I'm still bothered by the fact that different people mean different and in fact contradictory things by "moral realism".

The SEP says that moral realism means thinking that (some) morality exists as objective fact, which can be discovered through thinking or experimentation or some other process which would lead all right-thinking minds to agree about it. That is also how I understood the term before reading these posts.

And yet Eliezer seems to call himself (or be called?) a moral realist, even though he explicitly only talks about MoralGood!Eliez... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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I'm still bothered by the fact that different people mean different and in fact contradictory things by "moral realism".

This is a strong argument against moral realism. If the thing were true, it would be easier to define - or at least, different people's definitions would be of the same object, even if they explained it differently.

1Rob Bensinger6y "Morality exists" and "as objective fact" are interpolations. The SEP article just defines moral realism as the claim that at least one moral statement is true (in the correspondence-theory sense of 'true'). So moral realism is success theory (as contrasted with error theory), or success theory + moral-correspondence-theory. 'Right-thinking' in what sense? Whence in the SEP article are you getting this claim? 'The SEP says' is also a mistake. The article you linked to defines 'moral realism' one way; the article on moral anti-realism [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-anti-realism/] defines it in a completely different way. (One that does try to make sense of an 'objectivity' constraint.) Good evidence that this is a bad word.
3TheAncientGeek6y Another hypothesis is that EY is inconsistent is his views, ie he attaches the standard meaning to MR, but doesn't always espouse it.,

Is the orthogonality thesis at odds with moral realism?

by ChrisHallquist 6y5th Nov 20131 min read118 comments


Continuing my quest to untangle people's confusions about Eliezer's metaethics... I've started to wonder if maybe some people have the intuition that the orthogonality thesis is at odds with moral realism.

I personally have a very hard time seeing why anyone would think that, perhaps in part because of my experience in philosophy of religion. Theistic apologists would love to be able to say, "moral realism, therefore a sufficiently intelligent being would also be good." It would help patch some obvious holes in their arguments and help them respond to things like Stephen Law's Evil God Challenge. But they mostly don't even try to argue that, for whatever reason.

You did see philosophers claiming things like that back in the bad old days before Kant, which raises the question of what's changed. I suspect the reason is fairly mundane, though: before Kant (roughly), it was not only dangerous to be an atheist, it was dangerous to question that the existence of God could be proven through reason (because it would get you suspected of being an atheist). It was even dangerous to advocated philosophical views that might possibly undermine the standard arguments for the existence of God. That guaranteed that philosophers could used whatever half-baked premises they wanted in constructing arguments for the existence of God, and have little fear of being contradicted.

Besides, even if you think an all-knowing would also necessarily be perfectly good, it still seems perfectly possible to have an otherwise all-knowing being with a horrible blind spot regarding morality.

On the other hand, in the comments of a post on the orthogonality thesis, Stuart Armstrong mentions that:

I've read the various papers [by people who reject the orthogonality thesis], and they all orbit around an implicit and often unstated moral realism. I've also debated philosophers on this, and the same issue rears its head - I can counter their arguments, but their opinions don't shift. There is an implicit moral realism that does not make any sense to me, and the more I analyse it, the less sense it makes, and the less convincing it becomes. Every time a philosopher has encouraged me to read a particular work, it's made me find their moral realism less likely, because the arguments are always weak.

This is not super-enlightening, partly because Stuart is talking about people whose views he admits he doesn't understand... but on the other hand, maybe Stuart agrees that there is some kind of conflict there, since he seems to imply that he himself rejects moral realism.

I realize I'm struggling a bit to guess what people could be thinking here, but I suspect some people are thinking it, so... anyone?