Re: [sl4] normative language is rational

From: Dimitry Volfson (
Date: Sat Feb 14 2009 - 16:17:01 MST

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 2009/2/14 Johnicholas Hines <>:
>> You should not kill and eat people because (justification).
>> You ought not to kill and eat people because (justification).
>> You have a duty to avoid killing and eating people because (justification).
>> It is immoral to kill and eat people because (justification).
>> It is unethical to to kill and eat people because (justification).
> In response to all these statements the question can be asked, "and
> why is that wrong?" In the final analysis we end up with an
> irreducible ethical principle, "it's wrong because it's wrong".
Um, no. You're wrong.

Why is 1 + 1 = 2.
It's not because we made arbitrary rules about the meanings of + and =
(though the symbol-set [where we could replace "+" with "^", for
example] could be changed arbitrarily).
The meanings come from interaction with what exists.

What exists:
There are certain outcomes we find pleasurable and want.
There are other outcomes we find hurtful and don't want.
Many actions do not clearly lead to one or the other, or lead to some of
both. And the complexities of some situations are what lead some people
to believe they need a deity to tell them what to do.

If we link some action to some outcome(s) convincingly, we can
rationally say whether or not we want the action to happen.

Normative language is not necessarily rational. But it can be rationally
based. If you find a dead end of "it's wrong because it's wrong" then
it's not rational.
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