Talk:Moralistic fallacy

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11 Jan 2011 undoing of 27 Nov 2010 revision:[edit]

I undid the revision to reinstate, as an example of naturalistic fallacy, the statement Adultery is acceptable because people can naturally want more sexual partners. Acceptable to whom? Unless one cites findings, in natural science, showing that this is a natural law, this is indeed a naturalistic fallacy. Whether or not adultery is acceptable—a moral question—appears to be cultural and personal. One's own answer to this question emerges through an intellectual framework interpreting and placing relative values on occurrences. That adultery is acceptable does not appear to be a law of nature universally imposed.

Kusername (talk) 06:32, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

Logic is difficult for humans[edit]

Please, do not revise statements in the article to add inductions and positivistic assertions, such as, about the moralistic fallacy, It wrongly presumes that what ought to be — that which is deemed preferable — will have some bearing on what is or what naturally occurs.

No, it does not "wrongly" presume that—it simply presumes that. The presumption could be either wrong or right. It is a logical fallacy because it presumes that it is necessarily right—deducing upon an induced general law lacking logical necessity—not because it is necessarily wrong. We lack metaphysical knowledge to know that morality has no bearing on the natural world.

Kusername (talk) 05:57, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

We may lack the metaphysical knowledge to know that morality has no bearing on the natural world, but we possess paleontological knowledge that strongly suggests Earth existed for billions of years before the appearance of any organism capable of having morality. Unless morality has a metaphysical existence independent of organisms capable of having morality (that is, organisms capable of functioning as moral agents), then if morality bears on the natural world, this effect is recent, and it should be possible to identify features in the natural world that came into being with the appearance of moral agents, which were not there before. Given that geologists and paleontologists have not identified any dramatic changes in natural processes that coincided with the first appearance of morality, it would seem safe to conclude, at least provisionally, that if morality bears on the natural world, its effects must be subtle, perhaps negligible. Of course humans, informed by their morality, have such enormous impacts on the natural world that some scientists claim we are now in the Anthropocene epoch, but these impacts are adequately explained by physical processes (such as the greenhouse effect enhancement from our carbon dioxide emissions) with no need to appeal to metaphysics. That is, our morality does bear indirectly on the natural world via a long causal chain (e.g., a person sees it as morally acceptable to fly on holiday, thereby generating greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn contribute slightly to man-made climate change), but morality is bearing primarily on human behavior, which then has consequences for the natural world. To claim that morality somehow reaches out and directly influences the natural world would seem counter to everything we observe. Granted, we haven't absolutely ruled out the possibility, much as we haven't ruled out the existence of Russell's teapot and the Flying spaghetti monster, but we can reasonably regard these possibilities as so improbable that they are all but impossible. --Teratornis (talk) 08:04, 24 March 2014 (UTC)

Section "Seville Statement on Violence" gradually succumbed to naturalistic fallacy[edit]

I had earlier edited the section to close, "Some[who?] have criticized the Seville Statement for moralistic fallacy. Some indicate that evolutionary psychology and neuropsychology suggest that human violence, whether or not it is moral or necessary, has biological roots. It might be notable, however, that the origin of such organized violence as wars could be a finer distinction".

It now closes, "Some, including Steven Pinker, have criticized the Seville Statement as an example of the moralistic fallacy. Research in the areas of evolutionary psychology and neuropsychology suggest that human violence has biological roots".

It didn't take "research" to suggest this. All things that humans do have biological roots, unless some are supernatural. It is an argument made by some, rather irrelevantly except to open the door for naturalistic fallacy, apparently.

Earlier the section explained—in words now deleted—that the Seville Statement concludes, "Just as 'wars begin in the minds of men', peace also begins in our minds. The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each of us".

Yes, even in the current neodarwinist paradigm of biology—hardly verified to offer scientific realism to begin with—it does appear that wars were "invented" in the human mind, and then enacted. Unless wars came to humans from the god of war, perhaps, the Seville Statement's conclusion that "wars begin in the minds of men" and that humans are also "capable of inventing peace" is logical enough on the first count and apparently possible on the second count, hardly refuted by the truism that violence has "biological roots". Indeed, war is not supernatural. Or is war a physiologic process, but lack of war is nonphysiologic, a psychologic artifact? What natural law describes that? The Wikipedia article still specifies, "The statement purported to refute 'the notion that organized human violence is biologically determined'"—key words organized and determined.

Although other great apes display violence, it appears unlikely other great apes, which humans are presumed to share a common ancestor with, orchestrate and wage what we call wars. And bonobo chimps are distinctly more peaceful than are common chimps. Some time later I'll remove this subtle naturalistic fallacy that, in keeping with the social Darwinism and scientism of our time—via inductivism then positivism—has crept into the article. We do not know that war derives from a deterministic natural law and that it is moralistic folly, begging to defy human capacity, to try to "invent peace". Despite cynicism, war is not constant for everyone, and peace occurs sometimes. By the current paradigm of biology, then, peace also has biological roots.

We're trying to impose the paradigm errors of biomedicine (applied science) onto biology (pure science) by linguistically replicating biomedicine's lens of reductionism (viewing isolated components), presumptions of mathematic linearity (2 + 2 = 4), but inferences of holism (viewing organism level) plus determinism (unbreakable law) [Skurvydas A, "Paradigm errors in the old biomedical science", Medicina (Kaunas), 2008;44(5):356-65]. Even avowed skeptics confuse medical ideology with positively proved biological facts and truths [Clarke JN et al, "The paradoxical reliance on allopathic medicine and positivist science among skeptical audiences", Soc Sci Med, 2007 Jan;64(1):164-73]. Thus biomedical ideology is a massive cult [Laderman G, "The cult of doctors: Harvey Cushing and the religious culture of modern medicine", J Religion Health, 2006;45(4):533-48].

Biology scarcely has even physiologic laws deterministic—physiologic laws are probabilistic. So to infer physiologic determinism not even on bodily functions but in behavior, not even daily behavior but war, simply because it has "biological roots", stumbles at the problem of induction and the assumption of uniformitarianism. Most laws in biology are ceteris paribus laws, applicable amid the assumption that all else is equal. Even if war so far were a deterministic inevitability given the history of humans, that does not logically support the induction that it is a deterministic inevitability in future conditions.

"Many explications of important key concepts in philosophy of science essentially rely on laws of nature. For instance, a majority of theories of causation, explanation, confirmation [of hypotheses and theories], determinism, counterfactuals [that is, alternate scenarios whereby an observed fact is replaced with one hypothetical], etc., presuppose laws of nature. Until the second half of the 20th century, certain characteristics of laws of nature were taken for granted by philosophers of science: Laws of nature were taken to be true, logically contingent, universal statements that support counterfactual claims. [...] The paradigm cases for such laws were taken from (fundamental) physics. [...]

"Philosophers of science were aware of the fact that there are hardly any universal laws of this kind in biology, psychology, economics, or other special sciences. This posed no problem as long as there was a consensus that this might be conceived as a shortcoming of the special sciences. However, with the success especially of the biological sciences, it became clear that there is genuine scientific knowledge that does not conform to the paradigm of physics. As a consequence, scientific practice in the special sciences was no longer taken to be deficient, but was analyzed as a legitimate practice different from physics. One important way in which the special sciences seem to differ from fundamental physics concerns the generalizations in biology [...]

"What is important here is that all of these [example] generalizations are non-universal. That is, there are (actual and merely possible) situations in which the above generalizations do not hold, although all the conditions obtain that are explicitly stated in the antecedent of the generalization. In other words, there are situations in which the following is the case: [...] the lack of vitamin C does not cause scurvy" [Reutlinger A, Schurz G, Hüttemann A, "Ceteris paribus laws", Stanford Encyclopedia Philos, Spring 2011, Zalta EN (ed)].

Psychologist Alice Miller has identified a particular pattern in the childhoods of tyrants, a pattern apparently absent from those who experienced similar childhood mistreatment but retained general empathy [Miller A, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, 4th edn (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002) <>]. And the tolerance for, even espousal of, the victimisation of the weak appears to be generally trained in humans, insidiously, as part of normal childrearing [Miller A, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child (Pluto, 1998)]. Early childhood experiences critically impact gene expression and brain development [Murgatroyd C & Spengler D, "Epigenetics of early child development", Front Psychiatry, 2011;2:16]. Childhood mistreatment increases susceptibility to hormonal dysregulation by way of the HPA axis [Van Voorhees E & Scarpa A, "The effects of child maltreatment on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis", Trauma Violence Abuse, 2004 Oct;5(4):333-52].

I have not read the Seville Statement on Violence. But as quoted earlier and now in this section, it is more logical than is the naturalistic fallacy, upon merely an induction, metaphysical, that the organized violence called war is not merely biologically rooted—alike any other human behavior not supernatural—but rather is biologically determined, a necessity amid all reasonably possible conditions.

Kusername (talk) 07:53, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

All things humans do have biological roots, but some things humans do - such as designing and piloting jet aircraft - seem to occur at quite a few levels removed from any behaviors we observe in our primate relatives. If designing and piloting jet aircraft "has biological roots" then "research" would seem necessary to explain those roots coherently (as opposed to tautologically). It's much easier to find behaviors resembling organized warfare in our primate relatives, as Jane Goodall documented among the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park. Identifying the biological basis of a behavior does not commit one to make the naturalistic fallacy, any more than identifying genes that cause cancer amounts to declaring that we ought to have cancer. Genes cause cancer via multi-step causal chains (see proximate and ultimate causation) which can be interrupted at numerous points - therefore, identifying oncogenes is an important step in devising therapies to prevent or treat cancer.
A beauty contest is a complex, organized social behavior which pretty clearly has biological roots (ask any evolutionary psychologist), but it hardly follows that all human societies inevitably stage beauty contests, nor that those which do are unable to choose otherwise.
Ascribing tyrannical behavior to early childhood influences hardly gets one off the naturalistic hook, because you're still talking about how human biology responds to those influences. That is, if humans have the capacity to become violent under certain circumstances, then perhaps they evolved that capacity, which would imply that under certain prevailing environmental conditions, our ancestors enjoyed greater reproductive success by being violent and preying on the weak. Perhaps Mommy's urge to spank is due to her genes driving her to rear children equipped to prosper in a tough world.
And tyranny and a lack of empathy are hardly requirements for warfare - we can observe, for example, a President Obama who exhibits great concern for the welfare of the poor and weak in his own country, yet ordering up strikes against his country's enemies in another country. Are we to imagine that everyone involved in planning and conducting the raid that killed Osama bin Laden did so because he or she had been spanked as a child? Even if Obama abhors violence, he might find himself in a position where it is politically expedient.
Your implication that Steven Pinker is opening the door to the naturalistic fallacy runs counter to Pinker's own writings; see for example The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined which, as the title suggests, documents the long-term decline in violence committed by humans, despite our biological predispositions. Pinker cannot believe, nor could he be suggesting, that a biological basis for violence dooms us to be violent. Pinker does not resemble that straw man. --Teratornis (talk) 09:39, 24 March 2014 (UTC)