Re: META: Baselining ethics discussion (was Re: Dark matter)

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Thu Aug 24 2006 - 10:37:54 MDT


I can't help being devil's advocate here for a moment.

What if Ethics were like Religion in this important respect, with no
baseline, accepted, "real" facts from which the rest was derived?

What I mean is, what if it is not like physics (where there is a
consensus baseline, then a hierarchy of theoretical/empirical knowledge
built on that)? Yes, you have to read a lot of the prior work if you
want to talk sensibly about physics.

But if someone were to stop me, a few words into some comments I wanted
to make about religious belief, and said "Hey, have you read all the
standard tests on the Philosophy of Religion? Have you acquainted
yourself with all the sacred texts of all the world's main religions?
Because if you have not, you don't have the right to open your mouth", I
would be affronted.

I am wondering if it is fair to compare the Philosophy of Ethics to the
science of Physics.

One of the reasons I ask, is that although I have not delved into that
area, I have gone deeply into Philosophy of Mind and Epistemology, and
there are vast realms of both of those subjects that are based on pure
assumptions that the authors do not know that they are making, and
which, for me (when I do not accept those assumptions) mean that entire
bodies of thought are just a complete and utter waste of time.

Physics, on the other hand, is just not like that (with a few notable
exceptions like N-waves and phlogiston).

I speak cautiously because I do not know the Ethics literature, but I do
have worries because I (and others) doubt the existence of a baseline
that can (even in principle) be independent of the observer's preferences.

Richard Loosemore

Jeff Medina wrote:
> On 8/24/06, BillK <> wrote:
>> I doubt if this is really an SL4 topic,
> Whether or not it is, it certainly falls under the Dead Horse
> category, and hence should not take up more listspace (this is a
> personal assertion only; I am not a Duly Appointed List Sniper).
> RTFM, search the archives, and read relevant Stanford Encyclopedia of
> Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entries prior to
> getting into philosophical discussions to avoid wasting your and
> everyone else's time.
> E.g.,
> This is a *minimal* expectation; for some reason, many folks who
> accept that talking sensibly about physics or mathematics requires
> years of study somehow dismiss the notion that analytic philosophy
> needs *any*, and don't even devote a week or two of readings before
> delving into ethics, metaphysics, epistemology...
> The time and effort you'll save (iff you're determined to discuss
> ethics / moral philosophy) will be substantially greater than the time
> spent getting to understand and think in terms of the pre-existing
> theories.
> With best wishes (and much pleading toward raising the level of
> discussion),

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