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I've heard this tossed around a lot but what exactly is "skepticism"? Is it connected to externalism? Or how we gain knowledge? Is there a place that provides a really good beginners explanation to it? Who writes about it? How is it connected to determinism more specifically, or error theory? I'm really unclear with this so sorry for all these questions. Any help would be really appreciated

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Skepticism is the idea that moral obligations do not exist, generally speaking. Error theory I believe says that obligations exist, only that they are wrong. Externalism is a meta-ethic which says that morality comes from some external source, such as the universe or a contract. Determinism is the idea that everything happens for a reason, so everything in the universe is predetermined basically, so that would also imply that morality exists independent of everyone else, as a fact of nature. I'm not sure how it related to error theory. If determinism is true however, then acting in accordance with certain principles would mean that the universe planned that, and also that breaking moral principles was planned, so moral obligations don't actually exist since all of our actions are predetermined. There are a bunch of authors that people use, such as Joyce, Hagglund, Mackie, Harman, etc. A good resource would be the SEP: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism-moral/

 

Also, unless you want to learn the specific warrants behind skepticism, i think this is probably enough to get you started.

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Skepticism is the idea that moral obligations do not exist, generally speaking. Error theory I believe says that obligations exist, only that they are wrong. Externalism is a meta-ethic which says that morality comes from some external source, such as the universe or a contract. Determinism is the idea that everything happens for a reason, so everything in the universe is predetermined basically, so that would also imply that morality exists independent of everyone else, as a fact of nature. I'm not sure how it related to error theory. If determinism is true however, then acting in accordance with certain principles would mean that the universe planned that, and also that breaking moral principles was planned, so moral obligations don't actually exist since all of our actions are predetermined. There are a bunch of authors that people use, such as Joyce, Hagglund, Mackie, Harman, etc. A good resource would be the SEP: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism-moral/

 

Also, unless you want to learn the specific warrants behind skepticism, i think this is probably enough to get you started.

Thanks this clears up a lot!

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The problem with skepticism is that people are non-skeptics in real life.  That is, when the philosopher or debater leaves the office, they no longer hold true nor can they.

 

Skepticism radically undermines any hope of progress.  It undermines abductive logic and it undermines the knowledge bases that help us think about and explore the future.

 

Not to mention, that ethical claims aren't the same as scientific claims. 

 

Relationships need guidelines.  Fairness and contract.  If you've ever been wronged, its been values which have resolved the conflict. 

 

The language of values is necessary for human community.  Without values life in community is paralysis, anarchy, or both.

Edited by nathan_debate

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The problem with skepticism is that people are non-skeptics in real life.  That is, when the philosopher or debater leaves the office, they no longer hold true nor can they.

 

Skepticism radically undermines any hope of progress.  It undermines abductive logic and it undermines the knowledge bases that help us think about and explore the future.

 

Not to mention, that ethical claims aren't the same as scientific claims. 

 

Relationships need guidelines.  Fairness and contract.  If you've ever been wronged, its been values which have resolved the conflict. 

 

The language of values is necessary for human community.  Without values life in community is paralysis, anarchy, or both.

 

Uh, I am 100% a moral skepticist outside of the debate world. Believing that no intrinsic good exists (or can be proven to exist) would also indicate that the very idea of a moral system existing outside of one's own "personal" moral compass is stupid. Additionally, I would argue that any assumption that universal truth does not exist (like what post-structuralists assume) also implies that at least one can never know what is the most "ethical" way to act assuming that being "ethical" is even a thing anyway. I think LDers aren't willing to come to terms with the idea that their entire ethical framework that they debate about is simply folly. Sorry that some kids read skep and you have to develop weird frontlines that usually come down to "yeah you're right but we need ethics cus cus fairness and competitive equity and no way to judge ethical action" to which I say "good". 

 

 

Existentialism solves your problems about "values". Being able to debate the merits of a proposed ethical question can be done through logic or reason (usually util) but can never be falsifiable or ever proven to be "objectively" better than anything else. I don't think moral obligations are necessary to take action deemed good by the community, since the community invents the concept of "good" around them and one chooses if they take an action deemed good. 

Edited by BernieSanders

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Uh, I am 100% a moral skepticist outside of the debate world. Believing that no intrinsic good exists (or can be proven to exist) would also indicate that the very idea of a moral system existing outside of one's own "personal" moral compass is stupid. Additionally, I would argue that any assumption that universal truth does not exist (like what post-structuralists assume) also implies that at least one can never know what is the most "ethical" way to act assuming that being "ethical" is even a thing anyway. I think LDers aren't willing to come to terms with the idea that their entire ethical framework that they debate about is simply folly. Sorry that some kids read skep and you have to develop weird frontlines that usually come down to "yeah you're right but we need ethics cus cus fairness and competitive equity and no way to judge ethical action" to which I say "good". 

 

 

Existentialism solves your problems about "values". Being able to debate the merits of a proposed ethical question can be done through logic or reason (usually util) but can never be falsifiable or ever proven to be "objectively" better than anything else. I don't think moral obligations are necessary to take action deemed good by the community, since the community invents the concept of "good" around them and one chooses if they take an action deemed good. 

I don't think the lack of an absolute existence of a so-called "correct" ethical system is sufficient to justify skepticism though. Ethical systems should be judged in terms of their desirability, since I would argue that epistemological concepts like morality can never be false and always exist (i.e. if I think of a loaf of bread, is that thought false and nonexistent? No.), only that certain ethical systems are more desirable. The fact you are a moral skeptic proves you do not adhere to an ethical system, which is only a sign of the shortcoming of an ethical system ability to guide action for a certain agent, not a sign that the ethical theory is false and morality doesn't exist. You say that instrinic goods can't be proven to exist, yet if I am a utilitarian and I feel that pleasure is an intrinsic good, but I go read Kant and that I feel that we should follow the categorical imperative, I have adopted a theory of the good based on that fact that I find it desirable. Also, skep begs the question of why the lack of an absolute truth of an ethical theory means no ethical theory is desirable/morality doesn't exist. This is especially true in a debate setting, where there are two ethical theories (sometimes) competing for truth relative to one another in the debate round.

Edited by goodatthis

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Bernie says lots of stuff that has moral or normative implications.  The call for political action is always in the context of ethical claims.

 

A true moral skeptic can't be an existentialist either.  Its an ethical system in the same way anarchism is a political theory.

 

Big double bind--either existentialism is a ethics or relativism.  Or at least it links to all the disads of relativism.

 

DA to your alternative is ethical discussions that are meaningful. (ie debate that has the possibility of some resolution).

 

Any ought or should or even suggestion about behavior is normative.

 

Moral systems tradeoff.  Unless you come to grips with that--you've lost the game.

 

You ideally pick the best one, not the perfect one.  Because otherwise you throw the baby out with the bathwater.

 

Newsflash--Nothing on earth is perfect.  Thats the nature of earthy existence.  We have to choose what is best.  Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good or good enough.

 

This is at the core of why you're cogntively dissonant even if you don't know you are:

 

never know what is the most "ethical" way to act assuming that being "ethical" is even a thing anyway.

 

 

We never know what the best course of action is, that isn't a justification for inaction or paralysis or twiddling our thumbs.

Edited by nathan_debate

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DA to skepticism is no means to judge debates and have meaningful exchanges--because its all just feelings and emotions.  Specifically theres also no reason contestants deserve fairness or objectivity on the part of judges.  It becomes just a gut feeling.

 

Also Hiter, genocide, dehumanization, and every moral evil ever.  People are crushed under the power of big organizations without a language of accountability, fairness, or justice.

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DA to skepticism is no means to judge debates and have meaningful exchanges--because its all just feelings and emotions.  Specifically theres also no reason contestants deserve fairness or objectivity on the part of judges.  It becomes just a gut feeling.

 

I don't think you even need to go there.

 

Truth is not the same as desirability.  It's still possible to make relative judgements of desirability without ever having determined truth.

 

And there are skeptics who hold particular moral beliefs and advocate their desirability.  What they don't advocate is their truth.  See, for example, Karl Popper.  

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Well, then you're back to emotivism or relativism or perspectivalism or Karl Popper-ism or perhaps some existentialism.

 

If we just make up our own moralities or values (a la Karl Popper) our moral discussions are generally meaningless.  The idea of moral excellence or a norm or standard of ethics goes away.  The absolute nature of avoiding dehumanization or unprovoked violence, and human rights all potentially go away.  They are assertions on dramatically sifting sand.  Thats not the basis I want any of my fundamental rights on.  Not to mention that undermines the ability to make rational expectations that lead to flourishing.

 

What keeps a public official from saying "thats just not my bag"  or a CEO from saying "thats just not my bag." 

 

Thats almost functional ethical anarchy.

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Well, then you're back to emotivism or relativism or perspectivalism or Karl Popper-ism or perhaps some existentialism.

 

If we just make up our own moralities or values (a la Karl Popper) our moral discussions are generally meaningless.  The idea of moral excellence or a norm or standard of ethics goes away.  The absolute nature of avoiding dehumanization or unprovoked violence, and human rights all potentially go away.  They are assertions on dramatically sifting sand.  Thats not the basis I want any of my fundamental rights on.  Not to mention that undermines the ability to make rational expectations that lead to flourishing.

 

What keeps a public official from saying "thats just not my bag"  or a CEO from saying "thats just not my bag." 

 

Thats almost functional ethical anarchy.

 

I'm not sure what you mean about the 'absolute nature' of those things.

 

Human rights are not a "Truth".  There is nothing objective about them.  They aren't based on some law of physics.  Even Ayn Rand's attempt to argue for an objective set of 'rights' derives from a subjective determination - the subjective decision about what qualifies as 'living in a manner suitable and proper for a rational animal'. (Paraphrasing because i'm not about to look it up)

 

Similarly, dehumanization being bad is not some objective truth. Objective truths only pertain to what is and is not.  They cannot pertain to what should and should not, because if they are objective, there can be no should.  You can't argue with gravity.  The sun's nuclear fusion does not depend on your approval.

 

Values always start from assumptions.  An agreement on values (in their specifics, not just the labels we use to describe them) can only be achieved if we agree on some subjective starting point (or ending point!).  

 

That doesn't mean that we can't assume some things should be protected absolutely.  Human rights don't need to be objective truth for us to believe they deserve absolute protection.  If absolute human rights leads to (subjectively) better outcomes (in our opinion), then it makes sense to insist they be protected absolutely. 

 

Note: subjective does not mean its all relative in the sense that we shouldn't criticize.  If a particular value or belief system leads to worse outcomes, in your opinion, it is your prerogative and duty to criticize it.  "Better" and "worse" are themselves subjective, not objective statements.  The universe doesn't care if humans survive or not.  None of this means we shouldn't care.  Debates about values are about which ones we should hold, for fulfilling subjective preferences about how we should live life as humans.  If you think someone's advocated values or life preferences are bad, you should criticize if you believe in your own preferences.  Values are something which influence how society functions - failure to criticize abdicates your role in the social conversation and inevitably results in values you disagree with being imposed on you.  At least if you engage in the conversation there's the chance that things improve (in your opinion).

 

But let's not confuse objective truth with subjective preference.  Objective truth simply is - you cannot debate it.  (As to how we can know objective truth, well, I'm a Bayesian, although I think Popper's work on scientific epistemology has merit).

Edited by Squirrelloid

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1) Humanity is net worse with human rights.  Go!!!!

 

2) Humanity is net better with unlimited wars of aggression.  Go!!!!

 

3) Life is a net negative.  Go!!!

 

4) We should actively increase racism, sexism, and other forms of -isms.  Go!!!!

 

First, those are terrible arguments.

Second, they are rightly opposed by 99% of humanity.

 

There is debate on everything including so called objective science, but comparatively--there is massive, massive agreements among anyone with a conscience that the above are all false.

 

PS.  I'm calling your definition of objective into account. 

PSS.  Science and math don't even have the same definition of objective, because they achieve different standards.  Pure objectivity is only possible in math.  Everything else is like horseshoes....close enough or closer than comparaitve alternatives.  Otherwise.....the perfect becomes the enemy of the good (and we throw the baby of truth out with the bathwater of hyper-perfectionism).

 

This part of the argument is where it goes definitively off the rails.  This is true--its why science isn't qualified to make moral judgements in the first place.  This is the exact reason that you're an excercise in question begging:

Similarly, dehumanization being bad is not some objective truth. Objective truths only pertain to what is and is not.

 

Edited by nathan_debate

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