Initially, they were not opposed to each other. Closely connected to his non-naturalism wasthe epistemological view that our knowledge of moral truth… Simon: you didn’t respond to my last comment, but I have been following with interest your exchange with Greg. After all, we can’t possibly recognize that something is the right action without recognizing that there is some sense in which we ought to do it. In 1985, Philip Kitcher criticized the “vaulting ambition” of E. O. Wilson's (1975) sociobiology program on grounds that it committed the naturalistic fallacy. It should be observed that the fallacy, by reference to which I define 'Metaphysical Ethics,' is the same in kind, and I give it but one name, the naturalistic fallacy" (ibid., pp. However, he addresses it explicitly in his book, (pg. Moore on the concept of biocentric ethics of A. Schweitzer and P.W. Roger Crisp’s post on this blog last week points toward one important disanalogy between The Scientistic Argument and The Accountancy Argument. Sometimes a speaker or writer uses a fallacy intentionally. If morality is simply a label, a free variable, then we can bridge that gap just by definition: an action is defined to be moral if it maximizes well-being. So it’s not true that “science can determine human values”, as Harris claims. But there are many cases where there is no fact of the matter. [10] Given that review I might in turn ask Copan the rhetorical question: "Is it not obvious that this complexity has no evidential import regarding the truth of theism? The 'Logical Parallels' Approach to Religious Language 8. Let’s suppose we can all agree on this.< c. appear only in humans. Someone who claims that human beings are worthless sinners is saying: (2) "Human beings have no intrinsic worth" is contingently true. It has to fulfill the subject’s own preferences to some degree. Let’s suppose we can all agree on this. If someone sincerely claims that the right criterion for measuring well-being is the level of misery (so the worst possible misery is the highest state of well-being), I wouldn’t just think he had peculiar values. Moore in 1903, but that the idea has remained relevant because it captures the problemetic is/ought and fact/value distinction. 7) Appeal to Authority Fallacy. The person who created the mental age concept was: Stern If an 8-year old boy is as smart as a 16-year old boy then his IQ is equal to ____ according to the original mental-age calculation of IQ. Moral naturalism appeals to many, since it combines the advantages of naturalism and realism, but others have argued that moral naturalism does inadequate justice to central dimensions of our practice with moral concepts. It may also have a prescriptive element, depending on the speaker's motivation for saying it, but I would consder this a kind of optional extra, not a standard meaning of those words. Science can tell us what we ought to do *IF* we seek to maximize well-being. There is a fact about what his preferences are and a fact about how well his condition fits his preferences. But it seems that you’re not going to let us get away with that. Copan's accidental interpretation of human sin is certainly not the way it is understood by many Christian thinkers, but for the sake of the argument let us accept it. Third Draft. If we use this ordinary, normative definition of “well-being” to understand premise 1.1 of The Scientistic Argument, then that premise may seem obviously true. Now, to respond to your argument. Copan says that on the Christian view human beings have intrinsic dignity and worth. Now, what’s wrong with defining “a morally good guy” as “a person who maximizes well-being”? Greg: Let me first thank you for your careful attention and gracious replies; these are rare qualities indeed on the internet, but they are certainly (and objectively, I would say) virtuous! C) the representative heuristic. Conclusion) Scientists can (indirectly) measure the rightness of actions. In his Principia Ethica G.E. Harris commits what philosophers call “the naturalistic fallacy”: of attempting to draw conclusions concerning what we ought to do (normative conclusions) directly from premises that are purely factual, or scientific, and value-free (purely descriptive premises). The naturalistic fallacy is actually correct reasoning for theists. However, there are a couple of serious difficulties for the claim that we “experience” the property of rightness: First, we often seem to deeply  disagree about which are the right actions. 2,2000, pp. It has sufficient descriptive meaning that we can say some outcomes involve more well-being than others. Harris writes as if there is no significant disagreement about such matters, and as if there are no serious and well-known objections to the vague but still questionable ideas he presents himself. 1) Many people argue it is morally permissible to eat cows and pigs because it is natural. But we surely could know that some action would maximize well-being (in the sense defined by premise 1.2: maximizing the balance of [conscious states C]), and still legitimately ask whether there is any sense in which we ought to do it. In The Accountancy Argument, the three premises could all be true by definition. Notes: Translation: "Argument to nature", Latin. This belief best illustrates A) functional fixedness. I said there's a limit to how far we can stretch the meaning of "well-being". Presumably he is appealing to the Fine Tuning Argument, which normally proceeds from this delicate balance to the conclusion that only theism can account for it. You should imagine the placeholder as having been determinately filled in in whichever way Harris thinks appropriate. I’ve just been trying to give my own analysis of the term “well-being”, partly in response to your objections and questions. Harris commits what philosophers call “the naturalistic fallacy”: of attempting to draw conclusions concerning what we ought to do (normative conclusions) directly from premises that are purely factual, or scientific, and value-free (purely descriptive premises). In his remarks on Firth's Ideal Observer Theory (IOT) Copan also seems confused. 83-85. On your view, because the meaning of “welll-being” refers in part to your subjective preferences, you can’t say an outcome would involve “well-being” unless you subjectively prefer it. It is dubious, therefore, that NF can be used to refute naturalistic ethics. D) overconfidence. The Essential Moral Attribute Response (EMAR) maintains that God has essential moral attributes that determine what is right or wrong. From my point of view, the issue of “scientism”, or whether science (specifically) can answer moral questions, is a red herring. The Fallacy of the Stolen Concept was coined by Ayn Rand, to point out the absurdity of arguing against a position when the argument depends upon that position – setting up a kind of indirect (and hence not so obviously paradoxical) version of Epiminedes-style “this sentence is false”. Perhaps the book would still have been interesting if he had provided a significant and novel argument for his (basically utilitarian) moral premise, or some novel replies to the objections to it (the objections are very standard and well-known, and some of them are very serious). [11], In his response to my comments on the Euthyphro Argument, Copan either ignores or misunderstands almost everything that I said. Moreover, his defense of a theistic based ethics is unsound. The NYT is the American paper of record, and I have always taken its journalism seriously. This fallacy is often used … I would say a moral statement doesn’t _describe_ the speaker’s values; it _expresses_ those values. M. Zacharski *. I call the argument “scientistic” because those who take (a variation of) its first two premises to be obvious are led to exaggerate the importance of scientific measurement for determining what’s morally right, and correspondingly to underestimate the importance of moral reasoning and moral philosophy. Naturalism is most notably a Western phenomenon, but an equivalent idea has long existed in the East. 10) No True Scotsman Fallacy. So the statement "X is Q" is contingently true. In a given case, X might promote well-being regardless of which criterion you use for evaluating well-being (as long as that criterion doesn't stretch the meaning too far). 1, No. I’d be interested to see you follow up with an article that attacks his approach head-on. But in other cases, there is no fact of the matter as to whether it's true, because its truth depends on the criterion used. My critique of Harris does not depend on this broader view though. It is thus a syllogistic fallacy. The concept of positive law is related to the concept of legal rights. In your response to Palexanderbalogh, you break down your criticisms into two major points: 1) science cannot tell us that, for instance, years of schooling are good; and 2) science cannot tell us how to choose between alternatives such as increasing school funding or decreasing infant mortality. Religious Discourse and Poetic Language 7. I think speakers of moral statements are also normally attempting to describe a moral reality, but they fail because there is no moral reality to describe. Thanks for your reply, Simon. 2,2000, pp. Didn’t think so. (7) The view that morality depends on God conflicts with our well-supported judgments that the torture of babies is wrong. A noble savage is a literary stock character who embodies the concept of the indigene, outsider, wild human, an "other" who has not been "corrupted" by civilization, and therefore symbolizes humanity's innate goodness.Besides appearing in many works of fiction and philosophy, the stereotype was also heavily employed in early anthropological works.. When the theory you defend is that the only things of value are conscious states, failing to mention that objection can only be either negligent or deceptive. A lot of “moral naturalists” mistakenly take utilitarian statements of this sort to be definitions. 1. However, despite sharing a similar name, these terms refer to different things, though the term ‘naturalistic fallacy’ is itself associated with more than just one concept. It is about a moral fact that we know exists independently of God. The Naturalistic Fallacy: What It Is, and What It Isn’t. In fact, based on naturalistic beliefs, there is not even a way to objectively define the concept of “moral rightness.” So, using their naturalistic presuppositions, adherents promote a system that “(takes) from each according to his ability, (and gives) to each according to his needs.” Is the Secularist View of Utopia True? Let me briefly address your suggestion that Harris in fact accepts that we need one or more moral premises in place before science can help us to answer moral questions. Paul Copan has replied in the form of a letter[] to my rebuttal[] of his critique[] of my Secular Web paper. 3) I take it you meant to ask the question: ‘Is there something with substance preventing us from seeing “acting morally” and “seeking to maximize well-being” as the same thing?’ Yes, if you also want to define well-being in descriptive terms there is: “acting morally” is a normative concept. This makes the Scientistic Argument seductive, but misleadingly so. In the 5 th and 4 th centuries B.C. 2, pp. Natural law first appeared in ancient Greek philosophy, and was referred to by Roman philosopher Cicero. You think I’ve represented Harris unfairly by suggesting that his view is that science can answer moral questions on its own, and you express your interest in my following up with “an article that attacks his approach head-on.” I would be happy to oblige, but quite honestly I don’t see how to take a more “head-on” approach to Harris than I have already. I’ve been busy. In contrast, premise 1.1 of the Scientistic Argument does not seem to be true by definition (though the possibility that it is will be considered later). Although, it might be possible to commit that fallacy, placing ethics beyond the realm of natural facts is certain to commit the anti-naturalistic fallacy. In his earlier paper his complaint seemed to be that naturalistic ethics cannot have an ontological foundation. Brink, Moral Realism and The Foundations of Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 1989), Chapter 6. The OQA is as follows. My own position would be that they *are* coherent, since I understand this term differently from the term “truth-apt”: I don’t think a statement has to be truth-apt to be coherent. Above, I showed the difficulties that arise for defending premise 1.1 if we define “well-being” in a purely descriptive way. The naturalistic fallacy states that reasoning to what ought to be based solely on what is premises, as is often done in environmental ethics, is illogical. However, that is not to say that science can answer no moral dilemmas. Copyright © the University of Oxford 2020. Peter: Thanks for your question. Copan's letter, "Atheistic Goodness Revisited: A Personal Reply to Michael Martin," has the same problems as his paper "Can Michael Martin Be A Moral Realist? Simon: see my latest reply to Roger Crisp on “science and morality”. Click here to read Lorraine Daston's article. What about states that *can* be objectively measured? He seems to argue against (7) on similar grounds. B) the framing effect. My impression that Harris attempts an immodest and fallacious argument, by the way, is confirmed not only by the the book’s subtitle, but also by Harris’s claim to have bridged the is-ought gap and avoided the “naturalistic fallacy” in the section on Facts and Values in ch. Science can’t answer that question. 1, where he says: “If we define ‘good’ as that which supports well-being … the regress initiated by Moore’s ‘open question argument’ really does stop.” (12) (I used a short version of Moore’s open question argument in my post to show that normative and descriptive properties may be ‘too different’ to be the same thing.) But is it good enough? Even if Copan had showed that naturalistic morality could not have the concept of evil, theism is no more probable than other supernaturalistic theories. Even if we accept that fulfilling the subject's preferences must play some part, it needn't be the whole criterion. It is on the “ought” side of that gap). Services . 75 -90. 'The 'Naturalistic Fallacy': An Analysis by Rajkumar Modak. He can start by claiming that morality must have something to do with well-being, because everyone cares about well-being. The trouble here is in the slipperiness of the term “well-being”. Insofar as the well-being of a subject is taken to be a function of his preferences (or values), there is a fact (at least an approximate one) as to the correct value of that function. Moralistic fallacy is regarded by some as the inverse of naturalistic fallacy. We shouldn't expect there to be one correct criterion. [9] But why should one accept Firth's theory? Can anyone tell me if he is any clearer on this point in his book? Copan tries to answer the ANB by using the free will defense (FWD): if God made more strenuous efforts to get people to believe in Him, God would be coercing belief and not allowing for free will. Thus, moral statements are of the form: “X ought to A if X is to be moral”. I have already pointed out the problems in Copan's answer to (6). 2) The subtitle of Harris’s book is “How science can determine human values” SUMMARY . (Once again, I have no beef with the claim that science may have *helped* us prove it false.). In this article, the concept of moralistic fallacy introduced by B. D. Davis is elaborated on in more detail. As you said in your initial reply to my first comment, the question is worth asking…and if it is worth asking, it is presumably also worth answering. I consider this equivalent to the factual descriptive statement: “leaving now is the course of action most likely to result in you catching the 5 o’clock train”. Mail All rights reserved. By the way, if you have further suggestions for a future post at Practical Ethics but don’t want to comment here in the thread, you can email me at: 54-62. Greg wrote: “My position is that without a specified goal, normative statements are incoherent.”. Good reasoning recognizes this subtle interplay between fact and value. Unfortunately, Copan seems disinclined to do this. The greatest possible misery is clearly not a state of well-being. Premise 1.2) Well-being is the balance of [conscious states C]. It seems that you can only define it circularly: We ought to do A if A is moral; and A is moral if we ought to do A. The part before ‘furthermore’ says in effect that ethical writers have committed the naturalistic fallacy with respect to that concept. As Crisp points out, there is still a third possible way to defend premise 1.1: Even if its concepts refer to two different properties, premise 1.1 might still be true if the rightness of an action “is anchored” in, or supervenes on, its maximizing well-being (i.e. The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain From Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs by Julien Musolino "The Soul Fallacy" is a fantastic look at the immortal soul as a scientific hypothesis. Palexanderbalogh: I’m not “setting up a … straw man” by characterizing well-being as “[conscious states C]”, I’m responding to what Sam Harris says himself in various places, e.g., “morality can be linked directly to facts about the happiness and suffering of conscious creatures” (p.64). It hardly takes a book to refute this. I objected that science cannot tell us that [conscious states C] (or your preferred alternative) are what *ought to be maximized*. On one view of the mind, this is similar to the relationship between mental states and brain states – you can’t have a change in whether you feel tired, for example, without a corresponding change in the state of your brain – even though feeling tired is not the very same thing as having a brain state of a certain kind. If we instead define “well-being” in a normative way – for example, as “the measure of that which makes a person’s life better” – then similar difficulties will arise for defending premise 1.2, as Kwame Anthony Appiah’s fine review of Harris’s book points out. From what I understand of your criticism, you see a gap between what it is to “be moral” and what it is to “maximize well-being”. Boston University Libraries. That’s a matter of personal preference, i.e. These run from explaining the origin of the universe to accounting for the emergence of sentient life. An Analysis of the Moore's Definition of Naturalistic Fallacy (392 words, 1 pages) Why is good indefinable and what is moores definition of they naturalistic fallacy? hedonistic, preference satisfaction, and a range of “objective list” theories). No? No, I didn’t transpose the words “speaker” and “subject”. The Paleo Movement and the New Naturalistic Fallacy David Ropeik. Greg: First, if my question “Why ought we to maximize [Greg’s chosen set of conscious states]?” is irrelevant, then your first comment is all the more irrelevant to my post, since my objection was to Harris’s mistaken claim that science alone can determine what is morally right and wrong. The concept of ethnic nepotism is simply a sociological ... pretty obvious when you term something the naturalistic fallacy). Regarding well-being, first let me correct an error I made. It has to fulfill the subject’s own preferences to some degree. Copyright © 1995-2020 Internet Infidels®. The Concept of God. Well-being is a very vague term, and we are trying to impose a precise criterion on it. But the boundary between science and other empirical reasoning is not a fundamental one, and is poorly defined. What I prefer to say is that there are no normative facts. Perhaps. His theory, which cannot be given its due here, bears apparent kinship with the approach developed in this paper, but … Alleged fallacy, identified by Moore in Principia Ethica (1903), of identifying an ethical concept with a ‘natural’ concept, or description of the features of things in virtue of which they are supposed good or bad. This post is about the main argument of Sam Harris’s new book The Moral Landscape. To do so, to define good as anything other than itself is, therefore, to commit the "naturalistic fallacy". I’d also add that using a vague term like “well-being” helps Harris to avoid seeing his fallacies of equivocation. Harris does not come down very clearly in favour of any one particular set of conscious states that he takes to constitute well-being, so I’ve left a placeholder in the argument in square brackets. Sic et Non," Philosophia Christi, Series 2, Vol. The question then is: Which kinds of things increase or decrease a person’s well-being, and how much does each of them count in relation to the others? This condition can be measured scientifically. In his treatise Modak scrutinizes the viability of the 'naturalistic fallacy.' Conclusion) Accountants can (indirectly) measure the economic success of businesses. So it seems unfair that you characterize Harris’ position as stating that science can answer moral questions “on its own”. And *even if* these claims are obvious, you haven’t yet done the hard work you need to do. Intentional fallacy. Naturalistic fallacy - determining what "ought" to be by observing what "is" Summary: many domain-specific psychological adaptations; learning is not a general capacity; other characteristics of adaptations = develop w/o conscious effort, used w/o awareness of logic; environment of evolutionary adaptedness Sic et Non". To clarify another thing, I haven’t been using “criterion for well-being” to refer necessarily to either a definition of well-being or to a substantive claim about what constitutes well-being. And he then gradually fudges this into the claim that facts about what maximises the sum of human well-being are objective moral facts. [4] In this paper I will respond to his defense of the ontological foundation of theistic morality, his claim that ethical naturalists commit the naturalistic fallacy, his view that atheists must overcome great hurdles to make their case, his critique of the argument from evil and from nonbelief, his evaluation of my defense of the Euthyphro Argument, and his defense of the consistency of original sin and intrinsic human worth. He seemed to pay insufficient attention to the meaning of his language, resulting in ambiguity and fallacies of equivocation. Naturalism is most notably a Western phenomenon, but an equivalent idea has long existed in the East. You have sufficiently clarified the gap you speak of for me to recognize it.