metaphysical meanderings

a quasi-conservative soldier journalist indulges in contemplative compulsions

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Rationality and Morality: What’s the Connection?

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If I fail to do what is moral, am I also failing to heed rationality? Conversely, if I succeed in doing what is moral am I being rational? This pair of questions is hotly contested in moral philosophy. Humeans (inasmuch as they are in line with Hume) say no, and Kantians and Virtue Ethicists say yes. Consequentialists get uneasy when they realize no answer to this question falls out of their theory, but I’ve found that most, when pressed, end up siding with the Humeans.
Here’s a brief argument (or rather an intertwined pair of arguments) to show that that Kantian/Virtue Ethics position is correct:


1.) Responding to reasons is rational; failing to respond to reasons is irrational. (Assumption; though I see a case for tautology)

2.) You have reasons to behave morally and reasons for not behaving immorally. (Assumption; though I see a case for tautology.)

3.) So, a.) all else equal, inasmuch as you behave morally you are being rational in that regard and b.) all else equal, inasmuch as you fail to behave morally you are being irrational in that regard. (1-2 MP)

Perhaps it could be objected that I’m using reasons so broadly that it becomes trivial. I do not think that is the case; the Humean, it seems to me, is genuinely committed to rejecting my conclusion.


Written by Spencer

March 20, 2011 at 1:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Love and Inauthentic Belief

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Consider two cases:

Smith is an atheist. However, he judges his life would go better if he believed in God. So, he begins going to church, reading the Holy Bible and bearing his testimony. He eventually forgets his reasons for atheism and his life ends up going better.

Jones hates his wife. However, he judges his life would go better if he loved his wife. So, he tells his wife that he loves her, buys flowers for her, and treats her kindly. He eventually forgets his reasons for hating his wife and his life goes better.

Intuitively, I find that these two cases are not morally on a par. Smith seems to be inauthentic, and his behavior demonstrates a breech of intellectual ethics. One should not be so willing to abandon one’s fundamental believes for psychic comfort. Jones, on the other hand seems to be very admirable in his behavior. So, I must locate something dis-similar in these two cases or else abandon the intuition that the two are dis-similar.

I  think we should hang on to the intuitions and seek a dis-analogy. I suggest this solution: “God exists” clearly expresses a clear proposition whereas “I love my wife” does not, necessarily. “I love you” can be interpreted as a descriptions of one’s own present activities like “I throw the ball to Susan” or as a speech act, like “I promise you.”

If that is right then what Jones, unlike Smith, is after is not primarily a change of belief, regardless of the truth content of the belief. It is a change in orientation toward others that is within his power to affect.  If he is successful in this, “I love you” is true as a purely descriptive statement.

Written by Spencer

February 26, 2011 at 9:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized