Welcome guest, is this your first visit? Create Account now to join.
  • Login:

Welcome to the Online Debate Network.

If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.

Poll: Should 'goodness' be a central concept of moral philosophy?

Results 1 to 13 of 13
  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Kelowna BC, Canada
    Posts
    40
    Post Thanks / Like

    The Naturalistic Fallacy

    In defense of ethical non-naturalism, philosopher George Edward Moore first coined the naturalistic fallacy. Moore argues that concept of good, has an intrinsic values that are essentially indefinable because it cannot be reduced to any natural properties. Moore adds that even by reducing the concept of good to divine or supernatural command is the equivalent to stating its naturalness. In Principia Ethica, Moore describes good as "one of those innumerable objects of thought which are themselves incapable of definition, because they are the ultimate terms by reference to which whatever is capable of definition must be defined." Hence, any attempt to define good will result in a circular definition (i.e., good is a concept that is self-referential).

    The naturalistic fallacy is committed, according to Moore, when one makes arguments that conflates or relates non-natural concepts such as good, with natural concepts such as pleasure, need, survival, natural processes, or (as mentioned) even divine command.

    Should the naturalistic fallacy actually be considered an error in logic? If it is, then the ramifications in moral philosophy are fairly extreme: it moots any ethical argument that centers around the concept of goodness. That said, should the concept of good be considered when discussing ethics? If so, how can one justify centering an argument around a concept that is not semantically coherent?
    Last edited by monesy; September 19th, 2009 at 12:09 PM. Reason: Syntax; grammar; addition of last two questions
    "*" --Kurt Vonnegut

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    England
    Posts
    10
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    I agree with Moore's arguments, and as such suggest that you have a point concerning the concept not being semantically coherent and the associated difficulties that brings. Although it is possible given Moore's arguments to debate around the issue in practical terms when considering ethical issues, Moore argues...

    " It may be true that all things which are good are also something else, just as it is true that all things which are yellow produce a certain kind of vibration in the light. And it is a fact, that Ethics aims at discovering what are those other properties belonging to all things which are good. But far too many philosophers have thought that when they named those other properties they were actually defining good; that these properties, in fact, were simply not other, but absolutely and entirely the same with goodness." (Moore, 1903)

  3. #3
    ODN Community Regular

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Seattle, Washington USA
    Posts
    6,387
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    Goodness is subjective, but it is still very important. It is quite possible to argue for a given precept as good, and then to argue as to how it can be brought about.

    Good is simply something we value. The first step is to determine what we value, then the next step is to determine how we bring that about.
    Feed me some debate pellets!

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    England
    Posts
    10
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigfried View Post
    Goodness is subjective, but it is still very important. It is quite possible to argue for a given precept as good, and then to argue as to how it can be brought about.

    Good is simply something we value. The first step is to determine what we value, then the next step is to determine how we bring that about.
    Goodness is subjective and self-referential, but this may not preclude debate on the qualities and attributes associated with the positive values held by individuals and communities in particular historical, social and cultural contexts.

  5. #5
    ODN Community Regular

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    5,479
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    Quote Originally Posted by monesy View Post
    In defense of ethical non-naturalism, philosopher George Edward Moore first coined the naturalistic fallacy. Moore argues that concept of good, has an intrinsic values that are essentially indefinable because it cannot be reduced to any natural properties. Moore adds that even by reducing the concept of good to divine or supernatural command is the equivalent to stating its naturalness. In Principia Ethica, Moore describes good as "one of those innumerable objects of thought which are themselves incapable of definition, because they are the ultimate terms by reference to which whatever is capable of definition must be defined." Hence, any attempt to define good will result in a circular definition (i.e., good is a concept that is self-referential).

    The naturalistic fallacy is committed, according to Moore, when one makes arguments that conflates or relates non-natural concepts such as good, with natural concepts such as pleasure, need, survival, natural processes, or (as mentioned) even divine command.

    Should the naturalistic fallacy actually be considered an error in logic? If it is, then the ramifications in moral philosophy are fairly extreme: it moots any ethical argument that centers around the concept of goodness. That said, should the concept of good be considered when discussing ethics? If so, how can one justify centering an argument around a concept that is not semantically coherent?
    Yes, of course the naturalistic fallacy is a logical fallacy.

    Firstly, to demonstrate that something is a logical fallacy you need only show that the conclusion needn't follow from the premises (i.e. it's an invalid argument). To demonstrate that the naturalistic fallacy is a fallacy it is sufficient to show that even though 3% of women are raped annually, we needn't accept that 3% of women ought to be raped annually.

    As for the more philosophical reasoning, it lies in the is-ought distinction (Hume's fork).
    "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." --Voltaire

  6. #6
    ODN Community Regular

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Seattle, Washington USA
    Posts
    6,387
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    Quote Originally Posted by TonyMyers View Post
    Goodness is subjective and self-referential, but this may not preclude debate on the qualities and attributes associated with the positive values held by individuals and communities in particular historical, social and cultural contexts.
    We agree on that. Indeed its subjective nature requires us to debate and discuss goodness and how best to achieve it. Good and bad/evil are ideas most of us inherently understand because we are social creatures.
    Feed me some debate pellets!

  7. #7
    Registered User

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    1,026
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    Quote Originally Posted by GoldPhoenix View Post
    Yes, of course the naturalistic fallacy is a logical fallacy.

    To demonstrate that the naturalistic fallacy is a fallacy it is sufficient to show that even though 3% of women are raped annually, we needn't accept that 3% of women ought to be raped annually.
    GP, you are addressing the wrong Naturalistic Fallacy.
    ---
    I disagree that what Moore calls the Naturalistic Fallacy is indeed necessarily fallacious. I think it presents an important contribution to moral philosophy but ultimately begs the question and should be viewed with skepticism.

  8. #8
    Banned Indefinitely

    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    1,042
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    Quote Originally Posted by TonyMyers View Post
    Goodness is subjective and self-referential, but this may not preclude debate on the qualities and attributes associated with the positive values held by individuals and communities in particular historical, social and cultural contexts.
    Sounds about right.

  9. #9
    interloped
    Guest

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    Quote Originally Posted by Sigfried View Post
    It is quite possible to argue for a given precept as good, and then to argue as to how it can be brought about.
    Good cannot be defined, at least as a consistent and universally identifiable concept. Good can only be found in thought therefore, only the mind can define for a single person what it is.

    It would only make sense to say: For Interloped, pink Rockstars are good, or according to another entity like the Christian god, homosexual marriage is bad.

    A debate between two entities hoping to define good would be one of the most senseless, redundant and baseless debates ever. At least, without some sort of third party used as reference. For example; two Muslims arguing over what is good according to the Quran, even then I'd imagine it could get quite perilous.

  10. #10
    Administrator

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Fairfax, VA
    Posts
    9,594
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    Quote Originally Posted by interloped View Post
    Good cannot be defined, at least as a consistent and universally identifiable concept. Good can only be found in thought therefore, only the mind can define for a single person what it is.
    This is a relativist position. Would you take then, the logical conclusion of relativism and say that "For Adam Lanza, shooting a bunch of kids was good?"
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions. -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.


  11. #11
    ODN Community Regular

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Seattle, Washington USA
    Posts
    6,387
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    Quote Originally Posted by interloped View Post
    Good cannot be defined, at least as a consistent and universally identifiable concept. Good can only be found in thought therefore, only the mind can define for a single person what it is.
    Not entirely. It depends on the subject and context. If we are discussing an individual, then we must consider the individual's views. If we are discussing a society, then we are looking at the social viewpoint. If we are discussing all of humanity, then that is our frame of reference, or if we are discussing all of reality, then that is our frame. In the final frame of all reality, I think the idea of good is essentially meaningless. Only in the human context can we begin to have a meaningful discussion of good and the lower we go the more definitive we can be, though at the individual level, outside of the context of society, we also get a near meaningless frame. While opinions may persist, their impact no longer has moral connotations.

    A debate between two entities hoping to define good would be one of the most senseless, redundant and baseless debates ever.
    Sorry but that is essentially the basis of our civilizations so we know from experience it can be a purposeful and productive discussion. Human beings have a great many common traits and this leads us to be able to come to common understandings much, but not all of the time. Even about essentially subjective subjects.
    Feed me some debate pellets!

  12. #12
    Registered User

    Join Date
    May 2013
    Posts
    88
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    @GoldPhoenix - you are addressing the wrong fallacy. Some subtle definitions:

    Appeal to Nature: Logically moving from a set of facts about nature to saying that these are good.
    Appeal to Morality: Logically moving from a moral property to saying that the goodness must be found in nature.
    Naturalistic Fallacy: Actually a massive misnomer. The Naturalistic Fallacy works one the principle that it is impossible to equate goodness to be (analytically equivalent to) a property. Thus, the naturalistic fallacy claims that equating any property with goodness is a fallacy.

    The Appeal to Nature and Appeal to Morality are both obvious sound fallacies. However the Naturalistic Fallacy itself (as created by G.E.Moore) is incorrect. The Naturalistic Fallacy was proposed by Moore by utilising the famous Open-Question Argument:

    Premise 1: If X is good, then the question "Is it true that X is good?" is meaningless.
    Premise 2: The question "Is it true that X is good?" is not meaningless (i.e. it is an open question).
    Conclusion: X is not (analytically equivalent to) good.
    However, the argument begs the question in the second premise. If the second premise holds (irrespective of the first premise), then by Moore's definition of an open question (which is provided elsewhere in his text 'Principia Ethica') X cannot be analytically equivalent to good.

    This question begging is even more evident with some meaning analysis. That is, if concept C stands, and C* can be analysed in terms of C*, this does not mean that we can immediately grasp C* by virtue of knowing C. In maths non-obvious tautologies such as these abound, thus rendering Moore's use of the words "meaning" and "open question" redundant, thus ruining his argument.

    Another criticism might be formulated by changing some words:

    1. If X is a zebra, then the question "Is it true that X is a zebra?" is meaningless.
    2. The question "Is it true that X is a zebra?" is not meaningless (i.e. it is an open question).
    3. Therefore X is not (analytically equivalent to) a zebra.

    Premise 1 here seems faulty because we may observe and understand X, but not fully understand what amounts to a zebra or to X, and thus not be sure in knowing whether X is or is not a zebra. Thus the question is not meaningless. Thus the argument fails.

  13. #13
    ODN Community Regular

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    5,479
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The Naturalistic Fallacy

    Quote Originally Posted by Galendir View Post
    GP, you are addressing the wrong Naturalistic Fallacy.
    This is quite true. I apparently didn't read the OP very closely three years ago.

    Quote Originally Posted by Caconym View Post
    @GoldPhoenix - you are addressing the wrong fallacy.
    The problem is that appeal to nature is often referred to as the naturalistic fallacy, but ditto to the above.
    "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." --Voltaire

 

 

Similar Threads

  1. Logical Fallacies
    By Apokalupsis in forum Fallacious Theory
    Replies: 61
    Last Post: August 5th, 2011, 02:43 PM
  2. The Ad Hominem Fallacy
    By Apokalupsis in forum Fallacious Theory
    Replies: 29
    Last Post: October 11th, 2009, 12:51 PM
  3. GP-v-Apok, Fallacy Theory
    By GoldPhoenix in forum Fallacious Theory
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: August 13th, 2009, 09:43 AM
  4. Jury duty
    By MindTrap028 in forum Social Issues
    Replies: 34
    Last Post: November 3rd, 2006, 08:36 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •