Re: [sl4] normative language is rational

From: Stathis Papaioannou (
Date: Sat Feb 14 2009 - 19:39:15 MST

2009/2/15 Dimitry Volfson <>:

> 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.
> Rationality:
> 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.

I think capital punishment is always wrong, while others think capital
punishment is justified under some circumstances. We could have a
rational discussion to see if we disagree on a matter of fact; for
example, the question of whether capital punishment reduces the murder
rate, or the relative utility of retribution. But in the end we might
agree on all the facts and still disagree on whether capital
punishment is right or wrong. The rational discussion has served its
purpose in elucidating mutually incompatible ethical premises, which
are themselves irreducible.

Stathis Papaioannou

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