Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oderberg on ethics

Two recent pieces on ethics from David Oderberg: “The Doctrine of Double Effect,” from T. O'Connor and C. Sandis, eds., A Companion to the Philosophy of Action; and a popular lecture, “Why I am not a Consequentialist.” (Warning: PDF files)

29 comments:

Eric said...

Edward, off topic I know, but as a new visitor I'm wondering if the following is worth consideration -

We all have imaginations, to a greater or less level of creativity and strength of sensations. Being a race- car driver, or making love with someone.

We all dream, apart from a few anomalous cases. Some we remember, some we do not.

Dreams can be very close to real situations, or they can be far-fetched. Some dreams place us as different characters in different times. Study of these dreams may elicit themes or characterizations in our real lives which are being represented in those dreams.

There are cases cited of people ‘discovering’ previous lives through hypnosis, creating a belief in reincarnation.

Could it be that the same neural activity that creates the dreams of a different time and place create these ‘former lives’?

Recent reports indicate that the ‘bright light’ people see in death prior to resuscitation are storms of electrical activity in the brain at the point of death.

Given the above hypotheses, is there a correlation to people claiming to have been ‘spoken to’ by an invisible entity?

Anonymous said...

Given the above hypotheses, is there a correlation to people claiming to have been ‘spoken to’ by an invisible entity?

If by that you mean, "Can I just make up a possible explanation for anything I want?", sure. Solipsism can explain your posts splendidly too.

hype said...

"Recent reports indicate that the ‘bright light’ people see in death prior to resuscitation are storms of electrical activity in the brain at the point of death."

I never really understood this.
How come, on my day to day activity I can't see these "storms of electrical activity" from my neurons firing.
But when a person who has been resuscitated claims to have seen a light of some sort it's immediately waived off as being explicable in terms of neural firing.
Not that the person is seeing the results of those firing neurons but actually seeing the firing itself.

Edward Feser said...

I do not myself put much stock in odd experiences of this sort as evidence either for God's existence or for survival of death. To be sure, if God's existence, a specific system of theological doctrine, etc. are established independently, then one might justifiably interpret such experiences in light of this independent knowledge. But I do not think it promising to go straight from the experiences all by themselves to an argument for God's existence or life after death.

Edward Feser said...

I would add, though, that the identification of certain neural processes underlying these experiences by itself doesn't give any reason whatsoever to think that they are hallucinatory. Neural processes underlie all our experiences, including the ones we know to be veridical (such as the experience you're now having of reading this).

Just Thinking said...

But I do not think it promising to go straight from the experiences all by themselves to an argument for God's existence or life after death.

This is consonant with your tendency to minimize the role of subjective experience.

Would you agree with the following statement?

But I do not think it promising to go straight from the experiences all by themselves to a belief in God's existence or life after death.

hype said...

"But I do not think it promising to go straight from the experiences all by themselves to a belief in God's existence or life after death."

How is this similar to the same sentence but with "argument for" in place of "belief in"?

Arguments are mainly for the purpose of convincing others.
Something a person experiences is unique to that person and in the context of that person's life - in which that particular experience might be all the more salient.

But I think it's more important to find out why you think there is a similarity between an argument from such experience or a 'personal belief in' because of the experience.

Crude said...

Hype,

I'd agree. If I happen to experience life after death, or encounter God directly, the argument "Crude saw life after death" or "Crude encountered God" may be a weak argument on its own to get others to believe in life-after-death or God. But would it be a good belief for Crude to have? I don't see why not.

As Ed said, it's not as if people are saying that the brain "lights up" during fake experience, but doesn't during real ones. Any experience, even while brain dead, can be said to be borne of the brain's activity. I'd add, it's also not as if incredible experiences are always fake, and mundane ones are always real. A person can be deluded into thinking something mundane, such as "I ate a potato". And a person can make an incredible claim that's true. (If some excitable old man tells you about the time he walked on the moon, it's easy to write him off as nuts. But what if it's Neil Armstrong?)

Edward Feser said...

What Hype said.

I would urge everyone to get "on topic," though, or at least to read the Oderberg essays linked to, which are excellent and important.

Just Thinking said...

Ed

It is informative that you and hype reason in sync.

Unfortunately, yet predictably, you miss my simple question:

What causes for belief are you willing to accept? And which are primary?

Crude said...

To get back on topic (I feel bad for Ed, this happens with almost every post he has)...

I like Oderberg's paper on DDE. Still have to get to the second one, but I think the entire concept of the DDE is important to think about. It gets right to the heart of what I think are the most common 'tricky' aspects of doing good versus evil, in difficult situations.

Anonymous said...

A legitimate question should be addressed.

Anonymous said...

Agreed.

Anonymous at 4:10, what is your actual name?

If you see why that question is not legitimate, you see why not every question is.

Just Thinking said...

I totally concur with anon1, and cannot follow anon2. I was fairly sure Ed would ignore my question (though it still ought to be answered here), as it points out that his approach is to a theoretical rational idea of God, instead of a personal God that is subjectively encountered. Clerics and academics can come to belief using Ed’s approach, but most folk in the pews or in the dorns seek a relationship.

Oderberg is another academic whose writings here and from previous blogs demonstrate an academic at work using too many words to fill the pages of a journal with a simple idea that has already been similarly verbiaged to death centuries ago.

DDE is a muddled rationalization. Consider what he says:

For the consequentialist, all that matters is the weighing of outcomes. For the defender of DDE, what matters is the relative importance of the reasons
for taking a proposed course of action. How, though, do we assess the proportionality of good and bad effects according to reasons? …But DDE is first and foremost a doctrine about what we may do, in other words it is a doctrine of permissibility.


Too right. Now contrast w/ Kant’s

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

and ask yourself which ethical system had a better shot at preventing the sexual abuse scandals of the Catholic clergy.

George R. said...

and ask yourself which ethical system had a better shot at preventing the sexual abuse scandals of the Catholic clergy.

I don't know. It seems to me that there are a lot more Kantians in the new boy-buggering church than there were in the pre-boy-buggering church.

Lukas Novak said...

Well, regarding Kant, I've never understood how his system can ever prevent anyone from doing something wrong. If you take the "generalization test" seriously and look around yourself, you end up finding that practically anythig can be willed to become universal law. Kant assumes that when you act wrong you always know it, are always aware of the contrary law and only take an exception for yourself. Beside the fact that this is not how the vast majority of immoral acts is performed, this criterion of morality offers absolutely no clue how to solve genuine moral dispute, where both sides honestly believe they are right. Kant's ethic should be scrapped not only because of its theoretical problems, but most of all for its practical inaplicability.

Just Thinking said...

If you thing the rationalizations of relativistic terms like good and bad in DDE is superior to the Kantian imperative for acting, good for you

Just Thinking said...

Oderberg says "[C]onsequentialism is...an evil doctrine that should be avoided by all right-thinking people."

Why not just say no good Catholic can be a connie, and all non-Catholics are evil. I think we all know this is what is at the heart of his work - Roman Catholic apologetics.

BTW, such leveling of accusations like 'evil' in reference to a mode of thinking to which you do not agree is...

Edward Feser said...

I didn't ignore your question, JT; I endorsed Hype's answer to it. Anyway, there is absolutely nothing in anything I've written that implies that my approach to God is entirely "theoretical" or rejects the possibility of a "subjective encounter" with Him. I just haven't addressed that issue, since my concern in recent work has been to rebut atheistic arguments, which requires a more philosophical approach. Can't do everything at once.

In general, people really need to avoid this silly non sequitur: "Feser hasn't addressed my pet issue X, therefore Feser [rejects, is dismissive of, is insensitive to, doesn't want to face, etc.] X." See my post from a few weeks ago titled "Under the mailbag."

And here's another wacky idea: How about staying on topic?

Edward Feser said...

JT,

Your remarks about Oderberg are outrageous. For someone who calls himself "Just Thinking," you seem to do too little thinking, and too much emoting. How about trying to read what others write with some charity and nuance rather than coming out with these ill-considered knee-jerk remarks?

Just Thinking said...

Referring to the moral belief system of persons like Mill, Moore, Smart, Railton, Singer, etc. as evil is an outrageous, ill-considered, knee-jerk, insensitive, and unprofessional remark that is far less offensive than being labeled a Catholic apologist - unless of course you happen to be an apologist yourself.

It does no good to read someone’s corpus of writings with “charity and nuance” if they refuse to acknowledge the obvious implications of their stated - and unstated – ideas:

[T]here is absolutely nothing in anything I've written that implies that my approach to God is entirely "theoretical" or rejects the possibility of a "subjective encounter" with Him. I just haven't addressed that issue, since my concern in recent work has been to rebut atheistic arguments

I’m sorry, but persistent silence on the importance of a topic as central as subjective experience in theistic metaphysics says something about your philosophy that the quote above does not negate. Even w/r arguing with someone like Hitchens, the subjective reality of deity comes front and center, as you must be aware that he poses the unanswered question about the unique agency of believers not afforded an athiest.

However, my concerns about experience are far more varied than with atheists. The nature of subjective experience is central to so many metaphysical systems like dualism, empiricism, idealism, pragmatism, existentialism, process thought, phenomenology, personalism, naturalism, etc. You claim to be a metaphysician, but, without ever talking about personal identity, your claim rings quite hollow.

Edward Feser said...

JT,

If you knew the first thing about my work you'd know that I have written quite a bit on the nature of subjective experience, personal identity, etc. -- the list of my books and articles is only a mouse click or two away. What I meant in my remarks above is that I have not addressed religious experience specifically. And the reason is simply that I cannot do everything at once. In any event, it is never a good idea to think that one can get an adequate sense of some writer's work merely from a few weeks worth of blog posts.

My patience with you is wearing thin. You do not seem at all interested in anything but flinging around snotty and ill-informed remarks. You are a guest here and I am under no obligation to tolerate this sort of crap in my own combox. Either cut it out or kindly go elsewhere.

Just Thinking said...

Could you direct me to such an online article of yours - I thought I'd read all I could find, but do not recall one dealing much with the experiencing subject.

Of course I know it is your combox to control as you wish, ans as I recall reading your comments elsewhere, you seem to purge commenters pretty regularly.

Edward Feser said...

JT,

Once again your attention to accuracy leaves much to be desired. In the entire history of this blog I have "purged" exactly two commenters. You seem hell-bent on becoming #3 -- though I wonder whether you might in fact be one of the two I've already banned, under a new pseudonym. (Is that you, Burl? I know you've posted here a couple of times under "Anonymous" even though I've banned you, though I've let it slide -- despite the mania for banning people some nuttier commenters occasionally, and bizarrely, attribute to me. Most readers think, probably rightly, that I actually tolerate way too much crap in the comboxes.)

Re: the experiencing subject, try my book Philosophy of Mind.

Just Thinking said...

Ed

I'm Just Thinking, but there have been several times here when commentors thought I was Burl, or PJ, or an anon or someother.

I think these pseudonyms are silly, but since CB radios, I guess, we have sensed a need to go inconspicuously into the public sphere.

Thanks for the info. I have never looked at your POM book, largely because you seldom bring it up, leading me to think you may have shifted from some positions you may have had then.

Anonymous said...

Like I said on a previous thread, "Just Thinking" should change his name to "Just Emoting."

Daniel Smith said...

Or "Just Projecting".

hype said...

Dr. Feser,
in Oderberg's essay on consequentialism when he says that view is fundamentally 'value maximization' with respects to morality....
is that the same as stating:
I perform good behaviors (in general) and good acts to others (in particular) because good is preferred over bad and therefore should be valued?

mucheng said...
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