Quote of the Day: DC Kurtz on Moral Nihilism – Patheos

Posted: August 22, 2021 at 3:12 pm

Yes. Personally however I feel that relativism is simply a more palatable version of nihlism in that it uses the diversity of cultural stances on moral norms to dance around a silent admission that universal moral norms simply do not exist. When we look beyond that and examine the infinite complexity of human consciousness, the idea of a single consistent empirically verified moral standard becomes even more laughable. The only universal moral constant is the absence of a universal moral constant.

Thing is, I broadly agree with him, and you should know this from my voluminous writing on this topic over the years. Here is a selection:

So on and so forth.

To go over old ground again, and for new readers, morality is an abstract concept. Abstracts do not exist out there in the aether, for we should not confuse the map with the terrain. Abstracts are our conceptual way of piecing together a conceptual framework or map of the actual terrain of reality, but the conceptual framework is not the terrain.

We construct morality in our heads. There is no (Platonic) realm, out there somewhere, where morality resides. If all sentient creatures ceased to exist in the universe, morality, loyalty, maths and so on would also cease to exist (even if the instantiation of what we might interpret them in might in reality still exist).

In other words, I am a moral skeptic.

It all depends on how you define exists, because, in constructing conceptual moral frameworks, we bring morality into some kind of existence. Some people might interpret this as subjective morality, but we get onto complex ideas of truth, knowledge, cognitivism (and thus non-cognitivism), and suchlike.

Definitions, definitions, definitions.

To say one is a moral skeptic or nihilist is not to say one can or should or desires to go out murdering and cooking babies.

Now, to be sure, one would need to ask for a close definition of moral nihilism here to know we are all on the same page.

Indeed, moral nihilism is a form of moral skepticism, so it might be simplistic for me to definitely say I am both a moral skeptic and nihilist. Let wiki explain:

Moral skepticism(ormoral scepticisminBritish English) is aclassofmetaethicaltheories all members of whichentailthat no one has any moral knowledge. Many moral skeptics also make the stronger,modalclaim thatmoral knowledge is impossible. Moral skepticism is particularly opposed tomoral realism: the view that there are knowable and objective moral truths.

Moral skepticism is divided into three subclasses: moral error theory (ormoral nihilism), epistemological moral skepticism, andnoncognitivism.[1]All three of these theories reach the same conclusions, which are:

However, each method arrives at (a) and (b) by a different route.

Moral error theory holds that we do not know that any moral claim is true because

Epistemological moral skepticism is a subclass of theory, the members of which includePyrrhonianmoral skepticism and dogmatic moral skepticism. All members of epistemological moral skepticism share two things: first, they acknowledge that we are unjustified in believing any moral claim, and second, they areagnosticon whether (i) is true (i.e. on whether all moral claims are false).

Finally, Noncognitivism holds that we can never know that any moral claim is true because moral claims areincapableof being true or false (they are nottruth-apt). Instead, moral claims areimperatives(e.g. Dont steal babies!),expressions of emotion(e.g. stealing babies: Boo!), orexpressions of pro-attitudes(I do not believe that babies should be stolen.)

Moralerror theoryis a position characterized by its commitment to two propositions: (i) all moral claims are false and (ii) we have reason to believe that all moral claims are false. The most famous moral error theorist is J. L. Mackie, who defended the metaethical view inEthics: Inventing Right and Wrong(1977). Mackie has been interpreted as giving two arguments for moral error theory.

The first argument people attribute to Mackie, often called theargument from queerness,[2]holds that moral claims imply motivation internalism (the doctrine that It is necessary anda priorithat any agent who judges that one of his available actions is morally obligatory will have some (defeasible) motivation to perform that action[3]). Because motivation internalism is false, however, so too are all moral claims.

The other argument often attributed to Mackie, often called the argument from disagreement,[3]maintains that any moral claim (e.g. Killing babies is wrong) entails a correspondent reasons claim (one has reason not to kill babies). Put another way, if killing babies is wrong is true then everybody has a reason to not kill babies. This includes the psychopath who takes great pleasure from killing babies, and is utterly miserable when he does not have their blood on his hands. But, surely, (if we assume that he will suffer no reprisals) this psychopath has every reason to kill babies, and no reason not to do so. All moral claims are thus false.

Funnily enough, I end up pretty much setting all this out in my new, forthcoming bookWhy I Am Atheist and Not a Theist

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Quote of the Day: DC Kurtz on Moral Nihilism - Patheos

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