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Flashcards in God independent transcendent truth Deck (25)
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Define 'normative statement'

A normative statement makes a judgement; it expresses values.


Define moral cognitivism.

Cognitivism is the view that we can have moral knowledge. Moral statements are therefore truth-apt. Normative statements express beliefs.


Define noncognitivism.

Non-cognitivists do not believe that there are moral properties or facts - there is no moral truth. Rather than beliefs, noncognitive attitudes underlie moral discourse.


Define Naturalism

Naturalism is the view that moral statements can be deduced/inferred from natural facts. Naturalists believe that ethical statements can be true, and are made true by objective features of the world.


Define moral relativism

Because there is no single objective moral truth, there is only relative morality.


Provide three reasons for believing in the existence of moral truth.

1. We can make moral mistakes.
2. We can make moral progress.
3. Morality makes demands from outside of us, independently of our self-interest.


Explain the idea that moral truth is transcendent

It is the idea that moral truth must be distinct from the empirical world, and in some way superior.


Why might Philosophers argue for the existence of transcendent, somehow superior moral truth?

We commonly experience a conflict between what we believe to be moral, and what we want to do. In such cases, the moral pull seems superior, higher.
Furthermore we do not see morality in other parts of the natural world, implying that moral values do not originate in the empirical universe, but rather exist beyond it.


Explain Plato's forms in relation to moral truth.

There are abstract Forms, which link to moral values like truth and justice, which exist in the intelligible realm. All of the above forms originate from the Form of the Good; what all values have in common is this link.


List the four features of the form of the Good.

1. Self evidently what people desire.
2. The purpose of all action
3. The foundation of excellence
4. An unchanging, constant truth


Outline the simile of the sun

In the simile, Plato points out that sight and vision are deficient - to see, you also need light, which is generated by the sun. Similarly, in order to have knowledge, we must have truth, which is caused by the form of the Good. So, if there was no objective morality, there would be no knowledge.


Similarities between the sun and the good

1. Sun is the source of life; the good is the source of value
2. The sun enables the living world to flourish; the good allows us to see what is right, and therefore flourish.
3. All plants and animals seek light; all life strives to reach the good life.


Explain the analogy with mathematical truth

Numbers are not part of the empirical world, and yet there are mathematical truths. Some claim numbers are abstract objects, which exist outside of time, independently of human beings. For example, 2 + 2 = 4 before we developed then concepts of numbers... In other words, mathematical truth can be discovered. It is discovered by intuition, which can be trained.


Link morality to the mathematical analogy.

Moral values, equally, are transcendent, exist independently of humans, can be discovered via intuition, and this intuition can be trained.

Furthermore, for Plato, the Good is like a mathematical axiom - once we can understand it, we can make further inferences.


What are the three arguments for believing in moral truth?

Moral progress, external demands, and the ability to make moral errors.


Outline three issues with transcendent moral truth

Aristotle's objection: good is not a universal quality.

Moral elitism

Weakness of the will


Verification principle

JL Mackie


Outline the problem of good not being universal

According to Aristotle, good is not a universal quality. Instead, it depends on the essence of an individual. A good teacher is not the same as being a good fireman. Good can be defined in terms of different categories of being - good time, good place, etc.


Explain the problem of moral elitism

Plato argued that only those with a certain temperament, and specialist training, could possess moral knowledge.

But first, it seems as if everyone has a capacity for knowledge. Eg. Everyone seems to have a conscience.

Secondly, moral elitism poses a problem for accountability... If some people are simply destined to never know what is good/bad, how can they be held responsible?


Response to elitism

Other areas of knowledge, such as physics, require a certain aptitude, and a large amount of study/training. These people are experts, not elitists!


Explain the weakness of the will

Weakness of the will - knowing that x is better than y, but doing y anyway.

Plato argued this is impossible - knowing the good compels the agent to perform the good action.

Moral cognitivism often claim that what is morally good is good all things considered.

But weakness of the will is possible. Though some philosophers try to argue that people are often mistaken about y being better than x, others point out that humans are simply not rational. We can want to do y even if we know it is the good option.


Why would David Hume find the issue of weakness of the will problematic?

Hume believed that reason alone is 'inert'. It is a slave to the passions, and so reason can only be a motivating factor if it is in some way tied to desires.


How does cultural relativism criticise transcendent truth?

Relativist would assert that the relativity of moral judgements implies that there is no moral truth - instead, what is moral is determined by a culture's standards.


How does logical positivism undermine transcendent truth?

Plato's forms are empirically and analytically unverifiable. Empty metaphysical speculation.

Emotivism - there is no moral truth.


Explain JL Mackies argument from queerness

Mackie claims that for moral properties to exist, it would have to be the case that 'objective prescriptions' could exist (I.e. Categorical imperatives).

First - he claims that these would be entities unlike any other - their existence is prima facie implausible.

Second - we would need some kind of faculty of perception unlike ordinary ways of seeing.


How did Mackie relate his problem to platonic forms?

Plato's form of the good is such that mere comprehension of a things link to the form somehow automatically gives rise to moral motivation. The 'weirdness' of the good resides in its ability to magically trigger motivation.