Course Notes – G.E.M Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy”

by Daniel A. Kaufman

http://www.pitt.edu/~mthompso/readings/mmp.pdf

We are nearing the end of the semester in my Theories of Ethics course and have just completed our discussions of my favorite reading, Elizabeth Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy.” (MMP) Not only do I think it is Anscombe’s greatest philosophical accomplishment – beyond her translating, editing, and publishing of Wittgenstein, of course – but it is perhaps the single most important essay on ethics published since the Second World War.  It posed an absolutely devastating challenge to all of the moral philosophy following in the tradition of Kant, Bentham, and Mill, one to which, in my view, philosophers working in these and other modern moral philosophical traditions have never adequately responded.  And it almost single-handedly created the contemporary revival of interest in virtue ethics though, as we will see, this development may be  more at odds with what Anscombe suggests in MMP than in keeping with it.  Alasdair MacIntyre, the second greatest influence on the contemporary revival of virtue ethics recognized this, I think, which is why, in his masterpiece, After Virtue, he says that his work on this front, while “deeply indebted to” MMP, is nonetheless “rather different” from it. (1)

Anscombe does several things in MMP, but I am only going to focus on the most important aspect of it, which is described in the first two statements that she makes at the essay’s outset:

The first is that it is not profitable for us at present to do moral philosophy; that should be laid aside at any rate until we have an adequate philosophy of psychology, in which we are conspicuously lacking.  The second is that the concepts of obligation and duty – moral obligation and moral duty, that is to say – and of what is morally right and wrong, and of the moral sense of ‘ought’, ought to be jettisoned..; because they are survivals or derivatives of survivals, from an earlier conception of ethics which no longer generally survives… (2)

Why Anscombe thinks this and what the consequences are for contemporary moral philosophy will make up the rest of this installment of Course Notes.

When explaining Anscombe’s critique to my students, I used a case, drawn from MMP, with my own embellishments added.  I described the case in two “versions”: that of an Aristotelian and that of a Humean.

Version One, as told by the Aristotelian:

  1. I supplied John with a bushel of apples.
  2. John promised to pay me £5.
  3. John owes me £5.
  4. If John doesn’t pay me the £5, he is a deadbeat.
  5. If he does pay me the £5, then he is an honorable man.

Version Two, as told by the Humean:

1′. I handed over a bushel of apples to John.

2′. John uttered the words “I promise to pay you £5.”

3′. John not paying me would consist of John failing to hand over £5.

4′. John paying me would consist of John handing over £5.

The immediately striking difference between the two versions is that the Aristotelian describes the situation with terms that are what I will call axiologically thick – meaning that they have evaluative connotations.  To “supply” someone, in the context of commerce, is to do something that incurs a debt and to “promise” to pay is to acknowledge this and accept it, entailing, as a result, that the person in question “owes” something to the supplier.  To fail to pay someone, when one “owes” him is what it means to be a “deadbeat,” and paying one’s debts is part of what it means to be an “honorable man.”

Why is the story as told by the Humean so different?  The short answer is “the Scientific Revolution happened.”  The longer, more substantial answer is that by the time one gets to Hume, philosophers in the West had changed their minds as to what should be accepted as constituting a “fact.”

For Aristotle, everything in nature – indeed, everything that exists – has a purpose and thus a distinctive good (and bad).  Value is therefore objective for Aristotle – a part of the basic furniture of the universe – and this means that human beings also have  a purpose and thus, a distinctive good, which Aristotle called “Eudaimonia,” which just means “human excellence” or “human flourishing.” And because human beings are complex, their flourishing takes complex forms: we can flourish intellectually – hence, the “intellectual virtues” (both practical and theoretical); we can flourish as builders and makers and artists – hence, the “virtues of craft” – and we can flourish in terms of our non-technical, social and civic activities – hence, the “moral” virtues.  And notice, this is all that ‘moral’ means for Aristotle, something that will become crucial in a moment.

To describe an action as “supplying” or “promising,” then, is, for Aristotle, a straightforward statement of fact, as is to describe a person as “honorable” or as a “deadbeat.”  Indeed, every one of the statements 1 – 5 would be considered straightforwardly factual by an Aristotelian.

This all changes after the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century.  Nature and the things in it are no longer conceived of as purposeful and the only objective characterizations of things are in terms of mathematically quantifiable magnitudes, which means that their qualitative characteristics have come to be understood as entirely subjective; as mere impressions in our minds.  One cannot characterize motor movements as “supplying” or uttered noises as “promising” or speak of people as “honorable” or “deadbeats” and speak objectively, in the modern framework.  And so the Humean, in encountering such terms, could only conclude, as Anscombe describes it, that “there was a special sentiment expressed by [them] which alone gave [the words] their sense,” which, of course, is just the idea of a “moral sentiment.” (3)

But there is a further problem, for as we have already seen, ‘moral’ doesn’t mean for Aristotle what it means for Hume.  In the modern context, ‘moral’ and the moral ‘ought’ indicate that which is obligatory; i.e. that which is either required or forbidden.  The Aristotelian sense of ‘moral’ means nothing of the sort.  Human flourishing may include moral and intellectual virtues, as well as virtues of craft, but there is no sense in which the cultivation of such virtues are obligatory or required.  For those who wish to flourish – and perhaps, to attain a certain esteem within their society – this is how it’s done.  Put another way, all that Aristotle gets you is a bunch of hypothetical imperatives:  If you want X, then you ought to Y.  And the only thing that makes some of them “moral” is that they have to do with moral subject-matter; that is, with our non-technical, social and civic activity.

Anscombe maintains that the obligatory sense of the moral ‘ought’ arises from the combination of Classical virtue ethics with the law tradition that one finds in Judaism and pre-Protestant Christianity.  It’s what you get, when you take the Greek moral virtues and say that they are required by divine command.

The ordinary … terms ‘should’, ‘needs’, ‘ought’, ‘must’ acquired this special [moral] sense by being equated in the relevant contexts with ‘is obliged’, or ‘is bound’, or ‘is required to’, in the sense in which one can be obliged or bound by law, or something that can be required by law.

How did this come about?  The answer is history: between Aristotle and us came Christianity, with its law conception of ethics.  For Christianity derived its ethical notions from the Torah…

In consequence of the dominance of Christianity for many centuries, the concepts of being bound, permitted, or excused became deeply embedded in our thought…The blanket term ‘illicit’, ‘unlawful’, meaning much the same as our blanket term ‘wrong’ explains itself.  It is interesting that Aristotle did not have such a blanket term…He has terms like ‘disgraceful’, ‘impious’; and specific terms signifying defect of the relevant virtue…

To have a law conception of ethics is to hold that what is needed for conformity with the virtues failure in which is the mark of being bad qua man (and not merely, say, qua craftsman or logician) – that what is need for this, is required by divine law. (4)

So, modern moral philosophy and its contemporary progeny  suffer from two fatal problems which, when combined, leave a radically subjectivist sentimentalism as the only real option in ethics: (a) they deny that there are any genuine axiological facts; and (b) they reject the idea of divine legislation.  The results are values that reflect only what people subjectively prefer/abhor and requirements/prohibitions that have no grounding and hence, enjoy nothing but, as Anscombe described it, “mesmeric force.” (5)  “It is as if the notion ‘criminal’ were to remain,” she remarks, “when criminal law and criminal courts had been abolished and forgotten.” (6)

Of course, there are those who have tried to provide grounding for the requirement/prohibition side of morality other than divine command, the most famous being Kant, who reconceived the categorical force of moral imperatives as deriving from a kind of self-legislation, but Anscombe dismisses this as absurd on its face:

Kant introduces the idea of “legislating for oneself,” which is as absurd as if in these days, when majority votes command great respect, one were to call each reflective decision a man made a vote resulting in a majority, which as a matter of proportion is overwhelming, for it is always 1-0.  The concept of legislation requires superior power in the legislator. (7)

The most significant reaction to Anscombe, as mentioned, is to be found in the extraordinary revival of interest in classically inspired virtue ethics over the past several decades.  But I seriously question whether this is the proper lesson to take from “Modern Moral Philosophy.”  For just as we no longer accept divine command ethics, we no longer accept a teleological picture of nature.  And just as it is hard to see what could replace divine commands, it is hard to see what could replace Aristotelian teleology, something about which Anscombe is quite explicit:

[P]hilosophically there is a huge gap, at present unfillable as far as we are concerned, which needs to be filled by an account of human nature, human action, the type of characteristic a virtue is, and above all of human “flourishing.”  And it is the last concept that appears the most doubtful. (8)

So, I see no refuge for contemporary ethicists in a revived Aristotelianism, and I see no hope for contemporary Utilitarians and Kantians, given that there has been nothing by way of an adequate response to Anscombe’s critique.  That so many are blithely continuing on with this sort of work is not surprising, given the professional imperatives of the discipline – philosophers also have felt free to ignore Wittgenstein’s equally devastating critique of philosophy as a whole, despite the fact that there has been nothing by way of an adequate response to it either – but it does lend somewhat of an air of twiddling and fiddling to it, at least for those of us who are familiar with and have fully digested Anscombe’s essay.

Notes

  1. Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 3rd Edition (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), p. 53.
  2. MMP, p. 1.
  3. MMP, p. 5.
  4. MMP, pp. 4-5.
  5. MMP, p. 6.
  6. MMP, p. 5.
  7. MMP, p. 2.
  8. MMP, p. 15.

85 Comments »

  1. It’s worth noting that MacIntyre changed his mind very considerably from After Virtue (1982) to Dependent Rational Animals (1999). The first book accepted Anscombe’s way of stating the fact/value problem, though like her her he wanted a way out of it — and couldn’t at that time find one without going “back to Aristotle”, though his Aristotle was shorn of A’s teleological biology. The second book argued for a basis for ethics precisely in modern biology. It is pretty much the same position as stated by labnut’s 10-point program posted on April 17.

    (Wikipedia’s entry on AM covers the ground quite well.)

    This means that for MacIntyre (and the many ethicists that were thinking through the same problems in this period) there is a “way out” of the fact/value problem through an account of the biological basis of human sociability.

    Personally, I agree more with Robin Herbert’s sort of view above, which is roughly that the supposed fact/value problem is deeply misconceived and we need more than a new biology to explain the way it is not really a problem. We also need a non-positivist theory of meaning and an account of the necessity of cooperation.

    Alan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. alan: I know that MacIntyre’s position has evolved, but I’m not sure I think it is a good development. I think the works subsequent to After Virtue are decidedly inferior to it.

    I also think biology is decidedly the wrong place to look in order to ground a modern version of human flourishing. My own personal jury is still out on whether I think it is possible to have such a notion, in the modern framework, but I am pretty sure it cannot come from any framework belonging to modern natural science.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Labnut (and Alan), while I think the “10-point program” is interesting, the idea that the specific concept of “ought” or Ethics in general are products of evolutionary development (that is biologically determined) seems problematic.

    Why can’t it be that we have personal desires/interests and advanced mental capacities which allow, through social contact, mechanisms to evaluate and express our interests, and navigate those of others? That is any ethical “development” is social/cultural and not physical, not instinctual (as opposed to habitual).

    Also, while I grant that trust means a lot to a social species, it seems to me that there are virtues pertaining to the self alone, and different cultures may have very different ideas of what is virtuous.

    Finally (to Alan)…

    “the supposed fact/value problem is deeply misconceived and we need more than a new biology to explain the way it is not really a problem. We also need a non-positivist theory of meaning and an account of the necessity of cooperation.”

    I don’t understand how that is misconceived (and wonder if you could explain?). Hume did a pretty good job dissecting the issue. And it seems to me what you call for will explain the “why” of people behaving ethically, or thinking about ethics, but not provide a moral force that they “should” do X, Y, or Z.

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  4. Hi Dan, I agree with your last comment.

    Biology can of course inform us on many things, but how can it possibly tell us what we (all) want without us providing the selection to select from first? What’s more, before science could tell us anything, it would have to involve a lot of experimentation with many different possibilities, particularly beyond those of our current culture.

    One would think that simply looking at any street in a big city, or venturing to different cultures, would give an idea that there will not be one idea or way of “flourishing” (whatever that is), common to most or all. At least none that will be useful when dealing with ethical issues.

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  5. Brodix wrote:

    The notion that if laws are not divinely determined must mean they are completely subjective, aka relativistic, is really a negative absolutism. That without divine force, they have no basis and everything is equivalent. All, or nothing. God, or mush.

    The fact is, God was the lazy method. We evolved minds to distinguish and judge.

    = = =

    I think your response is the “lazy method.” It fails to engage with a single one of the substantive arguments that Anscombe makes. And it fails to recognize that she also explains quite convincingly why our own minds and judgments cannot provide the relevant authority.

    This comment is little more than a handwave. If you want to engage with the substance of Anscombe’s critique, great. If you didn’t read it, do so. If you read it and didn’t understand it, ask some questions. But don’t think you can simply wave off one of the strongest critiques of modern moral philosophy ever written. Things don’t work that way.

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  6. Thanks Dan – This was really helpful !

    I get the intuitive desire to try to find a ground for morality in nature. I also understand why cooperation would be a reasonable place to look for that grounding. Even if we unwisely ignore Anscombe’s argument I just don’t think it works. People can give their trust to a group promoting in-group cooperation with sometimes horrible results. If we lose autonomy we are more likely to fall in with a cult, or look at those outside our group a less than those in the group. People will do things in gangs they would never do on their own. We need to balance our connection to groups with our independence of thought in ways that I don’t think can systematized.

    As for the idea that ‘stability’ is natures foundation for morality, I find that at least equally flawed. Evolution depends again on a balance between stability and adaptability at various levels. Culturally, a stable dynamic between species may be parasitic which would be hard view as moral. Or within species you could have a stable dystopia like the one in ‘Brave New World’.

    I am finding myself drawn to deflationary accounts with regard to a lot philosophical concepts (truth, mind, morality etc…).

    I don’t think first post went through – If it did ignore this one.

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  7. Mackie comments:

    Elizabeth Anscombe has argued that modern, non-Aristotelian, concepts of moral obligation…are survivals outside the
    framework of thought that made them really intelligible, namely the belief in divine law…There is much to be said for this view…[I]t would be a mistake to see the whole problem of the claim to objective prescriptivity as merely local and unnecessary, as a post-
    operative complication of a society from which a dominant system of theistic belief has recently been rather hastily excised. As Cudworth and Clarke and Price, for example, show, even those who still admit divine commands, or the positive law of God, may
    believe moral values to have an independent objective but still action-guiding authority. Responding to Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma, they believe that God commands what he commands because it is in itself good or right, not that it is good or right merely
    because and in that he commands it.

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  8. dbholmes, I can reply very briefly. The argument is that the biology of any social species has social values built into it (as well as survival and reproductive values). These values can manifest in many ways, but they involve taking it as given that social life is a good thing. In dolphins (MacIntyre’s example) empirical research shows how those values are cultivated and sanctioned. In humans, moral concepts fill out and guide our natural predisposition towards sociality. These concepts are at their core universally held (prohibiting arbitrary killing, for example).

    It is a big topic, of course.

    Here’s a link to some current research work combining biology, anthropology and philosophy:

    https://www.anthro.ox.ac.uk/people/dr-oliver-scott-curry

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “…I see no refuge for contemporary ethicists in a revived Aristotelianism, and I see no hope for contemporary Utilitarians and Kantians, given that there has been nothing by way of an adequate response to Anscombe’s critique. That so many are blithely continuing on with this sort of work is not surprising…”

    Two points which may be of interest by way of this remark:

    1. Brewer’s “The Retrieval of Ethics” and Sanford’s “Before Virtue” both address the fact that much of what goes on under the heading of “virtue ethics” in contemporary ethics has continued on as if Anscombe never wrote MMP. Whatever we might make of an Aristotelian ethics, or a virtue ethics, we aren’t going to arrive at it by treating it as one more normative ethical theory sitting at the table with the Kantians, contractualists, and utilitarians.

    That point I think is well taken. What Brewer spells out is an alternative program, one which isn’t interested in taking for granted even the assumptions about agency and practical thought which seem to lead us into

    2. Regarding a replacement for teleology, Michael Thompson provides an excellent case that we don’t have to replace it so much as refine our conception of it and attend (in a very Wittgensteinian manner) to the logical grammar of our life-form concepts and judgements. See “Apprehending Human Form” and his book-length treatment “Life and Action”. Philippa Foot builds on this work in her (quite underrated, in my estimation) “Natural Goodness”, spelling out what an Aristotelian (and again, very Wittgensteinian-flavored) ethics might look like with these thoughts in mind.

    John McDowell also has some interesting thoughts in this direction. “Two sorts of naturalism” attempts to show how practical reason might be naturalized once we do away with some of the modern presuppositions inherited from Kantian philosophy and the naturalistic reaction to it; the account of practical _logos_ that he develops in the closing sections of the paper is consistent with his other remarks on reason and action in inter alia “Non-Cognitivism and Rule-Following” and “Wittgenstein on Following a Rule”, which follow PI’s lead in attempting to show how the correctness of an action doesn’t require us to step outside the practices and uses of language in which our actions are made intelligible.

    Whether these are convincing cases is, of course, a different matter; but the problem hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed, thankfully.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. alandtapper1950 ,
    The problem with biological/ evolutionary ethical theory can be summed up in two words: so what?

    Such theories have no greater force of argument – and no greater non-argumentative impulsion – than any of the ethical theories of the 18th and 19th century that Anscombe deconstructs.

    We’re a kind of hominid which evolutionary pressures towards socialization. At best this gets a meta-ethical explanation of why there are any ethics at all; but it doesn’t get you any moral good that is somehow realizable in some great awakening of consciousness.

    I’m here reminded of the ‘Age of Aquarius’ we were all promised during the ‘Summer of Love’ when were just on the cusp of a new age of peace and universal oneness. That didn’t work out very well; why might bio/evo meta-ethics prove any more appealing?

    For me, the value of ethical philosophy is deepening my understanding, raising questions about my own choices, and learning to discuss community issues in a more involved manner with others. The search for world peace I’ll leave to the other hominids.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ejwinner, I don’t disagree with your basic point. The biological story serves as an explanatory background, and may help those who have trouble in understanding where values come from. To get from there to some definite “moral good” requires a whole lot more argument.

    I missed out on the “Summer of Love” (1967, I was still at school and in a foreign country), but I do gather from reports that it didn’t work out all that well.

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  12. Hi Alan, thanks for your reply. EJ has already diagnosed a major portion of the problem with your position, but I want to amplify what he said. In fact, I think I will write an essay on this issue because it is important to me… I hope you will be around for that one, because I would appreciate your feedback.

    As a short response…

    “The argument is that the biology of any social species has social values built into it (as well as survival and reproductive values). These values can manifest in many ways, but they involve taking it as given that social life is a good thing.”

    This seems a conflation of innate behaviors and desires with moral *value*. There is no question we have evolved into a social species. That means that there are, generally speaking, biologically based pressures and cognitive functions which promote/facilitate sociability.

    But those are not the same thing as *values* or what is considered *good* in the moral sense, nor can they support such conclusions. To try that is a commit the naturalistic fallacy.

    “In humans, moral concepts fill out and guide our natural predisposition towards sociality. These concepts are at their core universally held (prohibiting arbitrary killing, for example).”

    I had an essay at Agora, debunking such concepts as human universals (https://theelectricagora.com/2016/02/01/on-failing-to-pass-for-human/). The fact is, if these were universal, biological, moral codes then people would not be engaging in immoral behaviors, because they could not think otherwise. Unless of course they are mutants, or had some sort of impaired physical development.

    You don’t have rules against something, if there is not a present urge in many people to do something.

    “Here’s a link to some current research work combining biology, anthropology and philosophy:”

    I went to the link and indeed he has a very interesting project going on. Maybe I’ll apply to his group. However, in addition to pointing to problems with the position you have expressed, there are clear problems with his project.

    Following quotes are from his site…

    “Oliver’s research investigates the nature, content and structure of human morality. He tackles such questions as: What is morality? How did morality evolve? What psychological mechanisms underpin moral judgments? How are moral values best measured? And how does morality vary across cultures?”

    This gets us to the hows and whys of moral judgment. What it does not get to is the whether we ought to… which is what Ethics is about and the concern behind the is/ought problem. To say P,D, and Q *is* why you feel like X *ought* to be done, does not support an argument that X *ought* to be done.

    “His work argues that morality is best understood as a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation and conflict recurrent in human social life. ”

    I have absolutely no problem with this, though in reading his approach I’m worried he may over-emphasize the biological to the detriment of culture and personal psychology. The problem for your position is that as soon as culture enters the picture, the is/ought problem (as Hume discusses it) becomes a solid problem. There can be few, if any assumptions of universal desire/interest.

    “Analysis of the ethnographic records of 60 societies found that, contrary to widely-held moral relativist views, these types of cooperative behaviour were indeed considered morally good wherever they arose, in all cultures.”

    Here he is going wrong, even on the social science side. Do all cultures share the same sense of “good”? Are the reasons the same? Are commonalities in such understandings supportive that such values are warranted? How can modern surveys, taken after most cultures have been largely affected by the influence/imposition of Western culture discover what all possible human cultures have or can hold as moral beliefs?

    “A classic twin study will help tease apart the relative contribution of genes and environment to the development of morality, and clear a path to investigate which specific genes, and which aspects of the environment, make a difference and why. ”

    Uhmmmm… I believe the group my lab is now a part of is one of the leading groups in this kind of research, having recently put out a massive analysis of gene contribution to complex traits based (in some part) on twin studies. I’m personally quite skeptical of this research and conclusions coming from it (having argued some with the lead of that group). But accepting what she has said, and not my more skeptical position, the contribution of genes is really very very small.

    But either way, this points to the ongoing problem, it is a combination of genes and culture. You can figure out what has made a difference, but it cannot tell you what difference *should* be made in the future.

    I would point out that he is allied to an organization which is trying to shape culture/behavior, which means set norms and genetic influences are not the end of the story.

    Damn, that was supposed to be short.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. EJ,
    The problem with biological/ evolutionary ethical theory can be summed up in two words: so what?
    Such theories have no greater force of argument – and no greater non-argumentative impulsion – than any of the ethical theories of the 18th and 19th century that Anscombe deconstructs.

    That sounds a little cynical. Ethical behaviour is not simply a matter of knowing what it is you should do. Ethical behaviour is more than an intellectual exercise, it is a fraught process with a tangible outcome. This process has four major components(after James Rest)

    1) Moral sensitivity
    A strong awareness of the fundamental importance of ethical behaviour. The ability to identify and discern situations with ethical dimensions.
    2) Moral judgement.
    The ability to explore the ethical dimension and to make reasoned ethical assessments.
    3) Moral motivation.
    A desire to act ethically and prioritise ethical decisions over other concerns.
    4) Moral character and commitment.
    Having the strength of one’s convictions to act morally.

    Moral behaviour is not an intellectual exercise and reading about the three great schools of ethics will not, by itself, produce this result . Instead it is a four stage process of becoming morally sensitive, learning to exercise moral judgement, inculcating moral motivation and developing moral strength of character.

    For all of this to happen you must truly believe in your chosen ethical system, because, after all, ethical choices frequently result in difficult choices or denial of desires. It is a process of education, training, habituation and reinforcement that requires commitment.

    Why should you have such a strong strength of belief in your chosen moral system that you are prepared to do this? What makes it credible? The answer to that is you believe it has a strong grounding that gives it sufficient legitimacy that you are prepared to give assent to its truth claims. Its legitimacy, derived from its grounding, is sufficient to make its truth claims compelling.

    So I am afraid you cannot dismiss questions of ethical grounding with an airy ‘so what’.

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  14. EJ,
    …That[the ‘Summer of Love’] didn’t work out very well; why might bio/evo meta-ethics prove any more appealing?

    You are asking the wrong question. The failed experiment of the ’60s has complex causes that has nothing to do with this discussion. That is a very different kind of discussion that Dan-K might one day wish to entertain.

    Not only that, no-one is claiming that this explanation is more appealing than a failed ’60s experiment. In fact I find the comparison so strange that it borders on obfuscation.

    We are discussing this matter because we are
    1) curious, especially about causes and origins;
    2) seek understanding;
    3) and think moral behaviour is important.

    these seem to me to be good reasons for asking the question and seeking some answers.

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  15. EJ,
    At best this gets a meta-ethical explanation of why there are any ethics at all; but it doesn’t get you any moral good that is somehow realizable in some great awakening of consciousness.

    See my above comment. We are curious, we seek answers and finding the answers may lead to important destinations. This is its own justification. Until we find answers we do not know where they may lead. So we keep our minds open and continue with a diligent search.

    Curiosity is a delightful thing and is its own reward.

    …doesn’t get you any moral good that is somehow realizable in some great awakening of consciousness.

    You are answering a claim that was never made. We have had great awakenings of [ethical]consciousness in the past and they were the result of great figures such as Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, etc. I list only some of them. No-one expects our curiosity about origins and causes to produce such a profound result so your criticism seems misdirected and not at all a good reason to confine our curiosity.

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  16. “The problem with biological/ evolutionary ethical theory can be summed up in two words: so what? Such theories have no greater force of argument…”

    I know why you say this, but these offer various hypothetical imperatives eg if you think continuation of the your direct descendants/human race/biosphere into the indefinite future is a good then you ought to X. There is no argument sufficient to convince anyone of these, any more than there are against skepticism about the external world or other minds, Massimo, I think, linked to a criticism of E.O. WIlson’s idea of biophilia. Sure, there is nothing too rigorous there, but we know exactly what feelings he is talking about, and what kind of ethical systems might arise from it.

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  17. DB,
    the idea that the specific concept of “ought” or Ethics in general are products of evolutionary development (that is biologically determined) seems problematic.

    Then I am afraid you have not understood what I was saying. Below I quote my comment where I summarised my belief:

    My thesis is based on twin pillars:
    1) all the goods of life are crucially dependent on the interlocking collaboration of society.
    2) collaboration is absolutely dependent on trust.
    therefore are our value systems arose out of the need for trust, to detect trustworthiness, to demonstrate trustworthiness and to maintain trustworthiness.

    I am not saying here, or anywhere else, that it is biologically determined. That is your own interpolation. You are shooting at a target that I never put up(my military background shows through in my metaphors). What I described is a social process. This social process began with the birth of cognition in our brains. The collaborative society was the result of cognition because it allowed us to establish, communicate and agree intricate interlocking roles in society. The delegation of roles were crucially dependent on trust and thus we developed mechanisms for demonstrating, detecting and maintaining trust. One of these mechanisms is called virtue ethics.

    None of this was biologically determined, except in the sense that the starting point was the birth of cognition and that was biologically determined. But that is trivially true.

    But what I am claiming is that this happened sufficiently long ago that this new form of behaviour started to shape our biology. As a simple, unrelated example of what I mean, consider the domestication of cattle. This was human social behaviour. As a result we Westerners drank milk(unlike East Asians) and so we evolved lactose tolerance. Our behaviour changes our biology over a sufficiently long period.

    Thus new forms of collaborative behaviour, requiring trust, changed our biology sufficiently that we have an instinctive grasp of ‘ought’.

    I hope you will begin to see that I never made the claim “Ethics in general are products of evolutionary development (that is biologically determined“. Instead my claim is that it was the result of cognitive and social development that has shaped our biology. That is a very different kind of claim.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. labnut,
    Some thinkers are waving bio/evo ethics around as if it provides the ground to a practical ethical guide that long established ethical systems somehow lack, thus able to overcome criticisms such as those presented by Anscombe. That’s simply not the case. It doesn’t even get us a practical ethics, it resolves as a meta-ethic and is not getting further than that.

    Practical ethics is always a matter of received culture and personal choice – sometimes personal discovery, but always in relation to the community. Consequently, although it must always be spoken in normative terms asserting assumed real values, there will always be lacunae between stated principle and performance. As there should be: inflexibility produces monsters. I see it as a journey, not a destination.

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  19. EJ,
    In general I agree with your last comment. But let’s clarify the matter by clarifying the questions we are interested in. You and I are addressing different questions.

    My questions centre around these concerns
    1) why is virtue ethics such a universal concept?
    2) is virtue ethics our most basic form of ethical understanding?
    3) what is its origin in our species?
    4) what grounds our sense of ‘ought’?

    Arising from these questions we can ask whether virtue ethics is our best bet for an ethical framework in a modern secular world. I think it is because it is the most natural fit to the kind of people we are. This is why questions of origin are so interesting because it might show that virtue ethics is indeed our most natural choice. This matters because the ethical system which is the most natural fit to our nature will in all likelihood be the ethical system with the best chance of success.

    You, on the other had are saying(I think) that it is a practical matter of discovery, personal choice and received culture. Each to his own or “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend“. So for you, questions of origin or grounding are secondary to your own practical needs for moral guidance.

    If that is indeed your position my reply would be that a harmonised ethical system is far more likely to be beneficial to society.

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  20. Hi dbholmes. Thanks for the link to your February 2016 essay, which is well argued, I think. I agree with you that moral arguments of the form “X is unnatural, therefore X is wrong” are very bad arguments. My usual reply to such arguments is to ask “What sort of wrong do you mean?” There’s rarely any sensible answer to that.

    My claim is that human sociability is biologically grounded and helps to explain the sort of values and behaviours we humans generally have — for example, our propensity for language and our attitudes towards the care of children. As I said above, to go further towards a theory of morality requires much more argument, about the necessity of cooperation for human life.

    If as a biologist (I’m supposing you are one) you disagree with this, I’m happy to learn more. You do say (in that other essay): “Even one of the more common ideas – that we are all social animals and crave human contact and interaction – breaks down at the individual level with some pursuing solitary lives away from others”. I suppose from this that for you no explanation can work if there is a single exception to it. To use one of MacIntyre’s phrases, you think “if not deductive, then defective”. I don’t see the need for this. I’m happy with explanations that work non-deductively.

    You say: “The problem for your position is that as soon as culture enters the picture, the is/ought problem (as Hume discusses it) becomes a solid problem.” My view is that morality is cultural (though with a biological grounding), but that Hume’s supposed problem is badly conceived.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. davidlduffy,
    “I know why you say this, but these offer various hypothetical imperatives eg if you think continuation of the your direct descendants/human race/biosphere into the indefinite future is a good then you ought to X.” What is the substantial difference between the first part of your second clause (concerning “imperatives”) and Kant? What is the difference between the concluding “eg.” and any other consequentialism?

    And no, we’re not talking about radical skepticism. We’re discussing variant ethical theories and variant ethical practices, and the manner in which they relate to each other.

    Few act intentionally unethically. Everyone is following some ‘code’ that they inherit from their family, or that they reason through, or that they feel impelled towards. The question is whether and what kind of grounds these have – and whether they need any grounds at all.

    “but we know exactly what feelings he is talking about,” – and so did Hume, and so did Darwin. I see nothing new being brought to the table by statistics or ethology.

    labnut.
    The reference to “the Summer of Love” has to do with the continuing Romantic hope (note my pessimism, Mark!) that if we just get our ‘vibes’ right, we’ll achieve a higher level of consciousness and world peace results. Bio/evo ethics seems to be offering the same hope (not surprising, since it originates among Baby Boomer scientists and philosophers).

    The world today is a mess. The age of the small town is over. I’ll celebrate a hundred flowers bloom, if they can help generate less suffering for other sentient beings. As for a hundred schools contending, well, that’s inevitable.

    As I’ve admitted before, I’m a Buddhist. But being so in the West makes me something of an outsider; and I have neither time nor interest in proselytizing. One becomes a Buddhist because either one is raised in that tradition, or one converts because… nothing else makes sense. The Buddhist ethic begins in virtue ethics only because driven by one’s acceptance of the wisdom of the Buddha, attracted to his principle of compassion – and as it reaches out into the world, compassion becomes its raison d’être. But this takes many forms, and is very complicated. Because long before Modernity, the Eastern thinkers realized that – the world is a mess. It was always a mess. It only looks orderly in small towns or under the domination of strict ideologies – but this latter appearance is mere illusion.

    I became a Buddhist because I found life to be suffering. Most religions respond to such experience that suffering is somehow ‘good for the soul,’ and there is peace to be found – in the afterlife. The Buddha’s response was simpler: ‘Life just is suffering; if you want to get over it, follow these eight easy steps.’ Of course they’re only easy in a monastery – and Buddhism is a monastic religion. Beyond the monastery walls, life is complicated – It’s a mess! So one tries always to practice compassion and wend one’s way through it the best one can.

    But from my perspective, we’re all trying to ease the pain (or as others would have it, find happiness). And we’re all trying to do this in community with others, even those persuaded that they are totally self-determining individuals. That’s actually a problem – some think their way is superior to others; others think that other ways should not exist.

    As a character in the film “Kingdom of Heaven” puts it, “Who has claim to Jerusalem? No one has claim; all have claim!”

    I once read Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed, hoping to find deep insights into the foundations of moral philosophy. Although based on Torah and Talmud, I was surprised to find a lot of rather plain homilies instructing me to ‘be good.’ ‘treat others with respect,’ practice generosity,’ etc., etc. – plain advice on plain matters to others of his community. Perhaps that’s all one can hope for from moral philosophy.

    “the Kingdom of god is within,” Christians say; on that basis, Augustine once remarked “love god and do what you will.” Zen Buddhists say: ‘there is no inside, no outside; wash the dishes.” But it amounts to the same practice.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Hi Alan, thanks for the compliment! Your assumption is correct that I am a biologist (molecular, stem cell, and neuro-)

    “My claim is that human sociability is biologically grounded and helps to explain the sort of values and behaviours we humans generally have — for example, our propensity for language and our attitudes towards the care of children.”

    Definite agreement on the above.

    “…to go further towards a theory of morality requires much more argument, about the necessity of cooperation for human life.”

    This is where I start having problems. I mean I agree it will then take more argument, and perhaps one can try based on the necessities of cooperation. But personally I don’t see that cooperation is “necessary”, unless that is broadened to include submission to authority or giving in to coercion. Interaction and community activity will be useful and is arguably necessary. I like cooperation and so that form of interaction is something I’d like to see more of. And yet, societies have seemed to survive (and thrive) while oppressing almost the entirety of their populations in one way or another.

    “I suppose from this that for you no explanation can work if there is a single exception to it. To use one of MacIntyre’s phrases, you think “if not deductive, then defective”.”

    That may be a fair read. I’d perhaps alter that to say no singular explanation will survive, where there are exceptions. Exceptions mean that the theory contains a flaw in some fashion, a lack of understanding about something’s nature. And to me for formulating moral theory, especially prescriptive statements with moral force, that is a significant flaw.

    “I’m happy with explanations that work non-deductively.”

    Ok, but if someone put an argument to you, where *you* were the exception, how persuasive would that be?

    “…but that Hume’s supposed problem is badly conceived.”

    I guess this is what I still want clarification on. To me his argument seemed straightforward. Deeply simplifying: When people make statements to persuade others to do something (moral statements), there are often hidden premises which involve (an assumed) desire for some end. Without that desire there would be no persuasive force, there would simply be facts of the matter. Thus moral/persuasive positions are not based in reason (discovering what is factually true), but in passions (which are emotional).

    Granted that humans are a social species, and even that cooperation is necessary for life, how does one convince another to follow a course of action based solely on knowing the first two facts? Basically what I read of your position seems to be saying we (in general) will have desires to be social, and drives that foster cooperation (we will seek such a thing). In that case it would work with Hume’s position by answering what the common underlying emotions are, not undercutting the necessity of an (irrational) emotional component.

    As I mentioned earlier in a reply to Dan, Hume did go on to try to argue for a particular set of interests/desires common to humans (psychology). He might have even agreed with your position… and disagreed with mine!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Hi Labnut, remember I agree in some measure with your account, outside of a few side quibbles (which aren’t necessary to debate) there was wording which suggested a biological aspect I am leery about.

    “I never made the claim “Ethics in general are products of evolutionary development (that is biologically determined“. ”

    To be fair to me that was not an exact a quote of what I said. I said: “while I think the “10-point program” is interesting, the idea that the specific concept of “ought” or Ethics in general are products of evolutionary development (that is biologically determined) seems problematic.”

    You seem to be rejecting the Ethics in general criticism, which is fine, I can accept that. But what about that “ought”? In this latest reply you say…

    “But what I am claiming is that this happened sufficiently long ago that this new form of behaviour started to shape our biology. As a simple, unrelated example of what I mean, consider the domestication of cattle. This was human social behaviour. As a result we Westerners drank milk(unlike East Asians) and so we evolved lactose tolerance. Our behaviour changes our biology over a sufficiently long period. Thus new forms of collaborative behaviour, requiring trust, changed our biology sufficiently that we have an instinctive grasp of ‘ought’.”

    You hit the nail on the head of what I was worried about. Here you specifically describe evolution generating an instinctive concept of “ought”. I find this problematic.

    It is possible of course, but highly dubious (to me). I know when people *want* others to do something, they tell those people they *ought* to do it. And there are things I feel compelled to do, or want others to do, and might use the term “ought”. But I’m not sure why there would have to be an evolved, instinctive aspect to any of this.

    Like

  24. Hi dbholmes. It’s a pleasure to have this sort of discussion. You said earlier you might do an essay on the topic. I hope you will. Meanwhile, a few brief comments.

    You say: “But personally I don’t see that cooperation is ‘necessary’, unless that is broadened to include submission to authority or giving in to coercion. Interaction and community activity will be useful and is arguably necessary. I like cooperation and so that form of interaction is something I’d like to see more of.”

    To me unforced cooperation (a tautology) is necessary for social life. Obviously this is a critical point between us.

    “And yet, societies have seemed to survive (and thrive) while oppressing almost the entirety of their populations in one way or another.”

    True, but this is not cooperation! Where’s the “co”? People using the instruments of the state oppressively is the opposite of cooperation. The poor victims are not thriving and often not surviving.

    On Hume’s “deeply simplifying” argument. We’d need to discuss both sides of the supposed relation. On one side, “values”, “morals”, “oughts”, etc. On the other side, “facts”, “description”, etc. Hume simplified by dichotomising. But there is no dichotomy here, I think.

    Cooperation goes deep (that’s my simplification). We have the emotions that a social species would have to have. But we don’t settle moral arguments by appealing to those emotions. We use moral arguments, couched in concepts that are made possible by our social/emotional backgrounds, mostly ideas of justice.

    Incidentally, there’s a (to me) outrageous passage late in Anscombe’s essay where she talks about “the mere factual description ‘unjust'”. As if calling something “unjust” had no implications until a divine backing was added to it! How could she, such a smart person, think that?

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Incidentally, there’s a (to me) outrageous passage late in Anscombe’s essay where she talks about “the mere factual description ‘unjust’”. As if calling something “unjust” had no implications until a divine backing was added to it! How could she, such a smart person, think that?
    = = =
    This is a misreading. She clearly indicates that Aristotle has a notion of the unjust. But for Aristotle, such a notion *is* factual. The point just is that the additional “moral” content is that which one gets, when one weds and Aristotelian virtue ethic with a law ethic like the one you get from Judaism/pre-Protestant Christianity.

    So, nothing outrageous there.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Hi Dan: Yes, but that’s what I find outrageous. How could anyone think that “unjust” is not a moral concept? Ask the person in the street. If you ask them whether it is factual you might get a variety of answers, but if you ask if it is a moral concept I think there would be agreement. Likewise consult a dictionary. The usual “ordinary language” processes.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. It is a moral concept in Aristotle’s philosophy. Your outrage suggests that you don’t understand the critique.

    As or the person in the street, why on earth would I ask him? He probably thinks McDonald’s is great food and that Kanye West is a musical genius.

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  28. My assumption is that words mean what the people who use them think they mean. That’s OK as a philosophical principle, isn’t it?

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  29. As or the person in the street, why on earth would I ask him? He probably thinks McDonald’s is great food and that Kanye West is a musical genius.

    Ah, I qualify as a person in the street. My normality is assured.

    Like

  30. DB,
    an instinctive concept of “ought”. I find this problematic…highly dubious (to me)…not sure why there would have to be an evolved, instinctive aspect

    I have given a reasoned account for how this could have developed. Your reply, describing your feelings(problematic, dubious, not sure), is an accurate description of your feelings, nothing else. If I was interested in your feelings this would suffice, but, of course I am not.

    …not sure why there would have to be an evolved, instinctive aspect

    None of us is sure since the origins of moral thought are clouded in prehistory. And since fossilised bones don’t record our thoughts it is unlikely we will ever know. But we can make reasoned inferences in the attempt to construct plausible hypotheses. I have outlined one such attempt. Other than describing your feelings you have not engaged with my hypothesis.

    The whole point of Dan-K’s essay is that there is a non-obvious source for the powerful feeling of ‘ought’ that lies at the base of our ethics. Pure reason does not account for this, so what does? I have given my answer. Of course it is highly speculative, but that is all we have at our disposal, reasoned speculation, so let’s try to make the best of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Hi Labnut, I apologize for not going further in my criticism of your hypothesis, but there wasn’t much to “engage” with. You have set out an account using a scientific theory on biological evolution, and a case where encountering a specific physical environment due to behavioral choices led to physical changes in our species, to explain the existence of a psycho-social phenomenon.

    I said your account was possible. It does not defy logic, or evidence that we have. However, it also lacks any positive evidence to make the case. Until you bring something more to the table, there’s not much more I need to reject it than doubting that mechanism.

    And that’s the important point, which I did imply, it isn’t necessary to go to biology to explain the phenomenon.

    “The whole point of Dan-K’s essay is that there is a non-obvious source for the powerful feeling of ‘ought’ that lies at the base of our ethics.”

    You have missed something important in Dan’s essay and/or Anscombe’s paper. They both state explicitly where the powerful feeling comes from. The explanation is one I agree with, and is basically the same one I was arguing in Mark’s thread for why people who are not socially isolated feel “cut adrift” (from society as much as the universe) when the illusion of a spiritual universe fell: it is a remainder (or a survival) within modern culture of a prior concept. In this case it is a holdover of a legalistic concept of human action/obligation.

    From Dan’s essay…

    “Anscombe maintains that the obligatory sense of the moral ‘ought’ arises from the combination of Classical virtue ethics with the law tradition that one finds in Judaism and pre-Protestant Christianity. It’s what you get, when you take the Greek moral virtues and say that they are required by divine command… So, modern moral philosophy and its contemporary progeny suffer from two fatal problems which, when combined, leave a radically subjectivist sentimentalism as the only real option in ethics: (a) they deny that there are any genuine axiological facts; and (b) they reject the idea of divine legislation. The results are values that reflect only what people subjectively prefer/abhor and requirements/prohibitions that have no grounding and hence, enjoy nothing but, as Anscombe described it, “mesmeric force.” (5) “It is as if the notion ‘criminal’ were to remain,” she remarks, “when criminal law and criminal courts had been abolished and forgotten.””

    So the force is “mesmeric”, and a product of social culture. Why is that not satisfactory for you? Why do you feel we need to go to biology and instincts, rather than settle with the easier to explain psycho-social and habitual?

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Hi Alan, yes I also like these exchanges. I will write an essay on this topic, though it will likely be after my next essay (which has been sitting on the edge of submission–just a few short sentences–for over a month).

    “True, but this is not cooperation! Where’s the “co”? People using the instruments of the state oppressively is the opposite of cooperation. The poor victims are not thriving and often not surviving.”

    Yes, I agree that I would not want to call it cooperation (I just wasn’t sure how broad your usage was). Our difference would be that I don’t see that as *necessary* for functioning human life, even social life. While you are correct that many people will be victims who are not doing well, or surviving at all… what does that have to do with surviving and thriving for the species?

    And it might be argued that the human cultures that have survived and thrived the most have been the most xenophobic, mistrusting, and uncooperative with others. The US is the most powerful nation on Earth, and yet the majority (if not entirety) of its economy is based on forced labor, not cooperation, and its current power in the world wholly on military extortive capacity (which is based on mistrust and xenophobia bordering on the paranoid).

    “We use moral arguments, couched in concepts that are made possible by our social/emotional backgrounds, mostly ideas of justice.”

    I agree with this in part. I consider such concepts categorizations of types of actions, so in some sense factual. Anscombe sort of gets to this in her paper as well… which.. ahem… you found a bit outrageous.

    Given that I agree with Dan and Anscombe on this, let’s see if I can describe the idea better. Though Dan and Anscombe run this through Aristotle, I think it is also compatible with Hume, and so since we were talking about Hume that’s how I will approach it.

    The identification that any particular *unjust* act is *bad* must come from our emotions, which (because they are so tied to personal and cultural factors) I don’t believe are able to be ascribed to everyone, even if we all share sentiments common to a social species.

    This is why Hume’s argument, or dichotimization still holds true. I can’t see it as an artificial, or unimportant, distinction when that is exactly what one is going to run into when trying to convince others to certain action, or to avoid it. When someone simply states the fact of the matter as if that is self-explanatory to why X should/should not be done, and I don’t share that person’s beliefs, they have failed to make their case.

    It is crucial to understand that the fact of the matter (even such a thing as “that is unjust”) is not the motive force. Hume was addressing those who thought it was, that just by reasoning to a fact, they had found its necessary moral content. That would only be true if everyone shared the same fact-emotion pairing (to the extent that one is as good as the other). I don’t think that is true at all, but if it is it would need the kind of account of human psychology Anscombe called for.

    And I think this gets much more complicated as there are many categories of action on which people pass judgment, not only moral, and certainly (among the moral) not only justice. These categories can conflict with one another.

    It is all well and good to feel that every *unjust* act must be *bad*, but that may go by the wayside if an injustice is required to achieve something else which is felt more important (in general or specific context): loyalty, knowledge, purity, harmony, gain, survival, etc.

    This does not reject Justice as being a moral concept, what it does is acknowledge that moral =/= obligatory. It is a point of moral consideration, not inherent duty or legalistic expectation.

    I may or may not be smart, but that is how I account for the split.

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  33. Hi Dan, I finally finished her paper. As usual, you made things clearer and easier to read then the original author. I found a few areas I had differences with her, but nothing major to her point. Like I did find it strange to call Hume’s argument sophistry, even if she considered it brilliant, useful sophistry.

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  34. Hi EJ, “We’re discussing variant ethical theories”: this being a comment on a blog post, I try not to be too prolix. I was alluding to Sidgwick’s idea that there he discerns two core ethics – roughly, psychological (or even ethical) egoism, and various “universal” systems. When these clash, he can see no obvious way to argue the grounds of one versus the other. Parfit takes this up using a variety of thought experiments (unreasonableness of avoidance minor harm to you v. causing large numbers of deaths to others, discounting of level of future harm to you versus current harm etc etc). You would know that many of his beliefs regarding persons are close to those of Buddhists.

    More generally, a couple of weaknesses in Anscombe’s arguments: a) the genealogy of morals stuff – the tension between the Legalists (fa chia) and Confucians (who go the natural law line, li) has little to do with religion, but much the same issues come up (I will stipulate different emphases). So, I would argue these are natural features of the space of solutions on how to run one’s own society, and how one deals with that which is outside one’s society (barbarians, animals, nature). b) The idea that somehow law has nothing to do with morality, except via divine command again is wrong. As others have pointed out, the Greek and pre-Christian Roman legal systems don’t rely on religion except in the broadest sense, as do the Chinese. I will just assert that law merely represents those bits of morality where various practical considerations have meant a formalisation of existing ethical best practice has occurred. So current legal codes include broad moral principles (eg ideas about self-evident rights) we use to reason about minor points that do not have explicit regulations or case law – one case in point would be the Institutional Review Boards that have oversight over scientific experimentation. And the reasons whether an individual obeys a law in a particular instance are a mixture of pragmatic and ethical.

    Finally, re universalist ethics. If an individual is shortly to die, then she has a only a few direct egocentric needs and desires. Most of the decisions about disposition of resources under her control are therefore other-directed. We can literally ignore those individuals who decide to destroy, eg burn, all their assets and money. If they spend them on a round-the-world trip, then our current system is such that this leads to benefits for those who provide such services. If the individual is in any way forward thinking, then their thoughts will be of other humans in a future where that individual no longer exists, so the only interests they have are other-directed to either their current loved ones, possible future descendants and humanity in general. Distant non-existent descendants are just as abstract as distant current humans, so either one weights the current living loved ones at 1, or splits between the living (who may already be as well off as you think they possibly could be), and the hypothetical future living. Harsanyi has it that “the criteria guiding
    an individual when he is honestly trying to make an impartial and impersonal moral value judgment [are] this this individual’s moral preferences” (social welfare function). Of course, you know where he is going with this…

    Finally, re DB’s comments re cooperation – the point is you have have to cooperate with your peers in order to exploit the other, and the exploited have to cooperate to some extent in order to keep on being exploited. Graeber points out you were traditionally offered a choice, physical death or social death leading to slavery. In the Roman system at least, there were many ways to resume the social life via manumission (benevolence of your owner at or before his death, or via accumulation of money) – so there are plenty of virtues a slave could exhibit.

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  35. Hi dbholmes: Your response to my point about justice is interesting. Thanks. I’ll wait to see your fuller account in your proposed essay.

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