All of Paul Torek's Comments + Replies

Definitely "incomparable" fails to imply "equivalent". But still, where two options are incomparable according to your morality you can't use your morality to make the decision. You'll have to decide on some other basis, or (possibly?) no basis at all. To my mind this seems like an important fact about your morality, which the sentence "my moral preference between A and B is that they're incomparable" captures nicely.

I think we're disagreeing only on terminology here. It's certainly an important fact about your morals whether or not they deliver an answer to the question "A or B?" -- or at least, it's important in so far as choosing between A and B might be important. I think that if it turns out that they don't deliver an answer, it's OK to describe that situation by saying that there isn't really such a thing as your Real Actual Moral Judgement between A and B, rather than saying that there is and it's "A and B are incomparable". Especially if there are lots of (A,B) for which this happens (supporting the picture in which there are great seas of weird situations for which your moral intuitions and principles fail, within which there's an island of "normality" where they are useful), and especially if the way it feels is that you have no idea what to think about A and B, rather than that you understand them clearly and can see that there's no principled way to decide between them (which it often does).

Good point. Let's try something else then, vaguely related to my first idea.

Suppose you are given lots of time and information and arguments to ponder, and either you would eventually come up with some resolution, or you still wouldn't. In the former case, I think we've found your Actual Moral Judgment (AMJ). In the latter, I'm inclined to say that your AMJ is that the options are morally incomparable: neither is better nor worse than the other.

Of course, this analysis doesn't help *you* make the decision. It just gives an impartial observer a possible way to understand what you're doing.

I'm not sure there's really a difference between "there is no fact of the matter as to whether I prefer A to B morally" and "my moral preference between A and B is that I find them incomparable". Note that "incomparable" is not the same thing as "equivalent". That is, being persistently unable to choose between A and B is not the same as thinking that A and B are exactly equally good. E.g., it could happen that I find A and B incomparable, B and C incomparable, but A definitely better than C. (E.g., let B be a world in which no one exists and A,C be two different worlds in which there are a lot of happy people and a lot of miserable people, with different ratios of happy to miserable and about the same total number of people. I might be entirely unable to figure out whether I think the existence of happy people makes it OK on balance that there are a lot of miserable people, but I will have no trouble deciding that all else equal I prefer a better happy-to-miserable ratio.) Further: one way in which there being no fact of the matter as to which I prefer might manifest itself is that if you took multiple copies of me and gave them all more or less the same time and information arguments, they might end up coming to substantially different resolutions even though there wasn't much difference in the information they were presented with. (Perhaps none at all; it might depend on irrelevancies like my mood.) In that case, defining my "actual moral judgement" in terms of what I "would" decide in those situations would be problematic.

Lormand has a better take than Dennett. Dennett thinks qualia would have to be irreducible. Lormand writes

If such arguments were convincing, they would weigh against any reductive theory of qualia. But they should not be convincing. A powerful but not dismissive response turns on distinguishing qualia properties from ways of representing them. Even if a creature has a special way of representing phenomenal properties that is unavailable to us, we can in principle objectively specify, express, or test for these phenomenal properties in other ways.

Dennett simply defines qualia overly narrowly, letting the least naturalistic philosophers own the term.

What article or book is that quote from?