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Marcus Arvan

Hi Eric: Thanks for engaging with my post! Here are a few points in reply.

You state, "Arvan's normal human subject is a construct in which various values are imported under the guise of science."

I don't see how the requirement of basing inquiry on common observation imports "various values" under the guise of science. It imports one value only: the value of truth-aptness. It then identifies truth-aptness with common observation, which is _not_ the "normal human subject", but rather, as I explain in the post and in my book, observations of virtually _all_ human inquirers. This is simply the evidential standard we utilize in everyday life [we believe there are tables and chairs because _everyone_ who is not hallucinating sees them], as well as the epistemic standard that moved us beyond the Dark Ages to a modern world in which we actually understand truths about reality: biology, physics, computer science, etc.

Consequently, I am not "ignoring the deviant, the excessive, the rare, etc." Far from it: science studies the deviant, the excessive, the rare, etc. In my book, for instance, I study not only scientific facts about moral cognition of "normal human subjects", but also the cognition of other types of subjects: psychopaths, children, adolescents, and animals, to name a few.

Finally, you state, "this construct allows for means-end analysis in the same way deploying homo economicus does, but it can't tell you which values are worth having."

In my book, I argue this is false: that the science of moral cognition does tell us which values are worth having. I utilize the science of moral cognition to defend a theory of Rightness as Fairness according to which morality is fundamentally a matter of negotiating fair balances between several moral ideals and costs with other human and sentient beings--including, yes, the rare, exceptional, and deviant.

Eric Schliesser

Marcus, the evidential standard we utilize in everyday life are swell for everyday life. But the issue here is not evidence but (to make too sharp a contrast) value. Your faith in science is touching. I really like science, too, including human sciences. But you ignore that truth-aptness is not sufficient to avoid being an ideology.

To remind you of a simple fact: that something study's X is fully compatible with X's perspective being ignored. Think of the Chimps that are studied by science.

Let me note that in your response you appeal to a taxonomy of subjects as if this taxonomy is not rooted in value (and legal structures). But that's just an instance of the problem.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Eric: Thanks for your reply. Given that we've continued on this conversation at length on FB, can we perhaps link to that conversation? No worries at all if not--but I was thinking it might be helpful for readers, lest we repeat everything said there again here!

Marcus Arvan

Hi Eric: Thanks for your reply. I do not think the standard of common observation is "merely swell for ordinary life." I think it is the only standard in human history that reliably unveils bias and harmful ideologies--since it is concerned with the truth, including whether it is true that something is a bias, or harmful, etc.

Prior to the scientific revolution--and its insistence on the standard of common observation--the human condition was ruled by mere speculation and dogma: religious dogma, social dogma, and yes, philosophical dogma. The Dark Ages were "dark" for a reason, and I do not think it is a coincidence that the Scientific Revolution was in turned followed by the Enlightenment. Scientific Revolution said, "It is not long okay to say X is true because you think it is true, or it is true given your [religious/social/etc.] ideology. You must _show_ X to be true by reference to common observation, including observation of people who disagree with you." It is this general orientation, in my view, that led to the Enlightenment--an insistence that claims of fact be justified to _others_, rather than merely asserted dogmatically. Indeed, time and again, science is used to question and overthrow dogma and bias. Before science, "physics" was dogma and speculation. Before psychology became a science, Freudianism was dogma, so was Behaviorism, so was Humanism, etc.

The scientific method is not perfect--but, repeatedly, throughout history, we see [A] failure to respect the standard of common observation marked by mere speculation and dogma, and [B] respect for the standard of common observation to thank for genuine progress, questioning bias, dogma, etc. I believe that a proper scientific understanding of moral cognition can in turn be utilized to address questions of value [such as whether it is fair to test on Chimps]--but that is a much broader issue than we can reasonably address here.

Dale Dorsey

Hi all,

Excited that my obviously sketchy post has generated so much interesting thought. If I had originally had more than 1000-ish words to express my musings I might have gone into a little more detail, but c'est la vie! If it's OK with both of you, I might try to respond here?

Eric, you seem to think that my model is unsatisfactory because "a map with no destination is useless". Perhaps I'm losing track of my own metaphor here but I'm not quite sure what that means. I guess I'm thinking---as you suggest---as philosophy as a kind of service. If you want to have this sort of view, this is what you need to take on, these are the questions you need to answer, and there are this many answers that aren't inconsistent, and so on and so forth.

You also seem to suggest that I rely on a principle: "each person's intuition is as good as any other". But I'm not sure I see why that is. Perhaps some intuitions are totally wrong. Indeed, probably some are if (as I'm willing to) we admit that there is some fact of the matter regarding philosophical questions. But that would take substantive argument, and it would require us to figure out a lot of substantive philosophy which, I suspect, would arrive at bedrock at some point.

I suppose, also, that I'm not really committed to the suggestion that (v) consensus is impossible. Maybe it is! Once we have logical space completely mapped out, it could be that we all agree on the right way through it, the right answer just becomes obvious. I'm skeptical of that, but maybe it's possible. But it would be the sort of thing that would arrive after we've constructed the "map", I should think.

You're right, of course, that I make a number of value judgments. People might disagree! Intuitive bedrock! That's all fine with me. In the end, it's up to individual philosophers to understand what it is they're up to in the way that makes most sense to them. But I find attractive, and I suspect I'm not the only one, a picture of philosophy that makes it look like we make progress, that's collaborative, engaged, and so and and so forth.

Marcus, if I'm reading you right, I'm all for substantive engagement with a posteriori observation and science etc., etc. But here's where your post trips me up a bit. "The Hellraiser person does not live a good human live relative to the drives of normal human subjects, but he does live a good life relative to his own drives. Although this of course might not settle whether he lives a good life simpliciter, the standard of Firm Foundations holds that, absent any further information, we cannot arrive at any truth-conducive conclusions on that matter. But, so what?" I guess I was thinking that one interesting question that philosophers have been engaged in answer is the question of whether this sort of person is living a good life for themselves. Indeed, it's *totally obvious* he's living a good life "relative to his own drives" (actually, I'm not really sure what that means, to be honest, but I take it that it means he's living the life he desires in some sense to live; that strikes me as just a stipulation of the case). But whether he's living a good life is an interesting question, one that deserves theoretical treatment. My suggestion is that philosophy can contribute to this by mapping out the various theories, questions, answers, hybrids, objections, responses, costs, benefits, etc., etc., that any particular answer to this question involves.

Generally, my claim isn't that there can be no truths about philosophical matters that we discover. I suspect very strongly that a number of traditional philosophical questions about the mind, and so forth, are on the verge of being answered by neuroscientific study, maybe. But I doubt that all philosophical questions are like this.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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