I have several times on this blog gone over my moral framework. To sketch it quickly, I argue that acting morally means acting autonomously. I argue that to act autonomously necessarily means to do what one thinks is right, and that this is the most we can ask of people. However, I feel that I make an evasion in this account that I’m still trying to work out. My account lets me answer a problem that I believe many other accounts of morality find difficult to address. It gives an account of the nature and the source of normative. The normative is the force of our own autonomous desires. The account hinges on the notion that autonomous human nature is the good. In a certain sense I’m trying to pull off a trick in my account – I’m saying that the reason that we should be good is because that is what we truly want. To make good desirable I define it as our true desires.
There are two difficulties that I see with my own account. The first problem, which I consider relatively minor, is the fact that my account depends on the deep down goodness of human nature. I see this problem as minor because it seems to me that few moral systems can truly stand without assuming this at some level. There may seem to be a looming kind of relativism in my account that stems from the same problem, but I can address this at least to my own satisfaction. We each must act out our own autonomy, and I’m inclined to think that someone else acting autonomously cannot truly be considered an enemy to our own autonomous activity. Even when someone else stands in opposition to our actions, as long as they act autonomously they stand as a puzzle that we must integrate into the world within which we act.
The second problem is that I still run up against the is/ought distinction, despite all my attempts to evade it. I tried to get away from the is/ought problem by arguing that the normative is a part of our experience. Just as we experience texture and colour and so on, we also experience the ‘what is to be done with’ of things. The problem I feel this doesn’t address is what it means to give evidence for moral ideas. Strictly speaking when we argue we rarely point out the properties of things. I would never argue that something is red because it looks red. The true contrast of the is/ought gap is pointing out cause and effect. We can point out the conjunction of events to say that a relationship exists, and thus give the world properties beyond immediate sensation. If we want to point out ought, however, we can point to nothing but a brute feeling. Anything more then that is merely describing the circumstance that gives rise to the feeling of ought (e.g. ‘she is drowning therefore you should rescue her’ really means ‘I see a woman drowning, and this makes me feel an ought.) I would clarify the problem I am pointing out by saying that I’m not saying the brute feeling is invalid, but that it does not truly seem to be something that can be argued. The question I am currently wrestling with is what it means to argue a moral point. Does it mean we are merely debating the is, so as to have the proper feeling arise in response? Or is there some way in which these feelings can be debated between the autonomous?
Let me know what you think,
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