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Robert Johnson
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Brad, I like the perfectly humble self point. But maybe that shows that humility aint a virtue.
HI David, I think the issues around the conditional fallacy and internalism are different from the worries I have about V. There's an important normative point in the latter: Don't be trying to do what Jesus would do. Probably we should do what Jesus (or whatever version of deity you like) would advise us to do...after all, he's omniscient and omnibenevolent. I think Julia Markowitz has nicely pointed out the connection of the former to the explanatory desiderata, and the challenges of hanging on to that. But that's not what's at stake for V. I think you're right. V has to be read right to left to be a genuine version of virtue ethics. If praiseworthiness and blameworthiness get in there, well, why not drop out the 'completely virtuous' altogether?
Jussi, I think your view is coming more into focus for me. I see where you want to go, and maybe that's the way to go. So I'll just say a few more things. Regarding 1. I'm not sure what connection the virtue ethicist would like between right and wrong and praise and blame. It wouldn't be Millian, since that would give away the game, wouldn't it? In any case, either its full information or not that your idealized helper has. If the information is compromised, I don't see how that could give us a set of right actions. If it is all of the relevant information, then we're back to ideal observers. (I'm not sure how reflective equilibrium helps that issue.) Plus whatever sentiments we need to add in there so that they're wanting what is good for ordinary agent to do. I don't care what that is. My point is that it ain't full virtue that will give us the set of actions we want to call 'right' for the less than virtuous. Regarding 2. I didn't suggest the virtue of beneficence was required. It's the sentiment of benevolence (again, that's Firth, arguably Hume, et. al.) Some sentiment that insures the idealized version of me or whatever *cares* about me and my situation. You're probably right that this isn't the only sentiment that would be required. After all, many of such views were meant as accounts of a person's good, not as accounts of what is right. The issue for me is, Why is complete virtue required for that idealization? Unless it is and not just in a trivial way, it collapses into the idealized view. Regarding advising and wanting. The difference: information as far as I can tell.
BTW, Mark, what about Valerie's idea? You're inventive on the reasons stuff. Is there something in that direction?
If RNJ can persuade MvR of something, RNJ is happy. (Unless someone else out there thinks you shouldn't have been persuaded.)
Jussi I think I get the proposal. Maybe it's good enough. But the problem is the bit, "the real agent's information if you like or some contextually salient body of information". Is that *all* of the information? Or just some of it? Or how much? If all of it, then this seems to me to be full information (yes, there's no particle physics knowledge implied, but we probably don't care about it). And then we need to know why full virtue implies full information. I think it doesn't. Fully virtuous people make mistakes of fact. If they do or can, then those mistakes are a problem. The 'wants/advises' difference isn't a difference. Presumably if the ideal wants the less ideal to do something, she'll advise her to do it (ok, I can manage to construct some counters, but ...). And if she advises her to do it, she wants her to do it as well (again, modulo some counters). What does virtue add, beyond full information and benevolence? This is my only question. I'm not even sure the fully virtuous know what *they* would do in a hypothetical situation, or why they would know this. "You had to be there." Regarding your elaboration of the 3rd point. How would you respond to my worries about two standards views?
All of these excellent questions! Let me get a start on them. Mark, regarding 'completely'. I didn't think weakening in this way would work because of a not-very-imaginative reason: if someone's not completely virtuous, then we'll be hesitant to cast *all* of her actions as right. The 'completely' modifying 'virtuous' is there if we want to capture 'all' modifying 'right actions'. Something such as that. But I'm betting that won't satisfy you. Jussi and Jason: (Jason we've talked about this before, but I'm not sure I can give you an answer that will satisfy you.) Suppose we marry 'complete virtue' and 'ideal observer' into a single idealization. The question is whether virtue is still doing work in the account. My thought was that it wouldn't be doing any. It wouldn't because in ideal observer views such as Firth's, you have full information, etc. plus benevolence (or something like that). My suspicion is that the set of actions captured by that and the set of actions captured by adding 'complete virtue' are the same. Or at any rate, I'm not convinced there would be a different set. This view just collapses into an ideal observer view. Or so I think. Also, consider the 'advisor' move. My thought, again, is that complete virtue doesn't automatically give you any advising skills. I just don't see why we would expect that everything the ideally virtuous version of ourselves would want us to do would turn out to be the set of things we ought to do. Sure, our better selves would probably want us to improve ourselves. But whether it would be the right thing for us to do in any case, or what we are to do in such a case, is still up in the air. (In other words, while in general we should improve ourselves, in particular circumstances that might be wrong. Rome might be burning, after all.) To fix that, you need, as Jason himself does, to add stuff like full information. But then we're back to doubts about whether that makes this a view that is genuinely different from ideal observer views. Jussi I think your third point might well be helpful. This is the sort of move I was thinking about when I mentioned Paul Weirich's suggestion (he works on idealization in game theory.) I don't know what to say about it though at the moment. So say more. Michael, I don't have much if any argument against the proposal that self-improving actions aren't right except my conviction that, at least sometimes, they are. This might be a signal that people who find virtue ethics attractive and people who do not need to find something more to say than appealing to their intuitions. I don't know what that is yet myself.
There is still something that seems to me very puzzling in Ralph's worries. It is that the *morally* best legal system (e.g., the system that always punishes torture) will likely punish some morally required actions. That it will punish some morally permitted actions is not puzzling, since presumably punishment will sometimes, for instance, serve a necessary coordinating function (traffic tickets, say). That it will sometimes fail to punish morally forbidden actions is also not puzzling, since some of what is morally forbidden so clearly falls outside of the purview of the law (e.g., lying). But that an action is morally required of you, yet punished by the morally best legal system, does seem very troubling.
Toggle Commented Dec 17, 2008 on My Problem with Torture at PEA Soup
Hi Jussi, Interesting results. I'm skeptical too. Obviously, no ad populum inference will do. But there might be an inference to the best explanation in the offing (or as some like to call it, affirming the consequent). It would be nice if we could get social psychologists even more interested in the things philosophers are interested in. It would be interesting to find out what we ordinarily think we're doing when we talk moral talk. I fear it would be all over the map. But one point. I've long thought that it might be the case that knee-jerk undergraduate anti-realist or relativist rhetoric actually reflects deeper realist, absolutist convictions. Fear of finding that you can't defend what you believe when you are very closely identified with those belief could lead to an attempt to avoid the need to do so, and so to "you believe what you want to, I'll believe what I want to" and so on. So whatever instrument one comes up with to measure folk views would have to do something to take account of the fact that entrenched practices of dissembling or being misleading about one's metaethics could be at work.
Toggle Commented Sep 22, 2008 on Experimental Metaethics at PEA Soup