Upon Insufficient Evidence

Atheists and others prone to scientism often endorse an ethics of belief that is roughly the view articulated by W.K. Clifford in his famous essay, The Ethics of Belief:

…it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

Clifford clearly seems to be making a normative claim. Do you agree or disagree? How about the converse of Clifford’s statement? Would you say it is right always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon sufficient evidence? Why or why not?

How Would I Present Desirism?

When considering a redesign for some client’s website, I often ask, “How would I have coded this thing?” A while back, I got to thinking about desirism in the same way.

This is no offense to Alonzo, but in my honest opinion, he presents desirism ambiguously, from key tenets right down to the original name, desire utilitarianism. I may be way off here, but I get the feeling Alonzo doesn’t want the heavy burden that typically falls to those making moral claims, and that this may influence him to equivocate on select terms. Most discouraging is that regarding conventional definitions, he claims “moral terms are being used in substantially the same way that moral terms had been used.”

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I Get Email

A few days I go I received an email from bossmanham:

I took Luke’s blog off of my Google reader feed a while back because he was getting boring and predictable, but moseyed on over yesterday. I probably shouldn’t have been, but I was a little surprised that he’s focusing so much time on machine ethics. I guess that’s what you get when inventing your own ethics, but I was wondering what your thoughts were since you’ve followed his blog longer than I have?

Where to begin?

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Desirism, Doughnuts & Red Curbs

In discussions of morality, attempts to define good can get downright maddening once one applies themselves duly to the task. Yet, it seems so simple. We all know what good means, right? The problem is, my “good” might actually be your “bad,” so how might we deal with that?

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Desires Cannot Fulfill Or Thwart Other Desires

In his post Living Without A Moral Code, part 3, Luke Muehlhauser writes,

Now, it seems straightforward that my carnivorous desires are immoral. Surely my desire to eat meat tends to thwart more and stronger desires than it fulfills. It certainly thwarts the desires of the animals I eat, both by way of their death and by way of their horrifying lives packed into factory farms.

That is incorrect. Desires cannot fulfill or thwart other desires.

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Is Desirism An Objective Moral Theory?

Luke Muehlhauser claims that desirism is an objective moral theory. I think it’s quite easy to demonstrate that this is an incoherent claim. Recall that Luke defines “objective moral value” thus:

…usually, the phrase “OBJECTIVE moral value” means something like “moral value grounded in something beyond the attitudes of a person or persons.” Right? If what you’re calling “moral value” is just based off somebody’s personal attitudes, that’s called SUBJECTIVE morality. [source]

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On Intrinsic Value

As opposed to his usual complaining that he “doesn’t have time” or falsely accusing me of “not listening” to his arguments, Luke Muehlhauser actually had some salient things to say about my response to his article, In Defense of Radical Value Pluralism. I will respond to Luke here, and use those responses to articulate my broader position on the concept of intrinsic value, and how it relates to our ongoing discussions of morality.

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Atoms, Morality, Desirism & Language

That desirism is “not a moral theory” is a common objection, one that its founder Alonzo Fyfe handles in a systematic way. Today, I will try to explain why I’m skeptical of Alonzo’s response to this objection. I suppose it would be best to dive right in with some actual examples of the objection:

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“Why Shouldn’t Desirism Be Considered Respectable?”

In the thread of Something That Made Me Thing Of Desirism, commenter James Gray asks a salient question to bossmanham:

Great post here. This may be one of the reasons desirism hasn’t moved beyond the sphere of internet atheists who enjoy it. It falls to the same or similar objections that Bentham and Mill’s utilitarianism falls to. [bossmanham]

Utilitarianism is a respectable theory that has gone far beyond the sphere of internet atheists. So, why shouldn’t desirism then be considered respectable and worthy of going beyond such a sphere? [James Gray]

I began a reply of my own, only to realize it quickly grew to post-length. Frankly, I believe several reasons exist, and keep in mind I’m not assuming desirism as comparable to Mill or Bentham’s utilitarianism. Here’s just a quick rundown:

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12 Objections To Desirism

According to desirism, there is no such thing as intrinsic moral value. Rather, moral values of good, bad and permissible are determined by a desire’s relation to other desires [which I find odd in itself, as desires don’t affect people unless acted upon, but let’s leave that aside for the moment]. If this is the case, then isn’t it possible to have a state of affairs where racist and sexist desires are morally good? [cf. Cartesian’s Nazi example] On the other hand, if under all circumstances we deny the existence of a state of affairs in which racist and sexist desires can be morally good, isn’t the only valid conclusion that racist and sexist desires are examples of intrinsic moral wrongs? When are racism and sexism morally good? According to desirism, there is no such thing as intrinsic wrong. Rather, moral wrongness is determined by one desire’s relation to other desires. If this is the case, then there must be a state of affairs in which racism and sexism are morally good. If we deny the existence of a state of affairs in which racism and sexism are morally good, then we seemingly accept the notion of intrinsic right / wrong.