[Topics: Assumption, Evidence, Skepticism, Belief]
The Least Assumptions:

Cartesian Skepticism, and Reducing Guesses and Assertions in a Belief Network to the Minimum

 

Portrait of René Descartes after Frans Hals - minimizing assumptions

Portrait of René Descartes (based on the painting by Frans Hals)

Introduction:

I closed the examination of pragmatic ethics in the previous article by saying that this time I would talk about “the one and only assumption I am always willing to make (and the only assumption that you should ever be willing to stand by).” So I’m going to do just that. But before getting to that one assumption, I want to make a few remarks about why it is important to minimize assumptions when forming beliefs.

As René Descartes famously observed, it is always striking how very much of what any given person claims to know (and so believe) rests upon a network of baseless or near-baseless assumptions, assertions, and heuristics so densely matted together that the person fails to realize that there is no actual solidity to its foundation whatsoever. An important feature of this nebulous nest of guesses and half-considered notions is the redundant and overlapping (if occasionally contradicting) nature of its constituent elements. It is just such a nest to which I aim to provide a superior alternative.

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[Topics: Assumption, Evidence, Skepticism, Belief]
The Least Assumptions:

Cartesian Skepticism, and Reducing Guesses and Assertions in a Belief Network to the Minimum

was last modified: March 11th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Decision-making, Logic, Metaethics]
Moral Decision-making, and Navigating Philosophy:

How Both Consequentialists and Deontologists Actually Make Choices

 

David Hume Engraving 1754 - consequentalist - deontologist - decision-makingThis is a post about moral decision-making, but it is not a post that engages at length with the particular theories involved. As the title is meant to imply, this article discusses a more general point about how any given philosopher uses philosophy to inform both the ises and the oughts of their perceptions and practices.

In the first post in this series, I argued that moral anti-realism may be true and yet have a functionally objective morality nested within it (as a feature of our evolved minds). Across the past few thousand years, compatibilists have argued that determinism may be true and yet have free will nested within it (as a feature of our freedom to act in accordance with our determined motivations). And, as I will treat briefly below, there is a general strategy available here of reconciling two halves of a dichotomous debate by attempting to understand what aspects of each side are really supported by the relevant evidence for each side. In particular, consequentialists and deontologists might make a more compelling case if they ceased to see their views as mutually exclusive.

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[Topics: Decision-making, Logic, Metaethics]
Moral Decision-making, and Navigating Philosophy:

How Both Consequentialists and Deontologists Actually Make Choices

was last modified: January 2nd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Moral Knowledge, Moral Realism, Pragmatism]
The Morality Pageant:

On the Relative Attractiveness of Moral Realism and its Alternatives

 

William James Sketch by M.R.P. - moral realism - nihilism - pragmatism

Sketch by M.R.P.

Looking back at my school days, I remember a Ph.D. student in the philosophy department remarking on the differences between moral realism (the system of thought that says that there exists a literal, objective morality) and its alternatives by appealing to the consequences of holding each belief. The moral realist, he underscored, has the advantages of being able to say that society is making moral progress, and that some societies have been immoral at different times, such as Nazi Germany and slaveholding America. Moral relativists, moral nihilists, and all related parties, he pointed out, have no such recourse. So, surely, even if one is convinced that moral realism is false, this student concluded, it might be better not to mention that conviction ‘in polite company.’

In fact, the article by James Rachels which I discussed last week makes some very similar statements in its singular effort to refute cultural relativism. But is it true that believing morality is not truly objective is somehow uglier or less desirable than believing that there is an objective morality? To explore this, I will take a closer look at both sides.

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[Topics: Moral Knowledge, Moral Realism, Pragmatism]
The Morality Pageant:

On the Relative Attractiveness of Moral Realism and its Alternatives

was last modified: January 2nd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski