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.

About Stephen Law
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11389651479904502758 DM

    the writing on the wall…

    you have FORFEIT your lives…

    for the idiot called *richard dawkins*

    you are going to learn that even to TALK about GOD the way you do is going to COST YOU YOUR LIVES…

    ____________________

    f*ck you very much!

    Atheists!!!

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6e/Touched_by_His_Noodly_Appendage.jpg

    see, you degenerates have last names like first names…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

    how about I believe in WHATEVER I want – even in the FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER! – and you have nothing to say!

    let me show you the end results of this particular *ONE-DIMENSIONAL SCIENTIFIC MODE*
    of thinking that is called *CRITICAL THINKING*, which is completely divorced from
    any human objectives…

    this style has been perfected by dawkins, pz, randi and the other *NEW ATHEISTS*
    **
    THE BOOBQUAKE – 911!

    see how we take a term and convert it into its AUTHENTIC POLITICAL DIMENSION – THAT
    OF LIBERATION – not just merely harmless expression…

    visit

    http://dissidentphilosophy.lifediscussion.net/philosophy-f1/the-boobquake-911-t1310.htm

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12244370945682162312 NAL

    1. God is kind and loving.

    And where did the values of kind and loving come from? If they came from God then this statement is nothing more that claiming that God's character is what God's character is, which is meaningless.

    Nothing more than imprinting one's innate sense of morality on God.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11389651479904502758 DM

    you are not going to tell me what I believe…

    we're going to play a NEW GAME…

    FROM NOW ON:

    EVERYTHING YOU SAY I WILL DOUBLE ON YOU…

    Atheists,

    you are going to learn even to TALK about GOD the way you do is going to cost you your lives…

    Atheists,

    you are going to learn even to TALK about GOD the way you do is going to cost you your lives…

    the writing on the wall…

    f*ck you very much!

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6e/Touched_by_His_Noodly_Appendage.jpg

    see, you degenerates have last names like first names…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

    how about I believe in WHATEVER I want – even in the FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER! – and you have nothing to say!

    let me show you the end results of this particular *ONE-DIMENSIONAL SCIENTIFIC MODE*
    of thinking that is called *CRITICAL THINKING*, which is completely divorced from
    any human objectives…

    this style has been perfected by dawkins, pz, randi and the other *NEW ATHEISTS*
    **
    THE BOOBQUAKE – 911!

    see how we take a term and convert it into its AUTHENTIC POLITICAL DIMENSION – THAT
    OF LIBERATION – not just merely harmless expression…

    visit

    http://dissidentphilosophy.lifediscussion.net/philosophy-f1/the-boobquake-911-t1310.htm

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    NAL said:

    And where did the values of kind and loving come from? If they came from God then this statement is nothing more that claiming that God's character is what God's character is, which is meaningless.
    ============

    Response:

    The significance of premise (1) does not depend in any way on where these "values" came from.

    I take it that premise (1) is a factual or descriptive claim, not a normative claim.

    It does not matter whether you agree or disagree with the idea that love is a good thing. The point is that if "love" is a meaningful word, then it must have logical implications, implications of an empirical and observable sort.

    To say that "Person A is loving towards person B" presumably tells us something about how A will act towards B, or at least about A's tendencies and inclinations to act with respect to B. If not, then the phrase "is loving towards" has no meaning or significance.

    To say, "Joe is loving towards Susan, because what Joe wants more than anything else is to torture Susan to death." is to speak nonsense.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11389651479904502758 DM

    for the idiot called *

    you are not going to tell me what I believe…

    we're going to play a NEW GAME…

    FROM NOW ON:

    *******************************************

    EVERYTHING YOU SAY I WILL DOUBLE ON YOU…

    *******************************************
    Atheists,

    you are going to learn even to TALK about GOD the way you do is going to cost you your lives…

    the writing on the wall…

    f*ck you very much!

    THE BOOBQUAKE – 911!

    see how we take a term and convert it into its AUTHENTIC POLITICAL DIMENSION – THAT OF LIBERATION – not just merely harmless expression…

    visit

    http://dissidentphilosophy.lifediscussion.net/philosophy-f1/the-boobquake-911-t1310.htm

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02113192159669193981 Apashiol

    One problem I would have with premise 1. God is kind and loving. (directly perceived truth about God's moral character)
    would be on what basis this is asserted.

    Whose direct perception is this?

    How is this any more warranted than the assertion that the supreme reality is 'nirguṇa brahman'. Beyond all names, forms and qualities or attributes?
    Essentially beyond good and evil.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Bradley,

    I agree with your example of moral reasoning, but I am troubled by the following bit you write:

    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.

    Premise #2 being: “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.

    This premise defines what a morally good action is (and therefore defines what actions we *ought* to do) in terms of what *is*, namely the effect of that action to the state of our character in relation to God’s character, which is the objective standard. So, it seems to me, this premise does derive an “ought” from an “is”. The form of this premise is the same as of the premise “force is what accelerates a mass”, which defines “force” in terms of its effect on the state of a mass, and thus objectively defines “force” in terms of what “is”.

    Or let’s discuss the following much closer analogy: In biology, which we all agree is an objective field of knowledge, an apple seed in the appropriate environment will grow to become an apple tree. That environment may depend on our actions, so to give the apple seed sunlight and water will cause the apple seed to grow, but to give it will not. These are objective facts. So one may propose the premise “An action is *apple-seed-growing good* if and only if it makes the state of the apple seed (or apple seedling) more like the state of an apple tree.” In an exactly analogous manner premise #2 defines what a *morally good* action is. And both premises are objective, in the sense that both define what is good in a way that is independent of anyone’s opinion.

    Why can’t a naturalist propose a similarly objective definition, such as “An action is *morally good* if and only if it increases to total amount of dopamine in the brains of humans”? After all, this premise too derives an “ought” from an “is”. The reason is that the problem that naturalism suffers from is not so much that such meta-ethical axioms cannot be proposed, but rather that they themselves appear to be non-objective. The problem is that there does not seem to be anything in a naturalistic reality which makes de quantity of dopamine the standard of what is “good”, so another naturalist may propose a completely different meta-ethical axiom, say “An action is *morally good* if and only if it increases the biological diversity on Earth”. “Goodness”, or in general “value”, does not appear to form part of the fabric of the naturalistic reality, so any naturalistic meta-ethical axiom that suggests ways to derive an “ought” from an “is” will strike one as being arbitrary.

    Coming back to the context of theism, “goodness” does form part of the fabric of the theistic reality. Why? Because, on theism, reality is at bottom personal, namely consists of the presence of such a person as God, and goodness is an essential property of what we mean when we speak of a person. Specifically, when we say “this person is good” or say “this person is bad”, we don’t refer to the state of this person’s beauty, or intelligence, or strength, but rather to the state of this person’s moral character. In theism then the objective standard of goodness is God’s character, and, naturally enough, what makes a particular action “good” is its effect in making a person’s (or, come to think of it, all persons’) moral character more similar to the character of God. So, in theism there is an objective standard of goodness entailed in the very way reality is. In conclusion, on theism making peoples´ character more similar to God´s represents an objective advance towards a given objective standard of goodness, in a way that on naturalism increasing the quantity of dopamine in human brains, or increasing the biodiversity on Earth, does not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Apashiol,

    To me it sounds reasonable to hold that supreme reality, qua supreme reality, is indeed beyond all names, forms, qualities, or attributes – trivially because reality as a whole cannot form part of any actual set, and thus cannot be subject to any categorization. Indeed theists too speak of the apophatic nature of God.

    On the other hand theism is a pragmatic affair. So if knowledge of what God is in His/Her entirety is not possible (except perhaps in theosis), then knowledge of one’s experience of God certainly is. And the latter kind of knowledge is what’s relevant in our discussion. It is in one’s experience of God that one perceives the qualities of God’s moral character, such as that “God is kind and loving” as Bradley suggests.

    So perhaps a clarification should be made. When a theist says “God is a person” it’s shorthand for “Reality is such that when we experience what’s fundamental in it we experience it as being a person”. Similarly, “God dearly loves us all” is shorthand for “Reality is such that when we experience what’s fundamental in it we experience it as being a person who dearly loves us all”, etc.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16275488047072609654 Baal

    Dianelos,
    Without derailing the thread, I was just wondering if in your tradition there is any formulation of the Eastern idea of 'lila'.
    That Ultimate Reality is not lacking and doesn't create the cosmos out of a need or purpose, so that the best analogy for all that comes into being, whether conscious beings or unconscious matter, is to cosmic play?
    (This 'nym is also Apashiol. For some reason my last comment got through using older system but not this)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    I plan to respond to Dianelos in the near future, but for now, here is a thought on the status of premise (2).

    I have been studying Richard Swinburne's trilogy lately, and his view is that basic moral principles are objectively true, and are logically necessary truths. So, moral principles hold true in all logically possible worlds.

    However, he also believes that "God exists" is NOT a logically necessary truth, but is logically contingent. So, it is logically possible that God does not exist. Swinburne, of course argues that the empirical evidence we have favors the hypothesis that "God exists", but since the non-existence of God is a logical possibility and moral principles are logically necessary, then it follows that moral principles cannot be contingent on the existence of God. Logically necessary truths cannot be dependent on logically contingent claims or propositions.

    So, from Swinburne's point of view, premise (2) is not a necessary or analytic truth. It would at most be a logically contingent moral truth, based on some other logically necessary moral principle in conjunction with the logically contingent truth that "God exists" (and perhaps other assumptions).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    This might not be relevant to the issue of whether this example of reasoning confirms Hume's Law, but I should point out that the inference from (1) and (3) to (4) is not a deductively valid inference.

    The problem is that God's character could be (and presumably is, from the point of view of Christian theology) multi-faceted, so being kind and loving are only two of many aspects of God's character. Thus, although giving generously to the poor and hungry people of the world might make my character more similar to God's in those respects, it might also make my character less similar to God's in some other respects.

    So, in order for the inference here to be deductively valid, premise (4) would have to be qualified as "other things being equal", leaving the door open to the possibility that other things are not equal and that the overall effect of my giving generously to the poor and hungry people of the world would make my moral character less like God's character.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    For example, God allows suffering and evil for the sake of free will and character building, according to some Christian theologians and philosophers.

    Perhaps, my giving generously to the poor and hungry people of the world would deprive those people of a degree of free will and opportunities for them to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and (less optimistically) opportunities to develop stonger character through the suffering that they experience from their poverty and hunger.

    Perhaps I would be more like God, to let these people suffer and to not intervene to make their lives easier and happier.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Baal,

    When studying the ontologies that people posit in order to make sense of their experience of life, it’s interesting to note that, across different cultures, cultures which are otherwise very far apart, people struggle with the same questions, and the answers they give tend to be similar too.

    Considering the similarity of the language between West and East about God’s (or Brahman’s) perfection, it seems clear that one cannot very well conceptualize a transcendental reality which is not perfect. Interestingly enough atheists too, who do not believe that such a transcendental reality actually exists, tend to speak as if it were obvious that God, if God existed, would be perfect. So, for example, they argue that the Bible cannot be the literal word of God, because God would not have said or would not have done what the Bible says here and there. As Keith Parsons said in a debate with William Lane Craig, he *can’t* believe in such a god, implying that the only kind of god one may be able to believe is one of perfection.

    Now it seems to me that when different cultures respond to the same questions they sometimes also tend to commit the same kind of errors (in my judgment of course). So, both in Hinduism and in ancient Greek philosophy (and later in Christianity) one finds the idea you mention in your post, namely “that Ultimate Reality [i.e. “God” in theistic speak] is not lacking and doesn't create the cosmos out of a need or purpose”. I think that the error here, and a serious error at that, is to think that a perfect being would not act with a purpose, because purpose entails the wish to attain something, which entails the lack of something, which is incompatible with perfection. To me it seems obvious that, on the contrary, not having purpose is incompatible with perfection, as is an incapacity to grow. And this seems obvious to me because between two otherwise perfect beings who are identical in all aspects, except that one of them can actually creatively outgrow His/Her current state of perfection, the latter is the greater one. I have discussed this issue with theists, and the difference lies in one’s sense of perfection: In one sense perfection entails that one can’t grow (for if one can then one wouldn’t be perfect now), and in another sense perfection entails that one can grow (for if one can’t one wouldn’t be perfect now, because one would suffer from a limitation).

    Here is a quote I found from Eastern thought:

    Brahman is full of all perfections. And to say that Brahman has some purpose in creating the world will mean that it wants to attain through the process of creation something which it has not. And that is impossible.

    Exactly the same reasoning one would find in the West, and in my view reflects an erroneous understanding of perfection. Anyway, to continue with the quote, here is the answer given in the East:

    Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport, of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss.

    I am not sure if in Western tradition there is anything quite like this idea. The standard Christian answer is that God created the universe out of love, and not out of a playful disposition. The closest I know Western thought comes to the concept of Lila is in Augustinian theodicy, where one finds the idea that creation is for creation’s sake, with God creating the universe with the maximum variety possible. In my judgment all these answers are kind of incoherent, because no matter how deep they bury the problem they all ultimately fail to describe creation without some kind of purpose or need on the part of God. The Eastern idea of Lila perhaps comes closest to giving an adequate answer, but also suffers from the same kind of problem: No matter the spontaneity or aimlessness of the whole business, why should Brahman need to play?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Baal,

    Thinking about the previous issue, I’d like to suggest that at some point, when a question comes to seem impossibly hard to answer, one must reconsider the reasonableness of the question itself, and probe the premises or assumptions on which the question rests. One classical example is the current question of why God, full of all perfections and hence in need of nothing, should create the universe. The questionable premise here is about whether personal perfection entails immutability. Other more recent examples are, in my judgment, the mind-body problem, the problem of how to interpret quantum mechanics, the problem of religious exclusivism, etc.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02113192159669193981 Apashiol

    Dianelos,
    There is also the view that perfection is not static but ever expanding. Therefore lila can be a description of the Godhead's exploration of itself as it expands into infinity.

    It can be argued that one who insists on God having a purpose does so out of a chauvanism, that out of all the infinitely possible forms the Godhead produces, that of conscious beings is somehow superior or special and necessary.
    That just because man as a conscious being can and often has felt himself the height and purpose of creation, that doesn't mean that is necessarily so.
    There can be forms that we are unable to even imagine, just as wonderful.
    This is often seen as one of the entrapments of ahamkara, or ego-sense.

    There are also of course schools that elevate love as the highest lila, as in the rasa-lila of Krishna, that of loving devotion.

    Sorry, but I'll stop as I'm coming down with the 'flu and feel as if I'm writing in a mental fog.
    I don't want to hijack the thread either.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Bradley,

    You write: “So, from Swinburne's point of view, premise (2) is not a necessary or analytic truth. It would at most be a logically contingent moral truth, based on some other logically necessary moral principle in conjunction with the logically contingent truth that "God exists" (and perhaps other assumptions).

    In my judgment, the analytic/synthetic distinction (and the a priori/a posteriori distinction too) can be confusing. There is a current in analytic philosophy that tries to reduce knowledge to propositional logic, but I think this is putting the cart before the horse. After all logic is a field of knowledge, not the other way around. Analytic philosophy has of course its uses, especially in bringing up to the surface fallacious thinking, kind of like checking on the syntax of a thought – but that’s as far as it goes. After all knowledge is not mechanizable. Indeed what is the most relevant type of knowledge, namely experiential knowledge, is not reducible to propositions; such knowledge can be communicated only to persons who share in that same experience, by using symbols such as “time”, “countable”, or “beauty”. What can be communicated propositionally is the stable structure present in experiential knowledge among persons who share in that experience, and I claim that’s what premise #2 does.

    So is premise #2 analytic? One might say that all definitions are analytic, in the sense that they are true by definition. On the surface it would appear that premise #2 is analytic in this sense, because it defines what the “morally good action” is. But what that premise actually does is to answer the meta-ethical question about what a morally good action is, by relating this concept with two objective facts about reality, namely the state of one’s moral character and God’s moral character. In other words this premise claims the presence of a structure (or pattern) among three objects of knowledge in our experience of life: the moral goodness of our actions, the state of our character, and the state of God’s character. As an analogy consider Newton’s second law of motion, F=m*a. On the surface of it, it defines what force is, and would thus seem to be an analytic truth. But what it really does is to claim the presence of a structure (or pattern) among three objects of knowledge in our experience of physical phenomena, namely force, mass, and acceleration. This type of knowledge is often called “explanation” or “causal” because it has predictive power. So, for example, if one knows that a particular force is applied to a particular body of mass one can predict (indeed compute) a change in the state of that body, namely that it will accelerate, in relation to some background frame of reference. Coming back to premise #2, if one knows that a morally good action is freely willed by a person one can predict a change in the state of that person’s character, namely that it will become more similar to God’s character, which is the background frame of reference. Conversely, if one knows that a person’s character is improving one can predict that this is the effect of morally good actions being freely willed. Analogously, if one knows that a body of mass is accelerating one can predict that this is the effect of a force being applied.

    What premise #2 fails to express is that the effect of a morally good action is not only on the character of the person who freely wills it, but also to a lesser degree on the character of the persons around that person. Interestingly enough there is a similar effect in Newton’s mechanics: So, a force applied on a particular body will not only accelerate it, but also to a lesser degree accelerate other bodies near it – because of gravitation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Dianelos said:

    Premise #2 being: “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.

    This premise defines what a morally good action is (and therefore defines what actions we *ought* to do) in terms of what *is*, namely the effect of that action to the state of our character in relation to God’s character, which is the objective standard. So, it seems to me, this premise does derive an “ought” from an “is”.

    ===============
    Response:

    One can read premise (2) either as a fundamental moral principle or as a definition.

    If read as a fundamental moral principle, then premise (2) is presumably a normative statement, and then the argument would conform to Hume's Law, because the normative conclusion of the argument would have been derived from a normative premise.

    However, if we read premise (2) as a definition, as an analysis of the meaning of "morally good", then if (2) is true, it would presumably be an analytic or necessary truth, and thus not be required in order to deduce the conclusion from the other premises.

    If we read (2) as a definition, then I agree that the normative concept of "morally good" is being tied logically to the descriptive concept of "makes the moral character of the person performing the action more like God's character".

    If (2) was an analytic or necessary truth, then the following argument form would be deductively valid:

    (9) Performing action A would make person P's moral character more like God's character.
    Therefore,
    (10)Action A would be a morally good action for person P to perform.

    If this was a valid deductive argument form, if (9) logically entails (10), then this would be a counterexample to Hume's Law.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Second thoughts…

    The phrase "makes the moral character of the person performing the action more like God's character" looks like a descriptive concept initially, but since "God" is defined as a "pefect person" or as a "being than which none greater can be conceived", the concept of "God" is not a purely descriptive concept, but incorporates a normative or evaluative aspect.

    The word "greater" is clearly an evaluative concept, and since God is defined as being a person, or a personal being, how God's greatness is determined is presumably of relevance for evaluation of human persons, and thus would seem to have normative implications.

    The devil is supposed to be "evil" and thus it would be bad to follow the example of the devil. God is supposed to be perfectly good, so we are encouaged to "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect".

    Since you and other theists have defined "God" so as to include an evaluative judgement in this concept, the phrase "makes the moral character of the person performing the action more like God's character" appears to express something other than a purely descriptive concept.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Because premise (2) includes a reference to God, and because the statement that "God exists" appears to be a logically contingent proposition (assuming that it is a proposition), one might be tempted to infer that (2) must also be a logically contingent proposition, and thus not a necessary or analytic truth.

    But that would be an incorrect inference. Consider the following definitional claim:

    (11) Theism is true if and only if God exists.

    This appears to be a correct analysis of the word "theism", or at least of one important use of the word "theism". Even assuming that "God exists" is a logically contingent proposition, (11) would still be a necessary or analytic truth.

    Claim (11) would be true no matter what, whether or not God in fact existed. If there were no God, it would still be the case that the truth (or falsity) of theism depended on the truth (or falsity) of the claim "God exists". If there were no God, theism would be false, and that would be in accordance with the definitional or analytic truth of (11).

    If God did exist, then theism would be true, and this would also be in accordance with the definition of theism presented in (11).

    No matter what we imagine the world to be like, it would still be the case that the truth (or falsity) of theism depends on the truth (or falsity) of the claim "God exists".

    Therefore, (11) is an analytic or necessary truth, even though a component of (11) is a logically contingent proposition (i.e. "God exists").

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Dianelos said:

    As an analogy consider Newton’s second law of motion, F=m*a. On the surface of it, it defines what force is, and would thus seem to be an analytic truth. But what it really does is to claim the presence of a structure (or pattern) among three objects of knowledge in our experience of physical phenomena, namely force, mass, and acceleration. This type of knowledge is often called “explanation” or “causal” because it has predictive power. So, for example, if one knows that a particular force is applied to a particular body of mass one can predict (indeed compute) a change in the state of that body, namely that it will accelerate, in relation to some background frame of reference. Coming back to premise #2, if one knows that a morally good action is freely willed by a person one can predict a change in the state of that person’s character, namely that it will become more similar to God’s character, which is the background frame of reference. Conversely, if one knows that a person’s character is improving one can predict that this is the effect of morally good actions being freely willed. Analogously, if one knows that a body of mass is accelerating one can predict that this is the effect of a force being applied.
    ===========

    Newton's second law of motion is clearly a contingent empirical claim. It is clearly NOT an analytic claim. This is especially clear in view of the predictive implications of Newton's second law:

    If A occurs then B will occur.

    We can conceive of a situation where A occurs and yet B does not occur, which would falsify this prediction, and thus falsify the scientific law that generated the prediction.

    This contrasts with analytic claims, such as "X is a triangle if and only if X is a three-sided plane figure."

    We cannot conceive of something being a triangle but NOT having three sides. Such an "idea" is incoherent and self-contradictory.

    If premise (2) is analogous to Newton's second law in this respect (i.e. generating predictions where we can conceive of the alleged cause occuring without the alleged effect occuring), then premise (2) is a logically contingent claim and not an analytic claim.

    If premise (2) is not an analytic claim, then it is required to make the argument logically valid, and thus this bit of reasoning would conform to Hume's law.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    It appears to me that there are a couple of ways in which the example of moral reasoning that we are discussing could be seen as failing to conform to Hume's Law:

    A. Premise (2)is an analytic proposition.

    B. Premise (2) is a purely descriptive proposition.

    If one views premise (2)as analogous with Newton's second law, then that eliminates the first possibility (A).

    If one views premise (2) as analogous with Newton's second law, then that would fit well with the second possibility (B).

    So, the question becomes: Is premise (2) a purely descriptive proposition? If premise (2) is thought to logically entail predictions, then the question becomes: Is premise (2) a contingent empirical proposition?


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