Perceiving Moral Truths? Part 2

Here is an example of moral reasoning that appears to illustrate the theistic theory of ethics and moral reasoning proposed by Dianelos Georgoudis:

1. God is kind and loving. (directly perceived truth about God’s moral character)
2. An action is morally good if and only if it makes the moral character of the person performing the action more like God’s character. (fundamental normative assumption)
3. Giving generously to the poor and hungry people of the world would make my moral character more kind and loving. (factual claim?)
Therefore:
4. Giving generously to the poor and hungry people of the world would make my moral character more like God’s. (inference from 1 and 3)
Therefore:
5. Giving generously to the poor and hungry people of the world would be a morally good action for me to perform. (inference from 2 and 4)

On the face of it, the presence of premise (2) appears to confirm Hume’s Law, the idea that an “Ought” statement cannot be derived from an “Is” statement, that a moral judgment cannot be validly deduced from purely factual or descriptive statements.

Georgoudis appears to need a normative principle, namely premise (2), in addition to factual or descriptive claims, namely premises (1) and (3), in order to reach the moral judgment in the conclusion (5).

However, it is perhaps a bit hasty to conclude that Hume’s Law prevails in this case. Consider the following line of reasoning:

6. Figure X is a triangle. (factual claim)
7. A figure is a triangle if and only if it is a three-sided plane figure.
Therefore:
8. Figure X is a three-sided plane figure.


The presence of premise (7) might lead one to think that (8) cannot be validly deduced from (6) alone. But, in fact, (6) alone does logically entail (8). Premise (7), since it gives a correct analysis of the meaning of the word “triangle” is a logically necessary truth, an analytic truth. So, (7) is not required to make the inference valid. The explicit statement of premise (7) might make the inference from (6) to (8) more clear or more obvious, but because it states an analytic truth, it is not essential to the validity of the argument.

So, one question that needs to be answered in order to determine whether the above example of moral reasoning confirms Hume’s Law, is whether premise (2) is an analytic truth. If (2) is an analytic truth, then it is not essential to the validity of the argument.

A second question that needs to be answered in order to determine whether the above example of moral reasoning confirms Hume’s Law, is whether premise (2) is a purely factual or descriptive statement. If so, then all of the premises of the argument would, it seems, be factual or descriptive statements, while the conclusion is a moral judgment.

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