Home

A. Overview and Conclusion of Volume 1

[i:1] Morality is an academic discipline both in terms of moral knowledge and the nature of reality. This approach limits the study of morality to empirical and rational deliberations of the origins, nature, limits, and justification of the knowledge of morality along with the establishment of the nature, properties, and attributes of moral reality.

[i:2] One major difficulty that all ethicists must address is what is the origin and nature of moral freedom? Either every effect has a cause—determinism, or some effects do not have a cause. Either freedom exists or it doesn’t exist. The universal academic acceptance of evolution and natural selection seems to point to determinism as the answer. Even the distinctions between primary and secondary qualities, as will be shown, results in deterministic evaluations. However, freedom can be justified as an acceptable axiom or postulate. Although freedom may not be empirically provable, freedom is intuitively agreeable and practical. Mathematics starts off with many unprovable axioms and postulates with no weakening effects to it analytic structure. Combining the primary and secondary qualities distinction, along with the axiom or postulate of freedom, addresses or avoids David Hume’s “is-ought problem, along with G.E. Moore’s naturalistic fallacy, is consonant with Immanuel Kant’s deterministic phenomenal realm and his assumption of freedom in the noumenal realm, and agrees with John Stuart Mill’s deterministic proofs of “means to an end” and his freely chosen unprovable “ultimate ends.” Such varied logical consistency is evidence that the approach presented for the justification of freedom along with evolutionary determinism is coherent with a broad range of perspectives.

[i:3] Another major issue that all ethicists must address is what is language and is it able to communicate the ideas and concepts of morality? Several perspectives are presented such as language being similar to sense data, identical to thought, pluralistic, and a tool for crossing over to experience the incommunicable. In the end it will be shown that a wide variety of language communications are appropriate for differing types of communications. Mathematics can effectively evaluate sense data but not emotions or history. Body language can effectively communicate emotions, pain and pleasure but not sense data. Verbal and written language can effectively communicate history, purposes and ends and at times may even be identical with thought itself. Lastly there are some thoughts and experiences that transcend any type of communicative frameworks making them incommunicable. Communication is not something that can be reduced to a single type of activity, rather communication is wide and varied just as experiences are. However, as effective as communication can be, it needs to be recognized that communication certainly cannot directly communicate the incommunicable, and there are always knowledge issues of just how effective or accurate communication can be of any type of subjective cognitive experience. Yet if the incommunicable subjective ideas are shared by intersubjective agreements, then language can have the ability of “pointing” towards the shared experiences, and the incommunicable can, for all practical purposes, become communicable.

[i:4] This is a work that will linguistically describe the framework of morality both as a descriptive science and as a prescriptive metaphysics. Linguistic relativism is not a necessary state of affairs, rather through the use of linguistic expressions it is possible to point to different coherent and diverse worldviews, and then use the intersubjective agreements as a practical framework for acquiring a consensus on moral decision-making in pluralistic environments. Such success will result in us becoming better stewards of a global community of engaged learners.

B. Goals

[i:5] After reading Epistemology & Metaphysics of Morality, the reader should be able to:

1. [i:6] Provide the distinguishing characteristics between analytic statements and synthetic statements, and how they relate to a priori and a posteriori evidence, and explain how this discussion relates to morality.

2. [i:7] Present the various combinations Immanuel Kant makes with the analytic, synthetic, a priori and a posteriori distinctions and explain why some are logically possible and some are not. Then present the significance of Synthetic a priori statements and explain how they relate to mathematics and to morality.

3. [i:8] Explain what the epistemological and metaphysical limits of academic knowledge are, and how those limits differ from nonacademic disciplines.

4. [i:9] Be informed as to whether or not Darwin talks about "survival of the fittest" or "Natural Selection” and explain what the differences are between them and how the distinctions relate to purpose and ultimately to morality.

5. [i:10] Know what the distinguishing characteristics are between primary qualities and secondary qualities. Explain Bishop Berkley's tree in the forest question and explain the issues involved with the perception of say "green grass." Provide some examples of historical philosophers that have thought that principles of morality were primary qualities, and some that thought that the principles of morality were secondary qualities and why.

6. [i:11] Present how holistic dualism is distinct from just dualism and how holistic dualism successfully addresses the scientific considerations of Hume, Kant, Mill, Moore and Dawkins.

7. [i:12] Grasp the intractable paradox of free-will and determinism as they relate to various cause and effect relationships.

8. [i:13] Express the philosophical issues related to communication, (e.g., language as sense data, thought, pluralistic) and the limits of differing language frameworks and describe how language is able to cross over into the incommunicable intersubjective agreements such as moral principlism.

9. [i:14] Summarize how through the process of natural selection, there has arisen nonrelative intersubjective universal values, even though there are unresolvable differences in the personal and social beliefs as to how to specify, weigh and balance those universal intersubjective values.

10. [i:15] Understand what axioms and postulates are, and why they are necessary for analytic a priori knowledge and how they might be necessary for the discussion of freedom and morality.

INTRODUCTION 

A. Epistemology

1. Definition

[i:16] Every discipline, including moral philosophy, must first establish what knowledge is and what qualifies as the appropriate method for knowledge acquisition. The study of the origin, nature, and limits of knowledge, including especially the study of the nature of knowledge justification, is called epistemology. The central epistemological question for this section is what can be known and/or not known about the origin, nature, and limits of moral knowledge. A dualistic framework will aid in the epistemological discussion, while at the same time it will be important to recognize that reality is in fact holistic.

[i:17] The first dualistic distinction that will be made regarding moral knowledge is the distinction between synthetic and analytic statements.

2. Synthetic Statements

[i:18] In the empirical sciences acceptable knowledge is usually based on sense experience and the resultant theories derived from the rational evaluation of such evidence. This empirical knowledge is usually expressed as synthetic statements in which the predicate is not contained in the subject such as “green light means go.” “Go” the predicate, does not have the same definition as “green light.” “Green light” might mean that the individual is to “put in the computer disk.” Synthetic statements are not true by definition, rather they are contingently true by interpretation of the circumstances surrounding the statement, and they provide new interpretive knowledge. Synthetic statements can be verified empirically by sense experience. Knowledge that is verified by sense experience is called a posteriori knowledge.

[i:19] Synthetic statements therefore provide new knowledge at the expense of being only conditionally true or what can be referred to as small “t” truths. Synthetic statements in which the predicate is not contained in the subject do not provide categorical or universal absolute truths, or what can be referred to as capital “T” truths, rather they can only provide contingent or small “t” truths.

[i:20] The question that will need to be addressed is whether or not from statements of fact, sense experience, it is possible to come to statements of ought, i.e. moral claims.

3. Analytic Statements

[i:21] In many areas of philosophy, acceptable knowledge is based on the logical conclusions derived from agreed upon definitions. Such nonempirical rational knowledge is usually expressed as analytic statements in which the predicate is contained in the subject, such as “all bachelors are unmarried men.” “Unmarried men” the predicate, is the same definition and/or is contained in the subject “bachelors,” and is therefore an analytic statement. Analytic statements are also considered to be tautological, meaning that they do not provide any new knowledge in that the predicate is merely a different formulation of the subject. Analytic statements are true by definition and therefore in contrast with synthetic statements, are absolutely or universally true regardless of what sense experience or circumstances are surrounding the statement. Knowledge that is verified independently of sense experience is called a priori knowledge.

[i:22] Analytic statements provide absolute definitional knowledge, or what can be called capital “T” Truths, at the expense of not providing any new knowledge much like the expression, “a rose is a rose” which is absolutely true at the expense of not being very interesting or informative. Analytic statements are tautological statements or categorical absolute truths—true by definition.

[i:23] The question that will need to be addressed is whether or not from statements that are true by definition—analytic statements, it is possible to establish categorically true moral claims.

4. Synthetic A Priori Statements

[i:24] There are four different combinations that can be made with the analytic/synthetic and the a priori/a posteriori distinctions;

a. Analytic a posteriori,

b. Synthetic a posteriori,

c. Analytic a priori, and

d. Synthetic a priori.

a. Analytic a posteriori 

[i:25] Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, argued that the first distinction, analytic a posteriori is not logically consistent as cognitive experiences, such as definitions, cannot be "sensed" or empirically verified. Since analytic a posteriori statements are contradictory, it follows that all analytic statements are a priori statements.

b. Synthetic a posteriori 

[i:26] The second distinction, synthetic a posteriori is logically consistent. Synthetic meaning the predicate is not contained in the subject and is therefore contingently true based on a posteriori empirical sense experience.

c. Analytic a priori 

[i:27] The third distinction, analytic a priori is logically consistent. Analytic meaning the predicate is contained in the subject and being true by definition, and a priori because the analytic statement can be verified independently of empirical sense experience.

d. Synthetic a priori 

[i:28] The fourth distinction, synthetic a priori, Kant held to be not only logically consistent but also one of the most important experiential and rational relationships. Synthetic meaning the predicate is not directly contained in the subject, and a priori because the synthetic statement can be verified independently of empirical sense experience.

[i:29] Immanuel Kant thought that mathematics and morality were synthetic a priori statements. For example, 5+7=12 is interesting in that 12, the predicate, is not directly contained in the subject of 5+7, and is therefore a synthetic statement. The relationship between "5", "7", and "+", i.e. axioms, cannot be determined by empirical sense experience, rather the relationship is determined a priori meaning independent of empirical sense experience. Once the relationship of addition has been defined a priori, then the mathematical statement in which the predicate is not contained in the subject can be determined as being not contingently true, that is based on experience, but rather as absolutely or categorically True. It is a blend of the dualistic framework that will aid in the epistemological and metaphysical discussions, while at the same time recognizing the logical necessity of what will later be called a holistic reality.

[i:30] With regard to morality, the question that will need to be addressed is whether or not some or, as Kant argued, all moral claims are synthetic a priori statements in which moral axioms are needed in order to establish moral claims which for Kant was;

1) duty to oneself of “self-perfection,” and

2) duty towards others of “happiness of others.”

[i:31] Since the a priori / a posteriori distinction is based on whether the statement is true independent of sense experience or only true as established by sense experience, it follows that the distinction is epistemological.

[i:32] Since the analytic/synthetic distinction is based on whether or not the predicate is contained in the subject, i.e. definitional, it follows that the distinction is linguistic.

[i:33] Since the analytic/synthetic distinction results in propositions that are either absolutely/categorically True or contingently true, it follows that the distinction is also metaphysical.

B. Metaphysics

1. Definition

[i:34] Metaphysics deals with the question of existence and the properties of that which does exist. Some topics that metaphysicians address are cosmology, the nature of science, primary and secondary qualities, free-will and determinism, identity, and language.

2. Academics

a. Limits

[i:35] To the extent that academics is based on analytic and synthetic statements and on rational and empirical evidence, academics has significant epistemological limits as to what it can metaphysically determine. Academics cannot, for example, provide empirical evidence for the nonexistence of "something" as the evidence of nonexistence would obviously not exist. Empirical evidence can only evaluate the evidence for that which does exist. However, it is also the case that just because there is no empirical sense data for the establishment of a particular something’s existence, it does not necessarily mean that the something does not exist either. But, if there is empirical sense data of existence then that would be evidence of something’s existence. Therefore academics is limited in its ability to determine the empirical nonexistence of something, as empiricism can only establish evidence for existence. For example, empiricism is limited in that there is no sense data evidence available for the establishment of the existence or nonexistence of the tooth fairy or an immaterial god.

[i:36] Although empiricism cannot provide evidence of nonexistence, empiricism can provide empirical proofs that particular factual claims are false, such as a geocentric solar system in which the Earth is in the center and all the planets including the Sun revolve around the Earth, instead of a heliocentric solar system in which the Sun is the center and all the planets revolve around it.

[i:37] Analytic statements can prove the nonexistence of contradictory and/or logically inconsistent claims such as an unmarried bachelor, or the sound of one hand clapping.

[i:38] Since this is an academic text, and since academics is based on the strengths and limitations of empirical evidence and rational reasoning, it follows that this text will also be limited by the dualistic natures of synthetic and analytic statements.

b. Academic universal principles

[i:39] In spite of the academic limitations of empirical and rational discourse, ultimately this text will establish moral principles that are consistent with, derivable from, or at least not in contradiction with most academic and non-academic worldviews.

[i:40] Many people believe that it is not possible to have a non-authoritarian or non-religious faith-based morality. Therefore, this section will also address how an academic description of moral principles is in fact possible. In other words, the following description is not an atheistic or anti-religious argument rather it is a description of how the resultant moral principles can be academically justified independently of authoritarian or religious faith-based perspectives using empirical and rational reasoning.

[i:41] The topics that will be discussed in this chapter are the epistemological nature and extent of knowledge that can be known about moral principles and the metaphysical traits of those principles as presented by natural selection, the nature of science, primary & secondary qualities, free-will & determinism, identity, and language.

[i:42] In addressing the issue of epistemology and metaphysics, a good place to start is in the beginning, literally. It will also be shown that all areas of scientific enquiry seem to be reductively dualistic, yet holistic when examined comprehensively, i.e., holistic dualism.

SUMMARY: Introduction

[i:43] All academic fields of study need to investigate epistemology: the origins, nature, limits, and justification of knowledge; and metaphysics: the claims of what exists, and the properties of such existence.

Epistemology 

[i:44] What is acceptable for the empirical sciences is different from the analytic sciences. The empirical disciplines accept knowledge attained by sense data, and the analytic disciplines accept knowledge attained by rational analysis. The scientific method then synthesizes the empirical and rational approaches of knowledge acquisition using a reflective process. For example, the theory of evolution is based on empirical evidential knowledge and this empirical knowledge is then interpreted by rational analysis in a back and forth process, that then results in theory conclusions, such as the theory of gravity, or theory of evolution.

[i:45] There are two main types of epistemological statements, synthetic statements and analytic statements. Synthetic statements are conditionally true statements in which the predicate is not contained in the subject, e.g., green light means “go.” Analytic statements are universally true statements in which the predicate is contained in the subject, e.g. all bachelors are unmarried men, or 5+7=12, and are therefore tautological. Synthetic statements provide additional knowledge at the expense of being only conditionally true. Analytic statements provide absolute universal claims at the expense of not providing any new additional knowledge.

Metaphysics

[i:46] In dealing with existence and its properties it must first be recognized that there are academic limits as to what can be learned. For example, academics cannot establish the empirical nonexistence of "something," rather empiricism can only establish evidence for existence. In contrast, analytic statements can prove the nonexistence of contradictory and/or logically inconsistent claims such as an unmarried bachelor, or the sound of one hand clapping. Although empiricism cannot prove nonexistence it can of course falsify particular factual claims such as a geocentric conception of the solar system.

[i:47] Although there are great differences between faith based claims and academic based claims with regard to epistemology and metaphysics, it will be shown that there still seems to be an interrelated consensus as to acceptable universal moral claims, even though there are great differences as to the personal and social beliefs as to how to specify, weigh and balance those intersubjective values.

[i:48] Please take: Quiz 1

CONTACT

___________________________________________________________________________________________

© 2015 Jeffrey W. Bulger. All rights reserved.

built by Jeffrey W. Bulger