’re right back in the same pile of crap that you attempted to crawl out of.

Yes, you surely can will an act even if it is contradictory, just as you can believe P and ~P, but that does not mean that there is no contradiction involved. In the Kantian case there are two senses of contradiction at play. One is the sense in which the act you are trying to perform would be impossible to perform if your maxim were universalized. So, take stealing. If it were a universal law that when one wanted something one just took it stealing would be impossible. The other sense of contradiciton is the sense in which I contradict a natural tendancey or desire of rational beings. So, when I try to use someone as a means only I contradict my desire not to be used as a means. The basic point is the same, as Kant points out, when we break a moral rule we recognize the universal nature of the law but try to make an exception for ourselvesm which is oc course nonsense.

R. Brown point #3: “I do, in fact, think that [Kant’s] categorical imperative universalizes to all vertebrates.”

No doubt that sounds nice to vegans and such, but I don’t believe for a second that you really mean it. After all, some moral obligations concerns friends qua friends; and you are not really a friend to all vertebrates — except perhaps in some goofy and insubstantial metaphorical sense.

Huh? I do really mean it…and I don’t get this objection at all….

In any case, my point was that Kant’s categorical imperative is wide open to the objection that too much depends upon how a particular token act is described; and that every token act can be correctly described as falling under several different type acts. For example, Ted Bundy’s act of raping his first victim can correctly be described as (i) the act of raping a woman, (ii) a man’s first act of raping a woman, (iii) the act of Ted Bundy’s raping some woman, (iv) the act of some (male) vertebrate’s placing his (presumably erect) penis into some (female) vertebrate’s vagina either against her consent or at least independently of her consent, etc., etc., etc. Obviously, some descriptions are more complete, or more informative, than others. But how are we supposed to figure out which description is the so-called “right” one? Is it just a matter of consensus? Is it just a matter of opinion?

I agree that this is a hard problem, and as I have argued in most cases this is exactly what moral debate boils down to; trying to figure out how best to describe a certain act. But in this case all of the descriptions involve raping, and that raping is wrong is an analytic truth. The ones that don’t explicitly involve raping involve explicit mention of violation of consent, so in this case there is no interesting problem about description.

R. Brown point #7: “What makes it true is that it follows from the correct moral theory. The [correct moral] theory takes account of the facts and organizes them in an appropriate way; what else would you expect a theory to do?

“George Bush is a transsexual” follows from “George Bush is a sexy transexual”; but that hardly shows that George Bush is a transsexual. It’s foolish to say that a proposition is true because it is implied by a theory. And to say that a proposition is true because it is implied by a correct theory only raises the issue of what makes the theory correct. (George Bush is male because the individual, George Bush, exemplifies the property of being male ; not because someone has come up with a correct theory that implies that George Bush is male.)

The question is not what a theory is supposed to do, but whether any moral theory is the sort of thing that could be correct in the first place. It’s all well and good for you to at least halfway agree with me that correct theories are made true by facts; but you need to actually identify facts that make particular moral claims true. (And you haven’t done that yet. Instead you just keep on talking about how moral truths are made true by [correct] moral theories.)

Well, this is where my constructivism kicks in. What you say is true about George Bush because ‘being male’ is not a constructed property, but ‘being right’ is. The correct moral theory is the one that best captures the goal of morality. The goal of morality is to allow rule-governed cooperation and in order to do that it has to take account of certain basic facts about persons. Among these are included autonomy, that we feel pain and dislike it, etc. The categorical imperative is a constructed principle that reflects our interests and which allows us to see that certain actions are impermissible from a certain standpoint; the moral point of view. Now, you may not like normative constructivism but it does provide a nice answer to all of your worries. We do not have to posit any MORAL facts. All we need are natural facts seen from a certain point of view.

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26 thoughts on “Moral Truthmakers

  1. > This is clearly a valid inference even though it has an imperative as one of its premises.

    I think the point here is that you can infer conditional statements from commands e.g. “you should take this box to the station, if you should take all the boxes to the station” but the conclusion doesn’t stand on its on iits own.

    The question seems to come back to “why is it that the categorical imperative might acquire the status of a ‘truth’ ” If it doesn’t have that status how can it pass that on to any conclusions ?

    In regard to contradictions
    I struggle a little with the idea of seeing a person as some sort of chain of logic with results being ‘natural desires’ that differ from actual events (cf physics and psychology)

    I can also see how the argument for universalization would seem a little circular and as ST points out ill defined. My attempt to get something out of that is to suggest that there could be a sum of all possible logical categories, and that that might produce a logical coherent set of ‘rules’. I’m unsure as to if that confers a truth status to it or not.

    >The goal of morality is to allow rule-governed cooperation

    Are we heading towards something like “true morality is the end result of the idealized debate”?

  2. Why doesn’t the conclusionstand on its own?

    I don’t think that the CI stands as a truth. As I argued, it is a constructed principle that lets us generate justification for moral judgements.

  3. Your conclusion when explained fully becomes a conditional statement.
    i.e. “I should bring this box” is “i should bring this box because….”

    Re CI
    OK, sorry, I am so intuitively committed to the idea that you would need a truth to make a truth (question begging!) that I forgot / or just wasn’t clear that you think the CI is not in itself a truth.

    But I guess we are still not sure why things get converted to “truths” even if you can tell us where they do or why CI would have this special status.

    In my life, of course, I do realize I need to pick something and that CI appears to be not a bad place to start, I’m just not sure i have any justification or truth hidden in there.

  4. Hey GNZ,

    I’m still not getting it. ‘Take thsi to the station’ is a perfectly good imperative and is entailed by the conjunction of the universal imperative ‘take all boxes to the station’ and ‘this is a box’. The way you put it leaves out one of the premises, that’s all.

    As for the truth stuff. I think you are getting too hung up on the word ‘truth’. The point I am making is that the CI serves to justify certain moral judgments. In virtue of that certain of my eliefs will be turn out true (according to me the belief being that certain moral emotions are the correct ones to have).

  5. RICHARD BROWN CAN DEDUCE FERRETS FROM PUPPY DOGS
    Post #0; R. Brown: “Well, I don’t really see why you think this, and you certainly haven’t given any argument for it. So, I like Hare’s view expressed in chapter two of The Language Of Morals. He there convincingly argues, to my mind, that we can have a logic of imperatives. So, take his example:

    1) Take all of the boxes to the station.
    2) This is one of the boxes [to be taken to the station].
    Conclusion: Take this [box] to the station.

    This is clearly a valid inference even though it has an imperative as one of its premises. This is very different from the case of rocks or cows, so I think that your argument is a non-sequiter .”

    YOU ACCUSED ME OF COMMITTING INCOMPATIBLE CRIMES
    It makes no sense for you to say that I gave no argument in your first sentence and then classify my “argument” as a non-sequitur in your last sentence. If I didn’t give any argument then I couldn’t have given a bad one!

    HERE’S MY ARGUMENT EXPRESSED IN STANDARD FORM

    1) Only propositions logically imply propositions.
    2) No commands are propositions.
    Conclusion: No commands logically imply any propositions.

    This argument is easily proven to be valid; so it is not a non-sequitur.

    My position is that your (or rather Hare’s) “argument” above is not really an argument; because every premise of every argument must be a proposition and “Take all of the boxes to the station” is not a proposition. Similarly, every conclusion must be a proposition; and “Take this [box] to the station” is not a proposition.

    PICKY TERMINOLOGICAL POINTS
    (Deductive) arguments are properly classified as either valid or invalid. Inferences are not properly said to be valid or invalid. Instead inferences are properly said to be either cogent (i.e. correct) or fallacious (i.e. mistaken).

    The correct spelling the fancy Latin term is ‘non-sequitur’.

    DEDUCE THE COMMAND FROM THE “PREMISE-SET” & I’LL RETRACT MY CLAIM
    I’m amused and chagrined that you claimed that Hare’s “argument” is valid. How do you think the “conclusion” is to be deduced from the “premises”? What inference rules do you think you can use here? Not modus ponens- that only applies to propositions. Not universal instantiation – that only applies to propositions. Etc., etc., etc.

    I’ll write more comments on your post #0 in a day or two. At the moment I’m rather busy.

  6. Hey St, thanks for the response, I was wondering what happend to you!

    “RICHARD BROWN CAN DEDUCE FERRETS FROM PUPPY DOGS”

    This is non-sequitur part (btw, who cares about spelling? Not me, as I think it is the lowest form of human knowledge, but thanks for the tip). Ferrets and puppy dogs are obviously not the sorts of things that can figure in arguments, imperatives are not like them at all. FOr one thine imperatives are linguistic items and so at least are in the propery category of things which MAY be eligible to figure in arguments. For another thing, as Hare correctly notes, imperatives obey the law of the excluded middle (see pages 23 and 24). This brings us to the charge that no argument was given. You say your argument is

    1) Only propositions logically imply propositions.
    2) No commands are propositions.
    Conclusion: No commands logically imply any propositions.

    I agree with this, and so would Hare. No one has claimed that imperatives imply propositions; but that together with a proposition they can imply an umperative. So, your argument doesn’t address the issue; namely whether or not an argument with an imperative as the major premise and a propositionas a minor premise implies an imperative. You then go on to say ‘every premise of every argument must be a proposition’ but you haven’t given an argument for that (and the above one ceratinly doesn’t fo the trick, since I never claimed that imperatives imply propositions). So, what I want from you is a reason to think that every premise of every argument must be a proposition (something which certainly seems false to me for other reasons…consider Sorenson’s argument that there are arguments with no premises.

    1.
    2. therefore there are arguments with no premises

    I forget which paper of his he has this in, but if yoiu want I can find it. I am convinced that this is a valid argument, but what propositions is expressed in (1)?IF you think it isn’t a valid argument, then I want a reason, not simply an asertion that there is no propsoition and so it isn’t one.

    As for your last remark, here is what Hare says,

    Now, the word ‘all’ and other logical words are used in commands, as in statements. It follows that there must also be entailment relations between commands; for otherwise it would be impossible to give any meaning to these words as used in them.

    This is because

    to know the meaning of the word ‘all’ is to know that one cannot without self-contradiction say certain things, for example ‘All men are mortal and Socrates is a man but Socrates is not mortal’.

    The same is true of the command ‘take all the boxes to the station’. One cannot assent to this command (i.e. plan to obey it) and assent to ‘this is one of the boxes’ and fail to assent to the command ‘take this to the station’ without self-contradiction.

    But again, thanks for the comments and I look forward to hearing back from you.

  7. I will gladly respond to your challenge, Richard. But could you first tell me how to write logical symbols within the posting program (such as the standard quantifiers and propositional connectives) so that I may do so convieniently? Also how do you do bold print and the boxes?

  8. No problem,

    for the boxes you write ‘<blockquote>type your text here </blockquote>’ for bold you use ‘<strong >type your text here</strong >’

    For ‘∀’ and ‘∃’ you write ‘& forall ;’ and ‘& exist ;’ (without spaces). For ‘→’ you write ‘& rarr ;’ amd for ‘↔’ you write ‘& harr ;’ (again, all without spaces). For negation, just use the tilde which is on your keyboard already, for disjunction you can use the lower case ‘v’ and for conjunction use the amperstand.

  9. RB,
    OK, well then as long as you can wave away the truth issue I’m thinking the difference is more semantic than substantial.
    I’ll leave you and ST to work out your points first anyway to avoid being unnecessarily confusing.

  10. IGNORE THIS
    I’m just checking to see if I’m producing certain symbols properly.
    0
    &forallP no space after ampersand
    & forallP space after ampersand
    Mb &rarr Mb no space
    Mb & rarr Mb space
    &existxy no space
    & existxy space

    adfadf

  11. Damn it, I didn´t understand your instructions, Richard. How about some follow-up instructions?

  12. It is hard to give instructions because if I actually type it out the program produces the symbol. To do it otherwise you need to know more code than I do…The last one is right except you left out the final semicoln ‘;’ It is “amperstand(no space)forall(no space)semi-coln”= ∀

  13. HILLBILLY SYMBOLISM
    I’ll figure out how to produce the specials symbols soon. For the moment, however, I’ll improvise as follows:

    0 empty set
    ? triple dot sign
    U universal quantifier
    E existential quantifier
    — negation
    v disjunction
    & conjunction
    —> conditional
    biconditional

    THAT AIN’T EXACTLY ACCURATE
    R. Brown; post #6: “No one has claimed that imperatives imply propositions; but that together with a proposition they can imply an imperative.”

    That ain’t exactly accurate. For you explicitly claimed that Kant’s categorical imperative allows us to “generate” [moral] truths; not just other imperatives. That’s how this discussion got started in the first place. You are, of course, entirely free to modify your position at any time. But I ain’t never heard you explicitly deny your original claim that Kant’s categorical imperative implies moral truths.

    Mr. BROWN’S CHALLENGE
    R. Brown; post #6: “What I want from you is a reason to think that every premise of every argument must be a proposition (something which certainly seems false to me for other reasons) …consider Sorenson’s argument that there are arguments with no premises.

    1.
    2. therefore there are arguments with no premises.

    I am convinced that this is a valid argument, but what propositions is expressed in (1)? IF you think it isn’t a valid argument, then I want a reason, not simply an assertion that there is no proposition and so it isn’t an argument.”

    HERE GOES NUTHIN’
    This is going to take a while, so grab a beverage and park your ass in a comfortable chair. First I’ll talk about zero premise arguments in general, then I’ll prove that Sorenson’s above argument is invalid, then I’ll attempt to rationally persuade Mr. Brown that no command logically implies any proposition, and then, finally, I’ll address Hare’s somewhat confused remarks.

    ZERO-PREMISE ARGUMENTS IN GENERAL
    Every argument has a premise-set, but a premise-set may have either zero, any (positive) whole number of premises, or even infinitely many premises. As it turns out, professional logicians are mainly interested in zero-premise arguments. (Technically speaking, their main interest is in proving that certain zero-premise argument patterns are pan-valid; because this leads to the discovery of pan-cogent inference patterns.) In any case, there isn’t any controversy amongst professional logicians as to the existence of zero-premise arguments. On the contrary, every competent professional logician knows that there are infinitely many sound zero-premise arguments.

    A zero-premise argument is valid IFF its conclusion is a logical truth. [Note: logical truths and analytic truths are not the same thing. Analytic philosophers tend to confuse them. Logicians don’t. (I will return to this point later.)]

    Here is a formal proof that the following zero-premise argument is valid:

    [Note 1: ‘M’ stand for the property of being a mammal and ‘b’ denotes Richard Brown.]

    0
    ? Given any individual and given any property, either that individual has that property or else it doesn’t.

    0
    ? Ux UP [Px v —Px]
    1) Mb Assumption for a Conditional Proof
    2) Mb —> Mb 1-1; Conditional Proof
    3) —Mb v Mb 2; Material Implication
    4) Mb v —Mb 3; Commutitivity of ‘v’
    5) UP [Pb v —Pb] 0 implies 4 and ‘M’ does not occur in 0; UG
    6) Ux & UP [Px v —Px] 0 implies 5 and ‘b’ does not occur in 0; UG
    Q.E.D.

    PROOF THAT SORENSON’S ZERO-PREMISE ARGUMENT IS INVALID
    Every argument in the same logical form as any invalid argument is invalid. (This is one of Aristotle’s famous principles of form for arguments.) So, in order to prove that Sorenson’s argument is invalid all I have to do is present you with an argument in the same logical form that’s known-to-be-invalid. In other words, all I have to do is to present a counterargument — which is very easy to do in this particular case.

    Sorenson’s Argument:

    0
    ? There are arguments with no premises.
    (There exists an individual that has the property of being an argument and that (also) has the property of having zero premises.)

    This argument has the following form:

    0
    ? Ex [Fx & Gx]

    The following known-to-be-invalid argument is in the same logical form:

    0
    ? Ex [Mx & UNICORNx]

    The conclusion of this argument, “There exists a mammal which is a unicorn”, is a known falsehood, and the argument has no false premises — since it has no premises at all. Therefore the argument cannot possibly be valid, because every valid argument with a false conclusion must have at least one false premise. So this argument is known-to-be-invalid. Therefore Sorenson’s argument is invalid too — since it has the same logical form this known-to-be-invalid argument.

    As I said before, a zero-premise argument is valid IFF its conclusion is a logical truth. “There exists a mammal which is a unicorn” is obviously not a logical truth — since it’s instead a known falsehood. Thus the argument is invalid.

    Incidentally, I was quite surprised by your claim to be convinced that this argument is valid, because it’s conclusion clearly is an informative proposition — and thus clearly isn’t a logical truth. In fact, every existential proposition is an informative proposition; although beginner’s in logic often feel more comfortable saying that false propositions are misinformative. [Additional Note: every false proposition is informative, but not every true proposition is informative.]

    No valid zero-premise argument has an existential proposition as its conclusion; but infinitely many valid zero-premise arguments have conclusions that involve existential quantifiers. For example, it’s easy to prove that the following zero-premise argument is valid.

    0
    Mammals exist if and only if mammals exist.

    0
    ? Ex Mx Ex Mx
    1) Ex Mx Assumption for a Conditional Proof
    2) Ex Mx —> Ex Mx 1-1; Conditional Proof
    3) [Ex Mx —> Ex Mx] & [Ex Mx —> Ex Mx] 2, 2; Conjunction
    4) Ex Mx Ex Mx 3; Material Equivalence
    Q.E.D.

    YOUR OBJECTION DOESN’T DO WHAT YOU THOUGHT IT DID
    The fact that there are infinitely many zero-premises arguments does not show that any premise is not a proposition. For every zero-premise argument has exactly zero premises. Hence, every zero-premise argument has exactly zero premises that aren’t propositions! Put another way, no zero-premise argument has any premises that aren’t propositions.

    AN ATTEMPT AT RATIONAL PERSUASION
    No commands logically imply anything because commands are not the sorts of things that even could be true. This is simply a matter of the definition of ‘logical implication’. In other words, the definition of ‘logical implication’ implies that if something is not the sort of thing that even could be true, then it cannot logically imply anything. I’ll explain this in more detail by and by; but that’s the essential gist of the deal.

    THE PROPERTY OF VALIDITY & THE RELATION OF LOGICAL IMPLICATION
    Validity and Logical Implication are co-ordinate concepts; not identical ones. They essentially amount to the same thing; despite the fact that they are not precisely identical. They are different because validity is a property that belongs to some but not all (deductive) arguments, whereas logical implication is a two-place relation holds between a valid argument’s premise-set and its conclusion. This results in the two concepts being interdefinable, as is shown below.

    DEFINITION OF ‘LOGICAL IMPLICATION’
    A set of propositions logically implies a single proposition IFF were all of the propositions in the set true, then the single proposition would necessarily be true (also).

    DEFINITION OF ‘VALIDITY’
    An argument is valid IFF were all of its premises true, then its conclusion would necessarily be true (also).

    DEFINITION OF ‘LOGICAL IMPLICATION’ IN TERMS OF VALIDITY:
    A set of propositions logically implies a single proposition IFF the argument formed by taking that set of propositions as a premise-set, and by taking the single proposition as its conclusion, is valid.

    DEFINITION OF ‘VALIDITY’ IN TERMS OF LOGICAL IMPLICATION
    An argument is valid IFF its premise-set logically implies its conclusion.

    THIS IS NOT CONTROVERSIAL STUFF
    For certain pedagogical reasons very few introductory logical textbooks define ‘logical implication’; although virtually all define ‘validity’. So if you take the trouble to browse a few such books don’t be surprised if you don’t find ‘logical implication’ in the book’s glossary.

    Here are some definitions taken from a typical sampling of introductory logic textbooks. Unfortunately, the authors of these books frequently goof up the definition of ‘validity’ in a misguided attempt to simplify it.

    From Copi & Cohen’s Introduction to Logic [9th edition]
    Valid A deductive argument whose premises, if they were all true, would provide conclusive grounds for the truth of its conclusion, is said to be valid. Validity is a formal characteristic; it applies only to arguments , as distinguished from truth, which applies to propositions.

    From Hurley’s A Concise Introduction To Logic [4th edition]
    Valid deductive argument: An argument such that if the premises are assumed true, it is impossible for the conclusion to be false.

    Hurley definition in this relatively early edition is screwed up; and many logic instructors back in the late 80’s and early 90’s sent him complaints about it. The definition is screwed up because it includes the epistemic concept of someone’s making an assumption, despite the fact that whether an argument is valid is a purely ontic affair. Also, since every truth-functional conditional proposition with a false antecedent is true, it follows from this goofed up definition that if no one bothers to assume that all of a certain deductive argument’s premises are true then the argument is valid! Anyways, Hurley changed his definition a couple of years later.

    From Hurley’s A Concise Introduction To Logic [6th edition]
    Valid deductive argument: An argument such that it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.

    From Stephen F. Barker’s The Elements of Logic:
    “In a valid argument the premises really do support the conclusion; if the premises are true, then the conclusion should be true too.”

    Apparently Barker doesn’t know the difference between are and were; and doesn’t know the difference between should be and would necessarily be.

    From Collin Allen & Michael Hands Logic Primer:
    Definition. An argument is VALID if and only if it is necessary that if all its premises are true, its conclusion is true.”

    Apparently these guys don’t know the difference between are and were either; and likewise don’t know the difference between is and would necessarily be.

    Despite the fact that many of these definitions are screwed up; it’s important to notice that they all have one key feature in common — namely all of them include the word ‘true’ at least once; and all of them mention the word ‘true’ in reference to the argument’s premises. [I will later return to this key point, and explain its special significance as concerns our dispute.]

    THE CORRECT DEFINITION OF ‘LOGICAL IMPLICATION’
    A set of propositions logically implies a single proposition IFF were all of the propositions in the set true, then the single proposition would necessarily be true (also).

    For the purpose of furthering our dispute concerning Kant’s categorical imperative, the following corrupted version of the definition should prove especially useful.

    CORRUPTED DEFINITION
    A set of things logically implies a single thing IFF were all of the things in that set true, then the single thing would necessarily be true (also).

    So, according to this corrupted definition, a set of puppy dogs logically implies a ferret IFF were all of the puppy dogs in the set true, then the (single) ferret would necessarily be true (also). Likewise, a set of commands logically implies a single command IFF were all of the commands in the set true, then the single command would necessarily be true (also).

    The catch, of course, is that puppy dogs, ferrets and commands are not the sorts of things that even could be true. Consequently, they are not the sorts of things that can logically imply anything.

    There are a couple of points of potential confusion concerning this issue which it seems wise for me to address pre-emptively. Firstly, the definition of ‘logical implication’ does not imply that falsehoods cannot logically imply propositions; because the key terms ‘would’ and ‘were’ are subjunctive. Thus, for example, the falsehood “Mars is more massive than Jupiter and Jupiter is more massive than Mercury” logically implies the truth “Jupiter is more massive than Mercury”; because if the first proposition were true, then the second proposition would necessarily be true also. Now as it turns out, the first proposition is false. But the definition of ‘logical implication’ does not require that it actually be true. It does, however, require that it be the sort of thing at that least could be true (i.e. it requires that it be a proposition).

    Secondly, it’s important to realize that, although I have steadfastly maintained my position that only propositions can logically imply anything, I never said how many propositions are required in order to logically imply a logical truth; and, as it turns out, zero propositions is sufficient to do the trick in this special case.

    Logical truths and logical falsehoods have many bizarre properties. For example, it’s often said that a logical falsehood is false even if its true; by which it is meant that every logical falsehood implies its own negation. [Later on in this posting I will prove that “Mb & —Mb” logically implies its own negation.] Somewhat similarly, logical truths are often said to be true even if they are false; by which it is meant that every logical truth is logically implied by it’s own negation. I will now prove that the logical truth “Mb v —Mb” is logically implied by its own negation (namely “—[Mb v —Mb]”).

    1) —[Mb v —Mb]
    ? Mb v —Mb
    2) —Mb & ——Mb 1; DeMorgan’s Law
    3) —Mb 2; Left Simplification
    4) —Mb v Mb 3; Right Logical Addition
    5) Mb v —Mb 4; Commutitivity of ‘v’
    Q.E.D.

    LOGICAL TRUTHS VS. ANALYTIC TRUTHS
    Our little dispute on whether commands can logically imply anything began because I vigorously denied your claim that Kant’s categorical imperative allows us to “generate” moral truths. Since these so-called moral truths presumably are informative propositions, the fact that there are sound zero-premise arguments would appear to be irrelevant; because every sound zero-premise argument has a logical truth for its conclusion; and every logical truth is an uninformative proposition. [By the way, it’s a curious fact that every valid zero-premise argument is not merely valid, but also sound. For having no premises, such an argument cannot have any false premises.]

    Since you believe that some moral truths are analytic, it’s important to distinguish between analytic truths and logical truths. To that end, then, consider the following argument which is easily proven to be invalid despite the fact that many analytic philosophers would mistakenly classify it as valid:

    1) George Bush is a bachelor.
    ? George Bush is unmarried.

    This argument is in the same logical form as the following:

    1) George Bush is a Texan.
    ? George Bush is unmarried.

    This argument is known-to-be-invalid; because it’s only premise is a known truth and its conclusion is a known falsehood; so it can’t possibly be valid. Hence the original argument is also invalid; because it is in the same logical form as a known-to-be-invalid argument.

    In contrast, the following argument is valid (though, of course, unsound):
    1) George Bush is a bachelor.
    2) An individual is a bachelor if and only if it is a unmarried human adult male.
    ? George Bush is unmarried.

    HARE IS A BIT CONFUSED; BUT HE IS ON TO SOMETHING
    R. Brown; post #6: “As for your last remark, here is what Hare says:

    Now, the word ‘all’ and other logical words are used in commands, as in statements. It follows that there must also be entailment relationships between commands; for otherwise it would be impossible to give any meaning to the words as used in them.

    This is because:

    To know the meaning of the word ‘all’ is to know that one cannot without contradiction say certain things, for example ‘All men are mortal and Socrates is not a mortal’.”

    Hare is a bit confused; but he is on to something. There are, of course, several semantic relationships that hold between commands, but the relations of logical implication and logical contradiction are not among them.

    That having been said, I will now define what currently appears to me to be their closest analogues:

    DEFINITION OF ‘BROWN’
    A set of commands browns a single command IFF were all of the commands in the set fulfilled, then the single command would necessarily be fulfilled (also).

    My wife frequently commands me to take out the trash from the kitchen. Fulfilling her command requires that I get myself to the kitchen. So “Take out the kitchen trash” browns “Go to the kitchen”; but “Go to the kitchen” does not brown “Take out the kitchen trash”.

    DEFINITION OF ‘HAREY’
    A set of commands hareys a single command IFF were all of the commands in the set fulfilled, then the single command would necessarily not be fulfilled.

    The command “Eat that worm” is obviously opposed to, or conflicts with, the command “Don’t eat that worm.” Nevertheless, these commands do not logically contradict each other. Instead, they merely harey each other.

    Obviously, one could follow each command at different times — provided that one first refrains from eating the worm. But, ‘tis clearly impossible to fulfill both commands simultaneously if there’s only one worm that’s indicated by the phrase ‘that worm’.

    DEFINITION OF ‘LOGICAL CONTRADICTION’
    A given proposition logically contradicts a second proposition IFF the first proposition logically implies the negation of the second proposition.

    The falsehood, “Two is an odd square,” logically contradicts the truth, “Two isn’t odd.” This is easily proven as follows: “Two is an odd square” logically implies “Two is odd”. But this proposition is logically equivalent to it’s own double negation, namely “It is not the case that two isn’t odd.” And this proposition is the negation of the second proposition, namely “Two isn’t odd”.

    Self-contradiction (i.e. logical falsity) is an interesting sub-case of contradiction. For every self-contradiction logically implies it’s own negation. For example, Mb & —Mb logically implies —[Mb & —Mb]. This is easily proven as follows:

    1) Mb & —Mb
    ? —[Mb & —Mb]
    2) Mb 1; Left Simplification
    3) Mb v —Mb 2; Right Logical Addition
    4) ——[Mb v —Mb] 3; Double Negation
    5) —[—Mb & ——Mb] 4; DeMorgan’s Law
    6) —[—Mb & Mb] 5; Double Negation
    7) —[Mb & —Mb] 6; Commutitivity of ‘&’
    Q.E.D.

    MORE CRAP IN A DAY OR TWO
    I will post a few more remarks on your post #0 soon — probably tomorrow. Then it would be really nice if you (or any other contributor to the site) would take up my challenge to identify a truthmaker for at least one so-called moral truth.

  14. Thanks for the detailed comment!

    I only have a couple of minutes so I can’t address everything right now, but I want to say a couple of things.

    1. regrading Sorenson’s argument. You have not got the form right. It is an instance of a kind of argument that Sorenson calls ‘self-exemplfying’. Included in this group are (if I remember correctly) arguments like “there is a fallacy of begging the question, therefore there is a fallacy of begging the question” and “some deductive arguments do not move from general premises to specific conclcusions so some deductive arguments do not move from general premises to specific conclusions”. the proposed counter-example with unicorns does not have this form, though I agree that it is an invalid argument. It doesn’t invalidate the original argument.

    2. I agree that I said the CI allows us to generate truths, but I was being sloppy when I said that. What i really meant was that it provides justification for our beliefs about which emotional responses are the correct ones to have, and so can act as a truthmaker for moral judgements as I understand them.

    3. The issue about Imperatives. Well, there is a lot to say about this. You are right that validity and the lot are typically defined in terms of truth of premises. Hare acknowledges this and points out that this is due mostly to historical reasons and not due to anything fundamental. he also points out that Aristotle’s original definition of deduction is neutral about this (i.e. certain things being supposed other things follow of neccessity). So this really isn’t all that much of an objection. To point out that we define deduction and validity one way so as to rule out a certain kind of deduction or inference doesn’t address the issue of whether we should rule it out, or whether it ought to be allowed.

    And, as I have been pointing out, there are reasons to think that there must be a logic of imperatives (they can be contradicted, they obey the law of the excluded middle, and we seem to make inferences from them), so it seems to me that we need more than a simple appeal to logic text books (I mean, is it really an argument against dialetheism to point out that logic textbooks appeal to the law of non-contradiction?).

    At anyrate, your claim that imperatives are not even the sort of things that could be true or false is questionable. There are theories of imperatives that have themas coming out as statements and so capable of being true (this is Kent Bach’s view for instance). When I order you to sit down it is true that I am ordering you and so what I say can be true. I am not saying that this is the right account, but just that it is a possible account and that it is not obviously false.

    OK…so I will try to write some more later, and of course I will wait to hear back from you. But again, I am quite enjoying this discussion and want to thank you for the time and effor you have put into it.

  15. DAGNABIT!
    The damn posting program ate my hillbilly bi-conditional sign, and didn’t leave so much as a single crumb! My improvised negation sign didn’t work out very well either; because the posting program mushes a double dash into a long dash.
    [Note: I didn’t use the tilde sign on my ancient computer’s keyboard because it doesn’t freakin’ have one!]
    The posting program is also annoyingly unforgiving when it comes to the sin of forgetting to put in an end-of-italics command — which sin is easy to commit on long postings. (Apparently it goes on an italicization rampage until it bumps into a stop-italicization command.) The thing that annoys me the most, however, is its pig-headed refusal to respect tabs.

    By the way, what are start and stop commands for underlining? Also, do you know how to produce the signs for the empty set and the triple dot sign?

    I suggest that you give me instructions by splitting the command-string into two pieces; and use the following format: Type A+B to produce sign X: [A = string#1/ B = string#2]. For example: to produce the universal quantifier type [A = &for / B = all;].

    I believe that that’s correct, but I wish to test it; as well as to see how the spacing works. So lets see… ∀x ∀ x ∀xy ∀ x y

    CONCERNING POST #0
    The rest of this post concerns Richard Brown’s responses to two of the 7 numbered points I made earlier on his site called ‘A Simple Argument For Moral Realism’.

    CONCERNING MY POINT #2
    Your response to my point #2 merely specifies two metaphorical senses of the word ‘contradiction’. Also, you were playing pretty fast and loose with the word ‘natural’ when you said “The other sense of contradiction is the sense in which I contradict a natural tendency or desire of rational beings.” For this strongly suggest that one’s intentional frustration of some rational being’s unnatural desires wouldn’t count as a “contradiction”. (I will return to this point momentarily.)

    Notice that your sentence is improved by replacing the verb ‘contradict’ with ‘frustrate’, ‘impede’, ‘obstruct’ or something along those lines; which shows that you are using the term metaphorically:

    IMPROVED SENTENCE: “The other [metaphorical] sense of ‘contradiction’ is the sense in which I frustrate a natural tendency or desire of some rational being.”

    Additionally, your sentence would make no sense at all if you replaced the verb ‘contradict’ with verb phrase ‘imply the negation of’:

    NONSENSE: “The other sense of ‘contradiction’ is the sense in which I imply the negation of a natural tendency or desire of some rational being.”

    In any case, is my desire to ride a bicycle natural despite the fact that bicycles are man-made objects, as opposed to naturally occurring objects? Is your frustrated desire not to feel embarrassed when you purchase condoms at the drug store natural; and would I be performing an immoral act if I were the pharmacist selling them to you and I intentionally tried to embarrass you about the deal? Is a gay man’s desire to have anal sex with some other man natural, unnatural or neither?

    Are you just using the word ‘natural’ as a way of indicating that you yourself (and of course all folks who happen to share your non-cognitive attitude on some particular issue) do not disapprove of the act, policy or proposal in question? Most Christian Fundamentalists insist that heterosexuality is natural and militantly insist that homosexuality is unnatural. And, like you, they never freakin’ bother to identify any sort of truthmaker for their claim; but merely claim that it’s implied by the correct moral theory.

    Finally, notice that you said rational beings , not vertebrates ! And that, ironically enough, gives me the perfect segue into the next issue.

    CONCERNING MY POINT #3
    My point was that many moral obligations are incurred owing to the fact that one person has a special sort of relationship to some other person. For example, suppose that my neighbor’s car breaks down and he asks me to give him a ride to work. If my neighbor also happens to be my best friend then I’ll feel a much stronger obligation to do him the favor than if he’s just a casual acquaintance. Similarly, I have obligations to my wife which I do not have towards your mother.

    I don’t deny that the same sort of thing can happen when a person forms a special sort of relationship with a pet. For example my dog, Squinker, died on April 13th of this year. Not only do I miss him but I also feel guilty about the fact that I took him to a veterinarian in my neighborhood because it was inconvenient to take him to the veterinarian who had successfully performed three similar operations on him but who lives farther away. My moral emotion of guilt is closely related to the fact that Squinker was a damn good little friend to me. If I had instead thought of him as merely another vertebrate amongst trillions, my feelings would be dramatically different.

    Incidentally, there are a huge number of books on feminist ethics that stress the importance of personal relationships, and relationship-based moral obligations. Most of these books sharply criticize traditional philosophical ethical theories — especially utilitarianism — on the ground that they treat persons too equally and too abstractly. Books of this sort were a short-lived fad back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. One of them is Virginia Held’s book, “Feminist Morality”.

    So, anyway, my point was that you are not a friend to all vertebrates in anything like the way that I was a friend to Squinker and he was a friend to me. And that, I think, you cannot credibly deny. For you certainly don’t know every currently living vertebrate; and you can’t be a genuine friend to any person (let alone any vertebrate) with whom you’ve never even had any contact. Besides which, your moral emotion would obviously be quite different if you were to visit me and discover that I sometimes eat sardines (which are vertebrates) than if you instead discovered that I sometimes eat my human friends. This, then, is a pretty decent reason for thinking that Kant’s categorical imperative is too abstract, or too impersonal, or too general. For it treats every person in exactly the same way, and simply ignores all of the messy real-life complications created by special relationships like friendship, marriage and kinship.

    We may be rational beings — at least to some extent. But we are also social beings. And friendship counts!

    MORE LATER
    I intend to respond to a more important point concerning your post #0 on this site, but I don’t have time to do it today — and probably won’t have enough time to do so for a few days. I will also briefly respond to your most recent point which contained a couple of assertions that I found completely and utterly preposterous.

  16. lol WordPress and html have another fan I see 😉

    I don’t know the code for underline or for those other things. Try goggling ‘html code underline/therefore sign’…I am sure there is one for tab too…but other than that it looks like you got it. Let me know if I am forgetting to give you instructions for something.

    Re 2: Oh, I certainly agree that there is room to argue about Kantian theories of justification! Especially with respect to this second kind of contradiction that Kant is here talking about. But it isn’t the kind that you point out. It is not the case that I impede someother being’s will. It is that I try to will something which cannot be rationally willed. We, in effect, maintain contradictory propositions as true. On the one hand we want it to continue to be a rule that rational creatures be treated in certain ways and at the same time for that rule not to apply to me in this situation. So take on ereasonable way of getting the second version of the CI from the first. The first version says to act on those maxims which can be willed as a universal law of nature. Now, suppose that it were a universal law of nature that rational beings be treated as means only and not as ends in themselves? In such a world with a law like that I myself would be treated as a means only. But this is not something that I can consistently will because it makes the act of willing itself imnpossible. It is to contravene the natural purpose of the act of willing itself. So one has an obligation to treat rational beings as ends in themselves and never as means only. This isn’t to say that we CANNOt will such things in the sense that no one ever does, since it is obvious that people will this kind of stuff. But the claim is that they are not rational when they do so; they quite literally want it to be the case that ∀(x) D(x) and ~D(r). That is they want it to be the case that there is a universal rule that has an exception to it, which is irrational. According to me this is the reason why it is true that moral condemnation is the correct emotional non-cognitive attitude to have towards Saddam Hussein. He deserves moral condemnation, in part, because of his bringing about or willing to bring about depending on how you feel about these things actions which violate the CI. He also deserves it becase he caused suffering (i.e. for the consequences of his acts but that is another story).

    Now that is all common place Kantianism as I understand it. I have tried to extend this kind of reasoning to show that it has got to apply to all vertabrates. This is because, I say, we cannot consitently will animals to be treated as means only. This is because to do so would be to will that sentient creatures could be treated as a means only, and so would mean that I will that I myself could be treated that way.

    But if course this doesn’t mean that I have the kind of obligations to animals as I do to my wife or students! The CI prevents us from treating them as means ONLY but not from treating them as means at all. We owe them what they are due and you are right to point out that what they are due will depend on our relationship to them. But Kant has a way to deal with this. This is his idea of imperfect duties. Some of our duties, like that of helping the needy, are up to us to decide when to fulfil. This is ofcourse contrasted with perfect duties, which have no exceptions and always must be done. So, I get to choose when and to whom I give charity. As long as I do it I fulfil the duty. But it is not the same way with my duty not murder. I do not get to choose when I refrain from murdering. Also no one is saying anything about superogetory thinhs here.

    But, look, I agree that it is the feelings which do (most if not all of) the motivating and so that you might be more motivated to fulfil some duty to your particular dog as opposed to with respect to any old vertabrate but you really do have the same obligations. Just because a dog is YOUR dog doesn’t make it special, at least not in the sense that it deserves something which all dogs do not deserve. The messy real lif stuff is there and it is what drives us, but reason is one hell of a good back seat driver!

  17. SORENSON’S ZERO-PREMISE ARGUMENT IS INVALID
    Richard Brown; post #15 [from “Moral Truthmakers”]:
    1. regarding Sorenson’s argument. You have not got the form right.

    Determining the logical form of an argument can be a tricky affair, but only because determining the logical form of individual propositions can be a tricky affair. For example, it’s an open question whether “It is not the case that two is even” has the same logical form as “Two isn’t even.” Perhaps there’s a subtle difference between the external negation and the (so-called) internal negation of singular propositions. On the other hand, who the hell cares? For if these really were two distinct propositions, then ‘twould still be obvious that they’d be logically equivalent propositions. And thus the difference would make no difference as to whether any argument is valid or invalid.

    The more important point is that it’s not always necessary to discover an argument’s logical form in order to prove that it’s invalid. This, of course, is completely obvious in the case where a deductive argument has premises all of which are known to be true and a conclusion that’s known to be false. Indeed, in that case, ‘twould be utterly foolish to scratch one’s head and say “Hmmm, I’m not quite sure whether this argument is invalid, because determining the logical form of its conclusion is a tricky matter.”

    The still more important point is that in some cases one can prove that an argument is invalid by showing that it’s known to fit a known to be pan-invalid argument pattern. And in such cases it’s not necessary to know what the argument’s logical form is in order to know that it fits such a pattern.

    The following analogy might be helpful here. If you give me an accurate X-ray image of your entire body I can figure out whether you’re missing your left leg (or else never grew one in the first place). I don’t need to see the latest state of the art MRI images to figure that out. Indeed, under ordinary conditions of observation, I can figure that out even without an X-ray image. For ‘twould be quite enough merely to get a few good eyeball observations of your naked body.

    In the case of Sorenson’s zero-premise argument all that one needs to know is that (i) it’s a zero-premise argument, (ii) its conclusion is a “robustly informative” existential proposition that, and (iii) no such argument is valid.

    DEFINITIONS [PROPOSITIONAL PATTERNS]
    A propositional pattern is pan-true IFF every proposition that fits that pattern is true. [example: ‘IF [p & q] THEN [q v p]’]

    A propositional pattern is neutro-true IFF some proposition that fits that pattern is true and some proposition that fits that pattern is false. [example: ‘p v q’]

    A propositional pattern is pan-false IFF every proposition that fits that pattern is false. [example: ‘p IFF not-p’]

    Confusing a propositional pattern with a genuine proposition is like confusing the blueprint of a car with an actual car, or like confusing the shape of an apple with an actual apple. It makes no sense to say that a propositional pattern, such as ‘p v not-p’, is true; despite the fact that the vast majority of analytic philosophers regularly say that ‘p v not-p’ is true, necessarily true, logically true, formally true, etc. The prevalance of this mistake not withstanding, this is every bit as confused as saying that the mere shape of an apple is delicious, or nutritious.

    Technical Note: Because propositional patterns are virtually always defined in such a way that genuine propositions count as degenerate cases of propositional patterns (i.e. propositional patterns that only a single proposition fits) one can coherently say that those propositional “patterns” are true (or false). But to say so without realizing that one is talking about a genuine proposition (that also counts as a degenerate case, or a limiting case, of a propositional pattern) is to make a category mistake.

    MORE DEFINITIONS [ARGUMENT PATTERNS]
    An argument pattern is pan-valid IFF every argument that fits that pattern is valid.

    All of the following argument patterns are known to be pan-valid.

    1) p
    ? p

    1) p & q
    ? q

    1) p IFF q
    2) q
    ? p

    An argument pattern is neutro-valid IFF some argument that fits that pattern is valid and some argument that fits that pattern is invalid.

    The following argument pattern (which is just the pattern of being a two-premise argument) is neutro-valid:

    1) p
    ? q

    All of the following valid arguments fit this pattern. [Notice that the conclusion of an argument that fits this pattern need not (but may) be distinct from its only premise.]

    1) Richard Brown is a kangaroo.
    ? 3 is odd or 3 isn’t odd.

    1) 3 is odd and 3 isn’t odd.
    ? Richard Brown is a kangaroo.

    1) Richard Brown is a kangaroo & Tanger is a mammal.
    ? Tanger is a mammal.

    1) Tanger is an astronaut.
    ? Tanger is an astronaut.

    A single letter, such a ‘p’, is a place holder (or schematic letter) standing in for any proposition whatsoever. Similarly ‘p & q’ is a place holder for any conjunction whatsoever (no matter how complicated its conjuncts might be.) Moreover, “2 is even and 2 is even” fits the propositional pattern ‘p & q’ — because distinct letters stand for possibly but not necessarily distinct propositions. In contrast, “2 is even and 3 is odd” does not fit the propositional pattern ‘p & p’; although it does fit the pattern ‘p & q’ as well as the still simpler pattern ‘p’.

    The simplest of all propositional patterns, namely just plain ‘p’ (although also symbolizable by ‘q’, or ‘r’, etc.) is the universal propositional pattern — since absolutely every proposition fits this pattern.

    Getting back to my former point, the argument pattern of being a two-premise argument is neutro-valid, not pan-valid, because many invalid arguments also fit this pattern. For example, the obviously invalid argument

    1) Richard Brown is a left-handed dentist.
    ? Richard Brown’s grandmother is a sadistic veterinarian.

    fits this pattern.

    An argument pattern is pan-invalid IFF every argument that fits that pattern is invalid.

    The following argument pattern is pan-invalid:

    1) p v not-p
    ? q & not-q

    As it turns out, at the relatively simplistic level of propositional logic every pan-invalid argument pattern has a pan-false propositional pattern as it’s “pattern-conclusion”; and also has “pattern-premises” all of which are pan-true. In particular, it’s worth noticing that the following argument pattern is not pan-invalid, but is instead neutro-valid:

    0
    ? p

    This is so because every zero-premise argument whose conclusion is a logical truth fits this pattern; and all such arguments are valid. In constrast every argument that fits this pattern, and whose conclusion is not a logical truth, is invalid.

    At the level of predicate logic things become interestingly more complicated; and one must be careful to distinguish between classical logic and free logic.

    IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT THE LOGICAL FORM OF SORENSON’S ZERO-PREMISE ARGUMENT IS, BECAUSE HIS ARGUMENT IS KNOWN TO FIT A KNOWN TO BE PAN-INVALID ARGUMENT PATTERN.
    This is Sorenson’s zero-premise argument; which I claim to have already proven invalid — and which you deny that I have proven invalid:

    0
    ? There are zero-premise arguments.

    This fits the following argument pattern:

    0
    ? Ex [Fx & Gx]

    It also fits the following pan-invalid argument pattern:

    0
    ? robustly informative existential proposition

    YOU EXPLICITLY DENIED THIS — SO WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ARGUMENT’S LOGICAL FORM IS INSTEAD?
    Although you flat out accused me of getting this simple argument’s form wrong, you did not say what you think the argument’s logical form is instead. Instead, you just spouted a bunch of rhetoric concerning self-exemplifying arguments.

    CLASSICAL LOGIC VS. FREE LOGIC
    Classical logic includes the assumption that at least one individual exists in the universe. As a result, it’s possible to prove that certain weakly informative existential propositions are logically implied by the null set of premises. Put another way, it’s possible to deduce an existential proposition from the null set of premises provided that the conclusion does not characterize the individual. Such propositions are still weakly informative insofar as they contain the information that at least one individual exists.

    Here are a couple of examples:

    0
    ? Ex [x=x]
    1) a=a zero-premise inference rule; Law of Self-Identity
    2) Ex [x=x] 1; Existential Generalization
    Q.E.D.

    0
    ? Ex [Fx —> Fx]
    1) Fa Assumption for a Conditional Proof
    2) Fa —> Fa 1-1; Conditional Proof
    3) Ex [Fx —> Fx] 2; Existential Generalization
    Q.E.D.

    Free logic is interestingly different because it does not include the assumption that at least one individual exists; nor does it involve assumption that every individual constant is a denoting name. Thus some argument patterns are pan-invalid in free logic but are not pan-invalid in classical logic.

    I didn’t mention these technical facts in my post #14 on “Moral Truthmakers” because I didn’t expect you to be so darn tenacious; and because I didn’t think that I would have to get into this sort of technical shit in order to convince you that Sorenson’s zero-premise argument is invalid. In any case, my key point still stands. Since the conclusion of Sorenson’s zero-premise argument is “robustly-informative” (in the sense that it says that a certain SPECIFIC KIND of individual exists) — namely a zero-premise argument — the argument is invalid.

    SELF-AFFIRMING AND SELF-REFUTING CLAIMS
    No mere proposition is (or even can be) either self-affirming or self-refuting. Instead these notions are significantly more complicated because they involve the production of (token) sentences; and the evidence produced by the production of (token) sentences.

    DEFINITIONS
    A self-affirming claim is a claim for which evidence of its own truth is produced by producing any (token) sentence that expresses it.

    All of the following are self-affirming claims — provided that the (token) sentences expressing them are produced in the right way:

    There are written sentences. [condition on production: the (token) sentence needs to be written.]
    There are spoken sentences. [condition on production: the (token) sentence needs to be spoken.]
    There are sign-language sentences. [condition on production: the (token) sentence needs to be signed.]
    There are sentences. [condition on production: the (token) sentence merely needs to be produced in some way.]
    There are statements. [condition on production: the (token) sentence must be produced with the intention of making a statement.]
    There are truths. [condition on production: the (token) sentence must be produced with the intention of expressing a truth.]

    A self-refuting claim is a claim for which evidence of its own falsity is produced by producing any (token) sentence that expresses it.

    All of the following are self-refuting claims — provided that the (token) sentences expressing them are produced in the right way:

    There are no written sentences. [condition on production: the (token) sentence needs to be written.]
    There are no spoken sentences. [condition on production: the (token) sentence needs to be spoken.]
    There are no sign-language sentences. [condition on production: the (token) sentence needs to be signed.]
    There are no sentences. [condition on production: the (token) sentence merely needs to be produced in some way.]
    There are no statements. [condition on production: the (token) sentence must be produced with the intention of making a statement.]
    There are no truths. [condition on production: the (token) sentence must be produced with the intention of expressing a truth.]

    SELF-EXEMPLIFYING ARGUMENTS
    Richard Brown; post #15 [from “Moral Truthmakers”]:
    1. regarding Sorenson’s argument. You have not got the form right. It is an instance of a kind of argument that Sorenson calls ‘self-exemplifying’. Included in this group are (if I remember correctly) arguments like “there is a fallacy of begging the question, therefore there is a fallacy of begging the question” and “some deductive arguments do not move from general premises to specific conclusions so some deductive arguments do not move from general premises to specific conclusions”. the proposed counter-example with unicorns does not have this form, though I agree that it is an invalid argument. It doesn’t invalidate the original argument.

    DEFINITION
    A self-exemplifying argument is an argument for which evidence of the truth of its conclusion [not its validity!] is produced by producing any argument-text that expresses it.

    You strike me as being confused on this for at least three reasons. Firstly, it’s far from clear that you are properly distinguishing between arguments and argument-texts. Secondly, you are clearly taking the production of a (token) argument-text expressing Sorenson’s zero-premise argument as producing evidence for the argument’s validity; rather than merely producing evidence for the truth of its conclusion. Thirdly, and by far most importantly, the sort of so-called “form” that you are talking about is NOT a matter of LOGICAL form. Instead, an argument’s being self-exemplifying requires that it have a certain sort of non-logical content. Put more simply, I reckon you’ve confused an argument’s having a certain property, which it can have only in virtue of its non-logical content, with its having a certain logical form — which (by definition) it can have independently of its non-logical content.

    Sorenson’s rather silly zero-premise argument is clever only in the following limited sense: If you deny that the conclusion of his argument is true, then he can point to his argument-text as evidence that supposedly proves that its conclusion is true after all. Sorenson’s response to anyone’s denial of the truth of his argument’s conclusion is as follows: “But you’re denying that this zero-premise argument is a zero-premise argument! You’re denying that this argument’s conclusion is true. But in order to do that rationally you must first recognize that it’s an argument. And yet it’s plain as day that it is a zero-premise argument.”

    Unfortunately for Sorenson, his not-nearly-so-clever-as-he-thinks trick is easily foiled. For he can be completely blown out of the water by nothing more sophisticated than stupid pig-headed insistence upon the argument / argument-text distinction. In other words, all one needs to do is stubbornly deny that the text (although it seems like an argument-text) really expresses an argument (on the admittedly mistaken grounds that there are no zero-premise arguments). And then Sorenson ain’t got a damn leg to stand on. Instead, all he can do is to equally pig-headedly insist that the text does express an argument. But since that’s precisely the question at issue, his insistence doesn’t count for shit.

    However that may be it clearly ain’t important. For ‘tis a well known fact that there are infinitely many zero-premise arguments. Moreover ‘tis a well known fact that there are infinitely many sound zero-premise arguments. [Incidentally, and as I mentioned in my previous posting (namely post #14 from “Moral Truthmakers”), every valid zero-premise argument is sound as well as valid.]

    At any rate, take a closer look at this “supporting” example that you gave:

    1) There is a fallacy of begging the question.
    ? There is a fallacy of begging the question.

    The only clever thing about this argument-text is that if one accepts that it really does express an argument in the first place (which of course one should accept); then one can’t deny that its conclusion is true without implicitly conceding that the argument’s conclusion is true after all. For one can’t rationally reject the truth of the argument’s conclusion on the grounds that one does not accept the truth of its only premise without implicitly claiming that the argument begs the question. And since it’s completely obvious that the argument is valid, the only way to rationally deny that the argument is sound (and therefore has a true conclusion) is by denying the truth of its only premise.

  18. Hey Richard, I’m back! And I’m ready to mix it up with you on this topic again if you’d like — but this time I don’t want to get side tracked by a bunch of off-topic issues. The key point is that I challengened you to identify the truthmaker of at least one moral claim. I issued the challenge because I didn’t believe that you could do so; and I still don’t.

    I would like to re-open the issue by posing the following question — which turns out to be closely related to my orignal and more fundamental challenge. Here it is:

    What is the difference between a moral dispute and a non-moral dispute? Put another way, what makes some disputes moral disputes and other disputes non-moral disputes?

    Please Note: If you respond that it is a matter of the topic of the dispute, then please provide with me a reasonalby clear explanation of how I am to distinguish moral topics from non-moral ones.

    Hugs and Kisses,
    Semantic Terrorist

  19. Hi ST, nice to hear from you.

    I would have thought that a moral dispute was a dispute about which actions are right/wrong, obligatory/permissible, etc, which character traits were good/bad…why isn’t that a perfectly good answer?

  20. Hell Dr. Brown,
    In a certain sense there is nothing wrong with the answer you offered. But in other sense it is very hard to see how it is supposed to be informative. For by being a dispute about right and wrong, you presumably mean morally right and morally wrong. And by an act´s being obligatory or permissible you again presumably mean morally obligatory and morally permissible. My question is how am I to tell whether a case of right and wrong, or good an bad is moral case or a non-moral case.

    For example, suppose that a school grows over the years from a very small school to a fairly large one, and it is located in a residential area. One day the school petitions the town to get permission to build a new building in order to have more classrooms. Almost all of the folks who live nearby oppose the school´s petition because they are already annoyed by the amount of traffic that the school generates on their roads, which leads to traffic jams and longer commutes to work.

    Is this a non-moral zoning(or traffic) dispute or a moral dispute, and why? If it is not a moral dispute, then what would it take to turn it into one?

    I have a response to this question, but I would first like to know how you answer the question.

  21. Well, hell to you to ST 🙂

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Things have been crazy out here in meat space. My car was totaled, in a separate incident I tripped and hit my head, plus the usual work stuff…

    This seems clearly to be a moral issue as well as a non-moral zoning issue. The zoning issue is simply a matter of interpreting what the zoning laws dictate in this case. The moral issue is a matter of the goods the new building would provide to the children and the community versus the harms to the towns-folk.

  22. Hello Again,

    I apologize for the numerous typos in my last post.
    You wrote:
    1) “This seems CLEARLY to be a moral issue as well as a non-moral zoning issue.”
    And also:
    2) “The moral issue is a matter of the goods the new building would provide to the children and the community versus the harms to the towns-folk.”

    This, of course, sounds perfectly reasonable. Nevertheless, I find it to be shallow and uninformative; because it would seem that by ‘goods’ you must mean “morally significant goods”. Any yet you have not (yet) explained any clear way to distinguish between morally significant goods and non-morally significant goods. Plus, of course, what is good for the school and its students is at odds with what is good for the folks who live in the neighborhood. So merely saying that the good ought to be done is completely unhelpful.

    Still, you appear to be assuming that moral goods cannot be like this — because morality is not relative — or something of that sort. And so, it must either be morally right to allow the school to expand, or else morally right to prevent the school from expanding. [And this is a position which I find completely absurd.]

    ***

    My position is very different from moral relativism because I disbelieve (very strongly!) that there are any moral truths, or any moral falsehoods, at all.
    Anyway, here’s my main claim: A dispute becomes a moral dispute when and only when at least one party to the dispute effectively leverages a collective expression of approval or disapproval on the issue — or at least makes a notable attempt to do so.

    Normally, unfortunately, this involves expressing disapproval — and, critically — it involves attempting to foment a COLLECTIVE, social, or “teamwork” expression of disapproval.

    ***

    The way I see it, a Mom can easily (and unthinkingly) make dental hygiene habits into a full blown moral issue — simply by expressing strong (or just consistent) disapproval of her son’s dental hygiene habits AND doing so in such a way that she implicitly leverages collective expressions of disapproval should a certain habit not be adopted by her son. [There are, of course, a great many ways that this can be done — and be done quite automatically (and unreflectively) by the Mom. “Good boys brush their teeth 3 times a day.” “Boys who don’t brush their teeth 3 times a day don’t respect the body that God gave them.” “Boys who don’t brush their teeth at least 3 times a day don’t grow up to marry good wives” (and people whom WE approve of won’t approve of you if you don’t manage to find a good wife when you grow up)” Etc., etc., etc. ]

    So far as I can see, whether a Mom makes dental hygiene habits into a moral issue doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with “dental goods”. After all, she might well be wrong about what makes for good dental hygiene.

    Plus, consider this: Were dental hygiene habits moral issues in the year 8,000 BC (around the time that stationary agriculture got going in the Fertile Crescent? Were dental hygiene habits moral issues even before anyone had invented a toothbrush?
    [I suppose that you could respond by saying that they were “disposed to be” moral issues when the technology caught up. But that strikes me as a pretty lame response — since, AT THE TIME they were not moral issues.]

    ***

    You wrote (about the school zoning-dispute): “The moral issue is a matter of the goods the new building would provide to the children and the community versus the harms to the towns-folk.”
    Would you also say (about the Mom vs. son dental hygiene dispute) that the moral issue is a matter of the goods to be had by brushing one’s teeth at least three times a day vs. the goods to be lost by the time and effort it takes to do the brushing? [I ask because your sort of reply strikes me as an uninformative knee-jerk response — and one that fails to enlighten anyone about the distinction between moral and non-moral disputes.]

    Anyway, in the interests of clarifying my position: I don’t believe that the zoning dispute I mentioned is intrinsically moral — or has any intrinsically moral dimension to it. Nor do I believe that the dispute must be interpreted as a dispute (only) about what the law says, or how the zoning laws apply, in order for it to remain a non-moral dispute.

    The way I see it, it could remain a non-moral dispute even in the absence of any zoning laws — PROVIDED that folks did not engage in certain behaviors.

    The REAL LIFE zoning dispute that I had in mind seemed to me to become a moral dispute at a rather specific point — when one of the towns-folk distributed a letter around the neighborhood that expressed all sorts of (overblown and sometimes downright nasty) disapproval of the school — or how it is run. The letter was a very clear case of advocating that others express disapproval of the school — or its administration, or whatnot. It converted what could have remained a civilly conducted “conflict of interests dispute” into a pretty nasty moral dispute.

    ***

    There are many sorts of religious folks who make participation in various (and sometimes quite peculiar or little-known) rituals into HUGE moral issues for their kin-folk, or close associates. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to say that whether folks practice some obscure religious ritual (which, say, is very important to Seventh Day Adventists, or was extremely important to virtually all ancient Aztecs — before the Spaniards exterminated that religion) is an INTRINSICALLY moral issue.

    Such disputes over what-to-do just strike me as goofy. They do not affect how I behave; and I honestly don’t give a damn whether some folks attempt to leverage a collective expression of disapproval of how I live my life on that score — because I don’t perform this or that ritual — which none of my FRIENDS or ASSOCIATES practice or care about at all.

    I don’t actually feel morally challenged when some guy at a huge bus station comes up to me and asks me “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? Have you been born again?”
    I politely disengage myself from such pests. That’s how I deal with that.

    ****

    In contrast, it would seem that your response would be to say something like: “Well, now we must consider the goods to be gained by performing the ritual vs. the goods to be lost (or evils fostered) by doing it.”

    I say that what becomes a moral issue critically depends upon how people behave towards other people. And, in particular, it depends upon the (notably attempted or successful) leveraging of collective expressions of approval or disapproval.
    I don’t see how your talk of generic “goods” can shed ANY light on HOW any dispute becomes a moral one — or what it would take to prevent ANY dispute (about what to do) from becoming a moral dispute.

    Also, it seems to me that the “nature” of morality [or collective-advocacy concerning how to behave] is trivialized if one says that absolutely every dispute over what to do is (automatically) a moral dispute. [You know, because doing stuff always has consequences; and those consequences are always either good, bad or indifferent as regard this or that concern — at least in some generic sense.]

    For example, suppose that you are visiting me and I offer to order us a pizza from Dominoes, and you clearly express your preference for a pizza with regular crust, whereas I want to eat a thin crust pizza. It seems to me that it would be very silly to claim that our dispute (which might only last a second or two before I let you have your way) is a moral dispute just because it is a dispute over what to do.

    It also seems very silly to me to talk about the “goods” involved in this particular case — even if one style of crust is more healthy [or more ecologically friendly] than the other.

    Nor do I think that a vegetarian vs. meat pizza dispute would necessarily become [or just plain intrinsically be] a moral dispute. You could easily MAKE it into a moral dispute by expressing your disapproval of eating meat. But in order to do this you would have to do something more significant than just expressing your own personal disapproval of eating a pizza with meat on it. I mean, what the hell, some people (like me) absolutely hate mayonnaise — but are cool with other folks eating the shit.

    Hell, I even married a mayonnaise-eater! And we’re about to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.

    ***

    By the by, the Semantic Terrorist eats pepperoni pizzas about once a week; and doesn’t give a damn whether you, plus a bunch of other folks, express your disapproval of his doing so. The Semantic Terrorist can easily deal with collective expressions of disapproval of his meat-eating habits. [Vegetarians simply have no “muscle” when it comes to influencing the Semantic Terrorist’s dietary habits — and, in fact, he sees most vegetarians as just plain silly when they go so far as to express disapproval of his dietary habits.]

    I personally react to folks who disapprove of my eating meat in roughly the way that I respond to folks who disapprove of my not being a Seventh Day Adventist — or an Aztec. I just don’t give a shit that those folks disapprove of how I live my life in that respect. And that’s pretty damn easy to do — since neither group carries any weight when it comes to social, or collective, influences on my behavior.

    In point of fact, I tend to see most vegetarians and most Seventh Day Adventists as pretty damn goofy — and even as frequently annoying self-righteous persons. That having been said, I normally go with the “Live and let live” deal. I don’t feel the need to “correct” their behavior — or make them behave more like they way that I behave. It’s perfectly cool with me that they do their own thing. But I also don’t want to, and don’t have to, listen to their disapproval (for long).

    I certainly would care IF the only people with whom I could form meaningful social relationships expressed disapproval of my eating meat and not being a Seventh Day Adventist. But the fact of the matter is that the Semantic Terrorist has enough friends and acquaintances who aren’t vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists so that he need not worry about the deal.

    ***

    If no party to a dispute attempts to leverage collective expressions of approval or disapproval concerning which side of an issue (over what to do) folks take, then I say that it is a non-moral dispute — and will remain a non-moral dispute until someone does so. In contrast, the moment that someone acts in such a way as to effectively foster collective expressions of disapproval (or approval), then the dispute takes on a moral dimension.

    I find this criterion to be far more enlightening than just saying: “Well it’s moral if it involves questions of good vs. bad, or how “goods” are to be divided up, or shared, or whatnot.

    ***

    Perhaps you are satisfied with your position that there just are moral truths (and moral falsehoods) — even though we may, at present, only “know” the most basic ones. But I’m not the least bit satisfied with that — and, in fact, I’m pretty darn convinced that it is wrong.

    Still, in the end what counts is evidence. And so again I challenge you to identity even a single truthmaker for any so called moral truth. [And, of course, such an identification will count as successful only if there is some OBJECTIVE way of identifying the existence (or perhaps the non-existence) of the thing, fact, or what-ever-it-is that makes the moral truth true. And what will not count is merely expressing a commonly held, or even near universally held, ATTITUDE towards this or that act, policy or proposal.]

    For various reasons not worth explaining, I will not be posting to this site again — although I might check back on it in a year or two. So this is my goodbye. Farewell Dr. Dan Brown. I wish you a happy philosophical life.

    Yours Truly,
    The Semantic Terrorist

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