In the PZM on the state of atheism thread, some key fundamental issues have emerged:
JDK, 12: >>to both ba and kf: because I think your belief in the power and importance of metaphysical philosophy is excessive and misguided . . . >>
Sev, 17: >>[to BA77,] You consistently ignore the possibility that a consensus morality can be achieved through inter-subjective agreement.>>
Both of these deserve notice, and I responded. This, I now headline, as it goes to the core of the many vexed debates that are going on not only in and around UD but across our civilisation. Pardon, JDK, I here redirect to the correct source:
KF, 26: >>a long time ago now, I realised that if one asks the why of warrant in succession for a claim, say A, an interesting chain occurs: A as B, B as C, C as . . . (Long before I ever heard the term, Agrippa Trilemma.)
Thus, we face three options: infinite regress, ultimate circularity, finitely remote terminus. Infinite regress is absurdly impossible, warrant vanishes poof. Circularity at such a level is begging a question. So, we face a finite chain to a set of first plausibles, only a relatively few of which can be self-evident. Thus, worldviews are inevitable, the issue is, to have a responsible and reasonable faith-point. This brings to bear comparative difficulties analysis and grand inference to the best current explanation.
That process of comparative difficulties on factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power [neither simplistic nor an ad hoc patchwork quilt] is an exercise in metaphysics. Which can be termed critical analysis of worldviews. In this context, ontology [the study of being], logic [including in principle, logic of structure and quantity, i.e. Mathematics], epistemology [knowledge], ethics [critical assessment of morality], wider axiology [e.g. aesthetics, study of beauty], political philosophy [study of governance and justice] and of course meta-study of domains of scholarship and praxis [education, science, law, religion etc] also naturally emerge.
So, philosophy is a mother-lode and controlling discipline.
Indeed, much of our framing of the intellectual disciplines comes from branches of Aristotle’s inquiry. Metaphysics, literally was studies in the volume following that on nature, phusis. Which last is the root of my home discipline, physics.
The importance of philosophy, then, is not to be dismissed. At least, if we intend to be responsible and reasonable.
(And yes, I am very aware that “Philosopher” is often a dismissive epithet. That points to some of the mess our civilisation is in. And of course, education is deeply shaped by philosophy, or else it will be shaped by ideology and will end in propagandistic agit prop and indoctrination. Resemblance to current trends is not coincidental.)
Coming back to your specific appeal to inter-subjective consensus implying cultural relativism as a way to address ethics without taking on the IS-OUGHT gap at world-root level, SM is right and so is ES58 when he points to the coerced consensus of Nazi Germany. Let me clip SM in 18:
JDKSev:] “You consistently ignore the possibility that a consensus morality can be achieved through inter-subjective agreement.”
[SM:] Discounting it as useless is not ignoring it. You’re making the very error you’re accusing BA of.
A consensus morality is about as useful as any other consensus. There was once a scientific consensus that the Earth was the centre of our universe.
It was wrong.
The problem with a consensus morality formed by flawed people ought to be obvious but just to make it plain:
It is guaranteed to be wrong.
I again point to the caution by Lewis Vaughn:
. . . Subjective relativism is the view that an action is morally right if one approves of it. A person’s approval makes the action right. This doctrine (as well as cultural relativism) is in stark contrast to moral objectivism, the view that some moral principles are valid for everyone.. Subjective relativism, though, has some troubling implications. It implies that each person is morally infallible and that individuals can never have a genuine moral disagreement
Cultural relativism is the view that an action is morally right if one’s culture approves of it. The argument for this doctrine is based on the diversity of moral judgments among cultures: because people’s judgments about right and wrong differ from culture to culture, right and wrong must be relative to culture, and there are no objective moral principles. This argument is defective, however, because the diversity of moral views does not imply that morality is relative to cultures. In addition, the alleged diversity of basic moral standards among cultures may be only apparent, not real. Societies whose moral judgments conflict may be differing not over moral principles but over nonmoral facts.
Some think that tolerance is entailed by cultural relativism. But there is no necessary connection between tolerance and the doctrine. Indeed, the cultural relativist cannot consistently advocate tolerance while maintaining his relativist standpoint. To advocate tolerance is to advocate an objective moral value. But if tolerance is an objective moral value, then cultural relativism must be false, because it says that there are no objective moral values.
Like subjective relativism, cultural relativism has some disturbing consequences. It implies that cultures are morally infallible, that social reformers can never be morally right, that moral disagreements between individuals in the same culture amount to arguments over whether they disagree with their culture, that other cultures cannot be legitimately criticized, and that moral progress is impossible.
Emotivism is the view that moral utterances are neither true nor false but are expressions of emotions or attitudes. It leads to the conclusion that people can disagree only in attitude, not in beliefs. People cannot disagree over the moral facts, because there are no moral facts. Emotivism also implies that presenting reasons in support of a moral utterance is a matter of offering nonmoral facts that can influence someone’s attitude. It seems that any nonmoral facts will do, as long as they affect attitudes. Perhaps the most far-reaching implication of emotivism is that nothing is actually good or bad. There simply are no properties of goodness and badness. There is only the expression of favorable or unfavorable emotions or attitudes toward something.
In the end, starting with our minds governed by duties to truth, rationality, fairness, prudence etc, we are forced to face moral government of our lives as more or less responsible, reasonable, significantly free agents. Indeed, without that, reasoning and knowing, etc fall to pieces. And so, the IS-OUGHT gap is central.
This means we face the challenge of bridging (which is only possible at world-root level, post Hume). Put up any candidate you like: ______ . After centuries of debates, we will readily see why on comparative difficulties assessment we will come back to there being just one serious candidate: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and trust, thus of the responsible, reasonable service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.
But we live in a day of those who find God irksome and wish to remove him from any reference in serious thought or action. The moral incoherence, chaos and irresponsibility of our day are readily explained on that attempt to saw our civilisation off from its life-giving root.
Perhaps, we should first reassess why we are so inclined, and where it will predictably end, once the most ruthless nihilists fully seize power?
That has happened before, indeed within living memory.
And, in part, that is why I will not cede the God-despisers a veto over the substance of ethical and general discussion.>>
And yes, on ethics (as well as many other subjects), on many points there is broad consensus. That is a sign that there is an objective core that is intelligible enough to be accessible. But that is not the same as, the general authority of consensus secures truth.
That’s why SM was right to point out that if the world agrees the earth is [U/D: the “centre” — really, sump — of the universe, or as we can add,] flat, that does not make it so. BTW, c. 1492, the debate with Columbus was not over roundness but size, and the critics (relying on work tracing to Eratosthenes c. 300 BC) were right.
[U/D: It took some serious work to establish heliocentrism and onward to realise we live in one galaxy among many. Mere consensus does not establish truth, and mere controversy does not overthrow it.]
In short, we do need to ground ethics and we do need to take philosophical considerations seriously. END