To get new readers caught up and to inspire all of you to resume old conversations and to get new ones rolling, periodically I will write posts which tour you through my archive. In each post I will briefly summarize the positions I have taken in the past and provide links to the posts where I defend them in detail. This should be a helpful guide to where Camels With Hammers has already been over the last 2 years and a launching off point for its future here at Freethought Blogs. The first topic on which I want to summarize my views is metaethics: (below the fold)
I reject the notion that the is/ought boundary is an absolute one. Effectiveness, either at making something happen or at being something of a particular kind at all, is a factual relationship. For example: Hearts are effective at pumping blood. Effective rational thought is integral to effectively being an adult human being. All beings arise as functions of component parts. Their goodness is bound up with the effective combined functioning of their component parts into a more complicated function that we recognize as a new, emergent, level of being. To effectively be anything, any being needs the sub-functions of which it is composed to function well in the way that creates that being. The well-functioning of some
I think that because of this ultimately all of our value statements can be recast as effectiveness statements. When we say anything is good we are using a shorthand expression for saying it is effective either for some specific purpose or for the full realization of some kind of being as what it is. Other connotations of the word good which seem distinct from this effectiveness definition (such as moral good) can more accurately be recast in these fact-based value terms.
Read Goodness Is A Factual Matter (Goodness=Effectiveness) where I develop these thoughts in my most basic metaethical statement on the blog. In my post Grounding Objective Value Indpendent of Human Interests and Morality, I explore the implications of this theory for the idea of an intrinsic good and locate consciousness’s ultimate value to us as a form of effectiveness.
In another post, I explore more directly the intrinsic connection between being and goodness and briefly defend a modern conception of forms, which I would like to develop more carefully in the future. Essentially I am very influenced by Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas on the idea that to be a good anything means essentially to realize one’s being as that kind of thing and that to be a bad anything means essentially to deficiently realize one’s being as that kind of thing. The degrees to which we fulfill a form are the degrees to which we are good instances of a kind of being and the degrees to which we fail to fulfill a form are the degrees to which we are bad instances of a kind of being.
in my post On Good and Evil for Non-Existent People, I deal with philosophical puzzles related to my thinking that our goodness is bound up with our being. I explore how if I am right we can still say, as seems right, that there can be good or bad done to both dead people and to hypothetical future people who do not yet actually exist (and some of whom may never exist).
In another major, clarifying post on these topics, I explain my view that effectiveness is the primary goal in itself, not merely a means. Essentially this is my adoption and elaboration of Aristotle’s view that our highest good is a kind of activity—the activity of living well (effectively) according to the kind of being we have. We do not live for anything further than our lives themselves and the activities which constitute them. We do not live for pleasure itself (although it is quite often a wonderful enticement, aid, and satisfaction for living life well). We thrive to function as what we are itself, not for external rewards.
In my post Non-Reductionistic Analysis of Values into Facts I defend my goodness as the fact of effectiveness theory from the charge that it is reductionistic. I stress that translating values into fact terms does not strip of them of their character as genuinely valuable but rather makes clear just how “value is in certain fact relationships, inherently and necessarily”. I am arguing value relationships are a basic constituent of existence, which is a far cry from undermining their genuine validity by exposing their real sources (as reductionists would seem to). Also, I am “not prejudicing the ‘non-good’ over the good but, rather, opposing the common prejudice that facts are inherently value neutral and ‘non-good’.”
Finally, for now, in my post Deriving an Atheistic, Naturalistic, Realist Account of Morality, I tell an evolutionary story about the origins of our forms which determine our values and explain how morality arises as a psychological and social phenomenon and how all of this gives insight into morality’s ultimate value and normative authority. To me, explaining a morality’s worth, its particular substance, and its rightful claim to dictate our (or others’) actions is a matter of understanding its contributions to our flourishing in factual value terms.