Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mackie’s Argument From Queerness – A Double-Edged Sword

What are objective moral values?  If moral values are objective there should be some way that we can come to agreement on what kinds of things that they are.  Are they sui generis, non-natural properties with which we can somehow get into contact?  If so, do such things exist?  Alternatively, are objective moral values to be explained in terms of the natural, physical world rather than something non-natural, and if so, how do we explain their strange qualities?

In this paper I will examine J. L. Mackie’s argument from queerness, which is an argument against the existence of objective moral values.   I will agree with Mackie that objective moral values as Mackie describes them, if they exist, are quite strange and unlike other properties in the universe.  The peculiar qualities of objective moral values present a strange problem.  If they are as Mackie terms them, ‘queer properties’, one’s approach to them turns on one’s acceptance of naturalism.  That is to say, that if one embraces naturalism one will reject the existence of objective moral values, whereas one who embraces objective moral values will reject naturalism.  So my conclusion will be that the argument from queerness is on suspect ground because it is dependent on an assumption of naturalism, but if objective moral values exist, this assumption is ungrounded. 
Along the way, I will also look at attempts to argue that objective moral values are not queer properties but can be explained in terms of natural properties.  In particular, I will examine David Brink’s response to Mackie’s argument from queerness, but conclude that it does not successfully avoid Mackie’s argument.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Kant's First Antinomy - Can We Know If the Universe is Finite or Infinite?

            Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is a towering and original work in the philosophical cannon.  Kant’s transcendental idealism is designed to remove skeptical doubts about empirical science that Hume had raised by asserting that space and time are conditions of experiences that are internal to each of us.  However, Kant cautions that because space and time are internal intuitions that condition our experience we can never know things in themselves or noumena but only things as they appear to us or phenomena.  If we forget this, Kant warns that we will end up in endless philosophical muddles.  Central to showing the necessity of transcendental idealism are the antinomies of pure reason, which show that when we try to go beyond the conditioned, that is experience within the bounds of space and time, we come to intractably contradictory positions such as the universe in finite in time and space and the universe is infinite in time and space.  Kant wants to use the antinomies to motivate us to accept transcendental idealism, because if we assume a transcendentally realistic view of and think we can reach the things in themselves, we end up in the intellectual mire of the antinomies.