I am a Realist in Many ways,

I have a positive epistemic attitude (belief) towards or in philosophical realism that there is a real external world and that is can be know or substantially approximated by humans objectively.

I have a positive epistemic attitude towards or in scientific realism that the content of the best scientific theories, models, and aspects of the world described by the sciences can be know or substantially approximated by humans objectively.

I have a positive epistemic attitude towards or in logical realism such as that logic is the means of discovering the structure of facts and its projection in the language such as the Law of Non-Contradiction or logical fallacies which represent logical truths pertaining to aspects of the world and can be know or substantially approximated by humans objectively.

I have a positive epistemic attitude towards or in mathematical realism such as that 2 + 2 equals 4 even if there are no intelligences or minds. Because math is in a sense a method of communication or description of and or about aspects of the world quantifying what can be know or substantially approximated by humans objectively.

I have a positive epistemic attitude towards or in value realism roughly speaking “axiological realism,” is that value claims (such as, nurturing a baby is good and abusing a baby is bad) can be literally true or false; that some such claims are indeed true; that their truth can be know or substantially approximated by humans objectively.

I have a positive epistemic attitude towards or in epistemological realism roughly speaking, is that what you know about an object exists independently of your mind. Relating directly to the correspondence theory of truth, which claims that the world exists independently and innately to our perceptions of it. Our sensory data then reflect or correspond to the innate world and that such truths can be know or substantially approximated by humans objectively.

I have a positive epistemic attitude towards or in moral realism roughly speaking, is that some moral claims do purport to report facts and are true if they get the facts right. Moreover, wile not all at least some moral claims actually are true or have connection to additional commitments which the truth can be reached, and those facts in some specified way can be know or substantially approximated by humans objectively.

(Rachels, James. Ethical Theory) a moral theory must be able to solve:


The ontological problem: an adequate theory must account for ethics without assuming the existence of anything that does not actually exist.

The epistemological problem: if we have knowledge of right and wrong, an adequate theory must explain how we acquire such knowledge.

The experience problem: An adequate theory about ethics must account for the phenomenology of moral experience.

The supervenience problem: An adequate theory must be consistent with the supervenient character of evaluative concepts.

The motivation problem: an adequate theory must account for the internal connection between moral belief and motivation (or if there is no such connection, it must offer an alternative account of how morality guides action).

The reason problem: An adequate theory must account for the place of reason in ethics.

The disagreement problem: An adequate theory must explain the nature of ethical disagreement.



Sociological and Psychological Ontology of Morality in Relation to the Objective and Subjective Correspondence to Reality.

To me morality (relatively involves moral actors, moral reasoning, moral capital, moral concerns and moral compulsions) is a thinking in relation of behavior to or with “other” and is involved in a cognitive aware (psychological development of, pertaining to, or affecting the mind, especially as a function of awareness, feeling, or motivation) interaction (most commonly social interaction) by humans and thus is both a subjective aspect in the world as it is only positioned to cognitive aware interaction of humans and objective to impacts on the moral actors, moral reasoning, moral capital, moral concerns and moral compulsions choices positioned to cognitive aware interactions of humans.

Nonhuman animals are not doing or held accountable for this thing/things we label morality, though this does not remove all moral capital they hold or moral weight in our relations to them, because what happens to nonhuman animals can be attach to moral relevant interactions with them or some indirect secondary connections to other factors (i.e. someone’s pet). I feel that morality and the moral relevant choices only relates to occurrences linked to thinking in relation of behavior involved in relation to or with “other” in cognitive aware interaction of humans.

I thus feel with no interaction relation to or with “other” then there is no such thing as morality occurring. In a sense to me when nothing of interaction is happening to an external “other” even if, the internal self in question is a cognitive aware human. Such as, if one is by them self and only do things to themselves there is no morality involved. I feel morality in a sense cannot happen to you by you, it is your interacting with others, other things, or their relation to “other” but to me this is likely an unavoidable reality that corresponds to morality.

Axiology, Realism, and the Problem of Evil (THOMAS L. CARSON)

Although moral realism is the subject of lively debate in contemporary philosophy, it would seem almost all standard discussions of the problem of evil presuppose the truth of moral realism. So, if nonrealism is true, then it would seem we need to rethink and/or re-frame the entire discussion about the problem of evil.



Evolutionary Morality?

If evolutionary critics of morality seek to critique by revealing the unreliability of evolutionary origins by showing that they have generated moral beliefs we know to be false. Indeed, this sort of critique would be self-defeating, for if we were able to sort true moral beliefs from false ones, then we could rely on that knowledge to correct for any epistemically harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way evolutionary influence on the formation of our moral beliefs.


Moral disagreement (Geoff Sayre-McCord)

The mere fact of disagreement does not raise a challenge for moral realism. Disagreement is to be found in virtually any area, even where no one doubts that the claims at stake purport to report facts and everyone grants that some claims are true.

But disagreements differ and many believe that the sort of disagreements one finds when it comes to morality are best explained by supposing one of two things: (i) that moral claims are not actually in the business of reporting facts, but are rather our way of expressing emotions, or of controlling others’ behavior, or, at least, of taking a stand for and against certain things or (ii) that moral claims are in the business of reporting facts, but the required facts just are not to be found.

Taking the first line, many note that people differ in their emotions, attitudes and interests and then argue that moral disagreements simply reflect the fact that the moral claims people embrace are (despite appearances) really devices for expressing or serving their different emotions, attitudes, and interests.

Taking the second line, others note that claims can genuinely purport to report facts and yet utterly fail (consider claims about phlogiston or astrological forces or some mythical figure that others believed existed) and then argue that moral disagreements take the form they do because the facts that would be required to give them some order and direction are not to be found.

On either view, the distinctive nature of moral disagreement is seen as well explained by the supposition that moral realism is false, either because cognitivism is false or because an error theory is true.

Interestingly, the two lines of argument are not really compatible. If one thinks that moral claims do not even purport to report facts, one cannot intelligibly hold that the facts such claims purport to report do not exist. Nonetheless, in important ways, the considerations each mobilizes might be used to support the other. For instance, someone defending an error theory might point to the ways in which moral claims are used to express or serve peoples’ emotions, attitudes, and interests, to explain why people keep arguing as they do despite there being no moral facts. And someone defending noncognitivism might point to the practical utility of talking as if there were moral facts to explain why moral claims seem to purport to report facts even though they do not.

Moreover, almost surely each of these views is getting at something that is importantly right about some people and their use of what appear to be moral claims. No one doubts that often peoples’ moral claims do express their emotions, attitudes, and do serve their interests and it is reasonable to suspect that at least some people have in mind as moral facts a kind of fact we have reason to think does not exist.

Moral realists are committed to holding, though, that to whatever extent moral claims might have other uses and might be made by people with indefensible accounts of moral facts, some moral claims, properly understood, are actually true. To counter the arguments that appeal to the nature of moral disagreement, moral realists need to show that the disagreements are actually compatible with their commitments.

An attractive first step is to note, as was done above, that mere disagreement is no indictment. Indeed, to see the differences among people as disagreements—rather than as mere differences—it seems as if one needs to hold that they are making claims that contradict one another and this seems to require that each side see the other as making a false claim. To the extent there is moral disagreement and not merely difference, moral realists argue, we need at least to reject noncognitivism (even as we acknowledge that the views people embrace might be heavily influenced by their emotions, attitudes, and interests). While this is plausible, noncognitivists can and have replied by distinguishing cognitive disagreement from other sorts of disagreement and arguing that moral disagreements are of a sort that does not require cognitivism. Realists cannot simply dismiss this possibility, though they can legitimately challenge noncognitivists to make good sense of how moral arguments and disagreements are carried on without surreptitiously appealing to the participants seeing their claims as purporting to report facts.

In any case, even if the nature of disagreements lends some plausibility to cognitivism, moral realists need also to respond to the error theorist’s contention that the arguments and disagreements all rest on some false supposition to the effect that there are actually facts of the sort there would have to be for some of the claims to be true. And, however moral realists respond, they need to avoid doing so in a way that then makes a mystery of the widespread moral disagreement (or at least difference) that all acknowledge.

Some moral realists argue that the disagreements, widespread as they are, do not go very deep—that to a significant degree moral disagreements play out against the background of shared fundamental principles with the differences of opinion regularly being traceable to disagreements about the nonmoral facts that matter in light of the moral principles. On their view, the explanation of moral disagreements will be of a piece with whatever turns out to be a good explanation of the various nonmoral disagreements people find themselves in.

Other moral realists, though, see the disagreements as sometimes fundamental. On their view, while moral disagreements might in some cases be traceable to disagreements about nonmoral matters of fact, this will not always be true. Still, they deny the anti-realist’s contention that the disagreements that remain are well explained by noncognitivism or by an error theory Instead, they regularly offer some other explanation of the disagreements. They point out, for example, that many of the disagreements can be traced to the distorting effects of the emotions, attitudes, and interests that are inevitably bound up with moral issues. Or they argue that what appear to be disagreements are really cases in which the people are talking past each other, each making claims that might well be true once the claims are properly understood (Harman 1975, Wong 1984). And they often combine these explanatory strategies holding that the full range of moral disagreements are well explained by some balanced appeal to all of the considerations just mentioned, treating some disagreements as not fundamentally moral, others as a reflection of the distorting effects of emotion and interest, and still others as being due to insufficiently subtle understandings of what people are actually claiming. If some combination of these explanations works, then the moral realist is on firm ground in holding that the existence of moral disagreements, such as they are, is not an argument against moral realism. Of course, if no such explanation works, then an appeal either to noncognitivism or an error theory (i.e. to some form of anti-realism) may be the best alternative.



Benefit of Seeing Morality as a Matter of Objective Facts

(Liane Young & A.J. Durwin) getting people to think about morality as a matter of objective facts rather than subjective preferences may lead to improved moral behavior, Boston College researchers report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103112002375


Reject Moral Realism?

(Geoff Sayre-McCord) those who reject moral realism are usefully divided into (i) those who think moral claims do not purport to report facts in light of which they are true or false (noncognitivists) and (ii) those who think that moral claims do carry this purport but deny that any moral claims are actually true (error theorists).

It is worth noting that, while moral realists are united in their cognitivism and in their rejection of error theories, they disagree among themselves not only about which moral claims are actually true but about what it is about the world that makes those claims true. Moral realism is not a particular substantive moral view nor does it carry a distinctive metaphysical commitment over and above the commitment that comes with thinking moral claims can be true or false and some are true. Still, much of the debate about moral realism revolves around either what it takes for claims to be true or false at all (with some arguing that moral claims do not have what it takes) or what it would take specifically for moral claims to be true (with some arguing that moral claims would require something the world does not provide).

The debate between moral realists and anti-realists assumes, though, that there is a shared object of inquiry—in this case, a range of claims all involved are willing to recognize as moral claims—about which two questions can be raised and answered: Do these claims purport to report facts in light of which they are true or false? Are some of them true? Moral realists answer ‘yes’ to both, non-cognitivists answer ‘no’ to the first (and, by default, ‘no’ to the second) while error theorists answer ‘yes’ to the first and ‘no’ to the second. (With the introduction of “minimalism” about truth and facts, things become a bit more complicated. See the section on semantics, below.) To note that some other, non-moral, claims do not (or do) purport to report facts or that none (or some) of them are true, is to change the subject. That said, it is strikingly hard to nail down with any accuracy just which claims count as moral and so are at issue in the debate. For the most part, those concerned with whether moral realism is true are forced to work back and forth between an intuitive grasp of which claims are at issue and an articulate but controversial account of what they have in common such that realism either is, or is not, defensible about them.

By all accounts, moral realism can fairly claim to have common sense and initial appearances on its side. That advantage, however, might easily outweighed, however; there are a number of powerful arguments for holding that it is a mistake to think of moral claims as true.



Moral Judgments?

(Shin Kim) the cognitivist understanding of moral judgments is at the center of moral realism. For the cognitivist, moral judgments are mental states; moral judgments are of the same kind as ordinary beliefs, that is, cognitive states. But how are we to know this? One manageable way is to focus on what we intend to do when we make moral judgments, and also on how we express them. Moral judgments are intended to be accurate descriptions of the world, and statements express moral judgments (as opposed to command or prescription) just as statements express ordinary beliefs. That is, statements express moral language. The statements that express moral judgments are either true or false just as the statements that express ordinary beliefs are. Moral truths occur when our signs match the world.
Language allows us to communicate with one another, typically using sentences and utterances. A large part of language involves, among many other things, influencing others and us. Normative language, in contrast with descriptive language, includes moral language (that is, moral language is part of evaluative or normative language). It is even more important not to be swayed by moral language because moral reality grips us. It is bad that others try to deceive us, but it is worse that we deceive ourselves into accepting moral facts simply because of the language that we use. That is, moral language — if it is not to describe the world —must not be mistaken as descriptive. Moral language binds us in a certain manner, and the manner in which it binds us is important.

If it is noncognitivism that provides the antirealist a way of rejecting moral truth, moral knowledge, and moral objectivity, the denial of noncognitivism (that is, cognitivism) must be necessary for the realist to properly claim them. Cognitivism is the view that moral judgments are cognitive states just like ordinary beliefs. It is part of their function to describe the world accurately. The realist argument that stems from cognitivism — as we saw from the above argument— is oftentimes guided by the apparent difficulties that the noncognitivist analysis of moral judgments faces. For instance, there is the famous Frege-Geach problem, namely, the noncognitivist difficulty of rendering emotive, prescriptive or projective meaning for embedded moral judgments.

Geach (1965) uses the “the Frege point,” according to which “a proposition may occur in discourse now asserted, now unasserted, and yet be recognizably the same proposition,” to establish that no noncognitivist (“the anti-descriptive theorist”) analysis of moral sentences and utterances can be adequate.

Consider a simple moral sentence: “Setting a kitten on fire is wrong.” Suppose that the simple sentence means, “Boo to setting a kitten on fire!” The Frege point dictates that the antecedent of “if setting a kitten on fire is wrong, then getting one’s friends to help setting a kitten on fire is also wrong” must mean the same as the simple sentence. But this cannot be because the antecedent of the conditional makes no such assertions while the simple moral sentence does. In other words, the noncognitivist analysis of moral sentences cannot be given to the conditional sentences with the embedded simple moral sentence. The problem can be generally applied to cases of other compound sentences such as “It is wrong to set a kitten on fire, or it is not.” Even if the noncognitivist analysis of the simple sentence were correct, compound sentences within which a simple moral sentence is embedded should be given an analysis independently of the noncognitivist analysis of it.

This seems unacceptable to many. For the following argument is valid: “It is wrong to set a kitten on fire, or it is not; it is not ‘not wrong’; hence, it is wrong to set a kitten on fire.” If the argument is valid, then the conclusion must mean the same as one of the disjuncts of its first premise. The argument would be otherwise invalid because of an equivocation, and the noncognitivist seems to be forced to say that the argument is invalid.
The Frege-Geach problem demonstrates the noncognitivists’ requirement of adequately rendering emotive, prescriptive, expressive, or projective meaning of those moral sentences that are embedded within compound moral sentences. (For more on the Frege-Geach problem, see Non-Cognitivism in Ethics. See also Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton 1992: 151-52.)



What do Professional Philosophers Believe?

What are the philosophical views of 1,972 contemporary professional philosophers?

On God: atheism 72.8%; theism 14.6%; other 12.6%.

Meta-ethics: moral realism 56.4%; moral anti-realism 27.7%; other 15.9%.

Moral judgment: cognitivism 65.7%; non-cognitivism 17.0%; other 17.3%.

Moral motivation: internalism 34.9%; externalism 29.8%; other 35.3%

Science: scientific realism 75.1%; scientific anti-realism 11.6%; other 13.3%.

Truth: correspondence 50.8%; deflationary 24.8%; epistemic 6.9%; other 17.5%.

It should be acknowledged that this target group has a strong (although not exclusive) bias toward analytic or Anglocentric philosophy. As a consequence, the results of the survey are a much better guide to what analytic/Anglocentric philosophers (or at least philosophers in strong analytic/Anglocentric departments) believe than to what philosophers from other traditions believe. http://philpapers.org/archive/BOUWDP


Consider the Judgment (Shin Kim)

“Suffering from lack of food is bad.” The judgment is usually expressed with the statement “suffering from lack of food is bad.”

Call it a “B-statement.” Sometimes, we find it necessary to express it with “it is true that suffering from lack of food is bad.” Call it a “T-statement.” (To complete it, there are “F-statements” like “it is false that suffering from lack of food is bad.”) We use T-statements to emphasize partiality toward “being true to the world.” However, regardless of what motivates us to use T-statements, the explicit ascription of truth in T-statements commands our attention. Does the T-statement add anything extra to the B-statement? If so, what is it that the T-statement says over and above the B-statement?
There are two broad ways to answer the question: deflationism and various forms of substantial theory (or what we called above “inflationist theory”). Substantial theorists deny that the B-statement and the T-statement are exactly the same while the deflationist maintains that the difference is merely stylistic. If the deflationist has her way, then it is obvious that antirealists could have truth in moral judgments. (David Brink argues against the coherentist theory of truth with respect to moral constructivism. See Brink 1989, 106-7 and 114; see Tenenbaum, 1996, for the deflationist approach.) Antirealist moral truths would seem irrelevant in marking the realist territory. If some form of substantial theory is true, then the T-statement adds something to what the B-statements say. Here are two alternatives.
Letting a coherence theory of truth stand in for the range of “modified theories” (namely, the inflationist theories of truth that are different from the correspondence theory of truth), and the “B-proposition” for what the B-statement describes about the world, the T-statement adds that:
(1) The B-proposition corresponds to an actual state of affairs.
(2) The B-proposition belongs to a maximally coherent system of belief.
It is worth noting also that even the non-descriptivist may say that the T-statement adds to the B-statement, insofar as the B-statement expresses something other than the B-proposition. The non-descriptivist has two alternatives as well.

The T-statement adds that (letting a coherence theory of truth stand in for the range of “modified theories,” and the “B-feeling-proposition” stand in for the range of non-descriptivism, for example, the speaker dislikes suffering from lack of food):
(3) The B-feeling-proposition corresponds to an actual state of affairs.
(4) The B-feeling-proposition belongs to a maximally coherent system of belief. We may say that the T-statement specifies truth conditions for the B-proposition or for the B-feeling-proposition. It could be objected that the non-descriptivist must deny that there are truth-conditions for moral language. Nonetheless, she need not object to moral language describing something about the world figuratively.

If option (1) were true, then there would have to be an actual state of affairs that makes the B-statement true. That is, there must be a truth-maker for the statement, “suffering from lack of food is bad,” and the truth-maker is the fact that suffering from lack of food is bad. But no other alternatives require the existence of the fact for them to be true.

If one ignores deflationism, truth in moral judgments gives rise to exactly four alternative theories of truth. Realists cannot embrace options (3) and (4) because, as we saw, non-descriptivism is sufficient for moral antirealism. The remaining option (2), although it is a viable option for the realist, falls short of guaranteeing that there are moral facts. In other words, moral realists must find other ways to establish the existence of moral facts, even if option (2) allows a way of maintaining moral truths for the realists. Modified theories, for example, the coherence theory of truth are simply silent about whether there are B-facts. That is, option (2) could be maintained even if there were no B-facts such as suffering from lack of food is bad. Thus, the most direct option for realists in marking her territory from the above list of alternatives is (1). It appears then that the correspondence truth in moral judgments properly marks the realist territory. This is captured in C2:
(C2) S is a moral realist if and only if S is a descriptivist; S believes that moral judgments express truth, and S believes that the moral judgments are true when they correspond to the world.

Is C2 true? No, it is not. For the antirealist may choose to deny that moral judgments literally describe the world.



Axiology (value science) & Neuroscience (brain science)

(Demarest, Peter D.; Schoof, Harvey J. ) Axiogenics™ is, “the mind-brain science of value generation.” It is a practical life-science based on applied neuro-axiology1 — the integration of neuroscience (brain science) and axiology (value science). Neuroscience is the study of the biochemical mechanics of how the brain works. We are, of course, primarily interested in the human brain, which, owing to our genetics, is one of the most complex and magnificent creations in the known universe. Axiology is the study of how Value, values and value judgments affect the subjective choices and motivations of the mind—both conscious and sub-conscious. Formal axiology is the mathematical study of value—the nature and measurement of value and people’s perception of value. Both axiology and neuroscience have existed separately for years.

In many ways, the two sciences have approached the same question (What makes people tick?) from opposite directions. Neuroscience, a relatively young science, seeks to understand brain function and explain human behavior from a neuro-biological perspective. In contrast, for 2500 years, axiologists have sought to understand and explain human behavior and motivation from the perspective of the moral, ethical, and value-based judgments of the mind. Many human sciences, including neuroscience and axiology, have come to the realization that the mind-brain is value-driven. That is, Value, values, and value judgments drive many, if not most or even all, of the processes of both the brain and the mind, including our sub-conscious habits of mind.

Think about it—have you ever made a conscious choice that wasn’t, at that moment, an attempt to add greater value at some level? Unfortunately, to our knowledge, the neuroscientists and axiologists have not been comparing notes. Consequently, until now, the amazing value-based connection between the mind and brain has been overlooked. This book makes that connection and more. Axiogenics is not some rehashed mystical, moral, or religious philosophy, nor is it a newfangled twist on the rhetoric of so-called “success gurus.” It is a fresh, new paradigm for personal, leadership and organizational development. It is a science-driven technology for deliberately creating positive changes in how we think, how we perceive, the kinds of choices we make, and the actions we take.

Life is about adding value. Whether you realize it yet or not, your entire life is about one thing: creating value. Virtually every thought, action, choice, and reaction you have is an attempt to create or preserve value. Success in life, love and leadership requires making good value judgments. Real personal power is in knowing which choices and actions will create the greatest net value.

Axiogenics is based on four core principles. They are:
1. Value drives success in all endeavors.
2. Your mind-brain is already value-driven.
3. There is an objective, universal Hierarchy of Value.
4. Accurately answering The Central Question is the key to maximizing your success.

Demarest, Peter D.; Schoof, Harvey J. (2011-06-24). Answering The Central Question (Kindle Locations 130-136). Heartlead Publishing, LLC. Kindle Edition.


Moral Reasoning & Crime ()

People who commit crimes are dumb, but what happens is, in the moment, that information about costs and consequences can’t get into their decision-making.

Research shows that brain biology governs not just our choices but also our moral judgments about what is right and wrong.

Using new technology, brain researchers are beginning to tease apart the biology that underlies our decisions to behave badly or do good deeds. They’re even experimenting with ways to alter our judgments of what is right and wrong, and our deep gut feelings of moral conviction.

One thing is certain: We may think in simple terms of “good” and “evil,” but that’s not how it looks in the brain at all.

In past years, as neuroscientists and psychologists began to delve into morality, “Many of us were after a moral center of the brain, or a particular system or circuit that was responsible for all of morality,” says assistant professor Liane Young, who runs The Morality Lab at Boston College. But “it turns out that morality can’t be located in any one area, or even set of areas — that it’s all over, that it colors all aspects of our life, and that’s why it takes up so much space in the brain.”

So there’s no “root of all evil.” Rather, says Buckholtz, “When we do brain studies of moral decision-making, what we are led into is an understanding that there are many different paths to antisocial behavior.”

If we wanted to build antisocial offenders, he says, brain science knows some of the recipe: They’d be hyper-responsive to rewards like drugs, sex and status — and the more immediate, the better. “Another thing we would build in is an inability to maintain representations of consequences and costs,” he says. “We would certainly short-circuit their empathic response to other people. We would absolutely limit their ability to regulate their emotions, particularly negative emotions like anger and fear.”

If it’s all just biology at work, are we still to blame if we commit a crime? And the correlate: Can we still take credit when we do good?

Daniel Dennett a professor of philosophy at Tufts University who incorporates neuroscience into his thinking and is a seasoned veteran of the debates around free will. He says it’s not news that our morality is based in our brains, and he doesn’t have much patience for excuses like, “My brain made me do it.”

“Of course my brain made me do it!” he says. “What would you want, your stomach to make you do it!?”

The age-old debate around free willis still raging on in philosophical circles, with new brain science in the mix. But Dennett argues that science doesn’t change the basic facts:

“If you do something on purpose and you know what you’re doing, and you did it for reasons good, bad or indifferent, then your brain made you do it,” he says. “Of course. And it doesn’t follow that you were not the author of that deed. Why? Because you are your embodied brain.”



Antisocial Personality; Not a Lack of Intelligence

Sociopaths and psychopaths, or the catch all clinical diagnosis of Antisocial personality disorder, fall under the above description, except intelligence is often high. Consequences do not seem to detour them, so definitely something not right in the mind/brain, however, this is not lack of intelligence.

Here are some books relating to this: The gift of fear, by Gavin Debecker. Without conscience, by Robert hare, Men who hate women and the Woman who love them, and the Sociopath Next Door.






Too quick to condemn?

However, But don’t be too quick to condemn all Sociopaths and psychopaths, or those with the clinical diagnosis of Antisocial personality disorder, because just having Mental Health Issues does not mean you cannot be moral. A scientist who studies psychopaths found out he was one by accident — and it completely changed his life.

Around 2005, Fallon started to notice a pattern in the scans of some of the criminals who were thought to be psychopaths, which led him to develop a theory: All of them appeared to have low levels of activity in a region of the brain located towards its center at the base of the frontal and temporal lobes. Scientists believe this region, called the orbital cortex, is involved in regulating our emotions and impulses and also plays a role in morality and aggression.

One day, Fallon’s technician brought him a stack of brain scans from an unrelated Alzheimer’s study. As he was going through the scans of healthy participants, they all looked normal — no surprises. But then he got to the last one.

It looked just like those of the murderers.

The identity of the brains in the scans had deliberately been masked so as not to bias theresults. But Fallon couldn’t leave it alone. “I said, we’ve got to check the [source] of that scan,” Fallon recalled recently to Business Insider. “It’s probably a psychopath… someone who could be a danger to society.” Turns out, the image wasn’t a scan of just any random participant — it was a scan of his own brain. http://www.businessinsider.com/psychopath-who-studies-psychopaths-2015-7 Here’s What It’s Like To Live As A Nonviolent Psychopath 

Axiological Realism: The Human Desire to Lead, Follow, and Rebel (Robert L. Oprisko)
Articulates a novel approach to international relations (IR) theory byreestablishing foundational tenets of realism using critical axiology. The unit of analysis is theindividual and human nature is essentialized into 1) man thinks 2) man acts and 3) man is social.By defining human nature in this way, it is possible to trace the development of individualpersonality through values to the creation of groups, including the foundation of states andgovernments. Individual interests are not produced by a singular anxiety, but rather a plurality of will. Actors‟ individual and situational defense of the status quo and drive for its revision  provides both the uncertainty of others‟ intentions and the certainty of plausible resistance to norms  – anarchy. Change comes from the margins and the outliers in a system, those statistically insignificant bits of data that foul up large-N quantitative studies. 

Axiological Realism (Joel J. Kupperman)

Many would consider the lengthening debate between moral realists and anti-realists to be draw-ish. Plainly new approaches are needed. Or might the issue, which most broadly concerns realism in relation to normative judgments, be broken down into parts or sectors? Physicists have been saying, in relation to a similarly longstanding debate, that light in some respects behaves like waves and in some respects like particles. Might realism be more plausible in relation to some kinds of normative judgments than others?


Babies and Morality?

Are we born with a moral core? The Baby Lab says ‘yes’ Moreover, Studies have shown babies are good judges of character in fact, Even Babies Think Crime Deserves Punishment thins should make you consider The Case for Objective Morality.


Animals and Morality?

5 Animals With a Moral Compass Moreover, Animals can tell right from wrong: Scientists studying animal behaviour believe they have growing evidence that species ranging from mice to primates are governed by moral codes of conduct in the same way as humans. Likewise, in the book: Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of AnimalsScientists have long counseled against interpreting animal behavior in terms of human emotions, warning that such anthropomorphizing limits our ability to understand animals as they really are. Yet what are we to make of a female gorilla in a German zoo who spent days mourning the death of her baby? Or a wild female elephant who cared for a younger one after she was injured by a rambunctious teenage male? Or a rat who refused to push a lever for food when he saw that doing so caused another rat to be shocked? Aren’t these clear signs that animals have recognizable emotions and moral intelligence? With Wild Justice Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce unequivocally answer yes. Marrying years of behavioral and cognitive research with compelling and moving anecdotes, Bekoff and Pierce reveal that animals exhibit a broad repertoire of moral behaviors, including fairness, empathy, trust, and reciprocity. Underlying these behaviors is a complex and nuanced range of emotions, backed by a high degree of intelligence and surprising behavioral flexibility. Animals, in short, are incredibly adept social beings, relying on rules of conduct to navigate intricate social networks that are essential to their survival. Ultimately, Bekoff and Pierce draw the astonishing conclusion that there is no moral gap between humans and other species: morality is an evolved trait that we unquestionably share with other social mammals.


Moral Naturalism (James Lenman)

While “moral naturalism” is sometimes used to refer to any approach to metaethics intended to cohere with naturalism in metaphysics more generally, the label is more usually reserved for naturalistic forms of moral realism according to which there are objective moral facts and properties and these moral facts and properties are natural facts and properties. Views of this kind appeal to many as combining the advantages of naturalism and realism.



Realism, Naturalism, and Moral Semantics (David O. Brink)

he prospects for moral realism and ethical naturalism have been important parts of recent debates within metaethics. As a first approximation, moral realism is the claim that there are facts or truths about moral matters that are objective in the sense that they obtain independently of the moral beliefs or attitudes of appraisers. Ethical naturalism is the claim that moral properties of people, actions, and institutions are natural, rather than occult or supernatural, features of the world. Though these metaethical debates remain unsettled, several people, myself included, have tried to defend the plausibility of both moral realism and ethical naturalism. I, among others, have appealed to recent work in the philosophy of language—in particular, to so-called theories of “direct reference” —to defend ethical naturalism against a variety of semantic worries, including G. E. Moore’s “open question argument.” In response to these arguments, critics have expressed doubts about the compatibility of moral realism and direct reference. In this essay, I explain these doubts, and then sketch the beginnings of an answer—but understanding both the doubts and my answer requires some intellectual background.



Formal Axiology: Efficiency of good?

“I thought to myself, if evil can be organized so efficiently [by the Nazis] why cannot good? Is there any reason for efficiency to be monopolized by the forces for evil in the world? Why have good people in history never seemed to have had as much power as bad people? I decided I would try to find out why and devote my life to doing something about it.” – Robert S. Hartman



Formal Axiology?

Formal Axiology is a specific branch of the science of Axiology. The late Dr. Robert S. Hartman developed this science between 1930 and 1973. It is a unique social science because it is the only social science that has a one to one relationship between a field of mathematics (transfinite set calculus) and its dimensions.

More About Formal Axiology http://www.cleardirection.com/docs/formalaxiology.asp

More About Dr. Robert S. Hartman http://www.cleardirection.com/docs/articles/drhartman.asp

The Dimensions of Value

Dr. Hartman identified three dimensions of reality, which he called the Dimensions of Value. We value everything in one of these three ways or in a combination of these dimensions. The Dimensions of Value are Systemic, Extrinsic, and Intrinsic.

More About The Dimensions of Value


Formal Axiology – Another Victim in Religion’s War on Science (William J. Kelleher)

This essay will review a book entitled
The Essentials of Formal Axiology, by Rem B. Edwards.

Formal Axiology is R.S. Hartman’s foundation for the development of value science. In order to properly discuss Rem’s book we will first summarize Hartman’s understanding of Formal Axiology and his hopes for a science of values. What are “values”? “Values” are the ideas and feelings of people about such matters as likes/dislikes, right/wrong, good/bad, beautiful/ugly, and other preferences. Clearly, it is a fact that people have values. But a science which can raise our knowledge of values above that of ideas, feelings, and opinion has yet to be developed. Robert S. Hartman was a philosopher of science who believed he had found a way to place the study of values on a footing that is every bit as precise and above mere opinion as are physics, chemistry, and the other natural sciences. Indeed, he presented his “Formal Axiology” as the foundation upon which a “Second Scientific Revolution” would be launched.

This foundation consists primarily of three parts. These are his Value Axiom, the three dimensions of value, and his Value Calculus. While it may seem difficult to understand at first, due to its unfamiliarity, upon sufficient reflection, the reader will come to see that Hartman’s system truly can make researching and analyzing values as precise and illuminating of value reality as any natural science is about its subject matter. Just as the chemical formula for “water” is H

O, so Formal Axiology has the capacity to make the structure of values and of valuing equally as precise. Let us consider the three elements of Formal Axiology before turning to Rem’s treatment of the subject.

The Three Elements of Formal Axiology

The first part of Formal Axiology is the Value Axiom, or the definition of “good. ”Hartman defines “good” as conceptual fulfillment. That is, a thing is a good such thing if it fulfills the definition of its concept, or classification. For example, suppose we define a “chair” as an object with a back, a seat, and four legs. Then we look around the room and find just such an object. By matching the thing with our conception of it, we know at once that it is a chair. Beyond the initial identification of the object, we can also formulate a judgment as to how good of a chair the thing is. We can add to our specifications for the goodness of a chair by requiring that it has padding, or can rock, or can be folded and stored away. One chair can be compared to others. Then, using our conception of a good chair, we can make assessment about which chairs are “better,” or “worse,” or “average,” and “best,” etc.

We can assign a numbered scale to the predicates in our definition, and measure exactly how much better or worse one chair is compared to another. Suppose we say that on a scale from 1 to 10, a three foot high seat is worth 5 points. A tilted back is worth 6 points, while a straight back is only worth 2, etc. To illustrate, suppose that newly weds, Mary and John, go shopping at a furniture store, using the criteria we have discussed. They compare several sets of chairs, adding up the points for each set. Then Mary spots a set of chairs that not only measure up, but that she just loves, and must have. As to the second element of Formal Axiology, this Mary and John scenario illustrates what Hartman calls the three dimensions of value. These are the extrinsic, systemic, and intrinsic.

In the extrinsic dimension, object and conception are matched together. As we have seen, this process can result in measurable degrees of goodness.

In the systemic dimension of value, only identity is considered. An object is a “chair” or it isn’t. Beds and tables weren’t on John and Mary’s shopping list today. The systemic entails the process of classification, or taxonomy. Identifying a thing is the first step taken before the more elaborate measurement of degrees can be undertaken.

The intrinsic dimension of values is in the realm of feeling rather than in the more rational realm of measuring degrees or of making either/or judgments. Mary’s love of the set of chairs she and John bought can’t be quantified or even fully explained. The chairs just fit her aesthetic sensibility, and the vision of how she wanted to decorate her living room. They also remind her of her happy childhood, and her holiday visits to Aunt Jane’s house. The third element of Formal Axiology is the more formal part, the Value Calculus. Here is the computational aspect that makes precise value sciences possible. Hartman developed a system of notation using the letters S (systemic),E (extrinsic), and I (intrinsic) to represent the three dimensions of value as categories, and using the same letters as ways of notating how the object in the categories is being valued. To illustrate this computational system, let us continue to follow John and Mary as they shop. When Mary was shopping she first scanned the store’s inventory to identify which objects are chairs or not. Since chairs are things, they are in the extrinsic value category. Her classifying of things as chairs or non-chairs is a systemic valuation of them. In the Value Calculus, this would be notated as E S. This is read as “E power S,” or the systemic valuation of an extrinsic value.

Mary’s love of the chairs she and John bought can be notated as E I; or, E power I. That is, the intrinsic valuation of an extrinsic value. Most of the chairs she saw, she felt indifferent to; hence, there was no valuation beyond the quick systemic valuations she made to identify the objects as chairs or not. Some of the chairs were so ugly, in her estimation, that she just hated them. This valuation would be notated as E I; or, E sub I – the intrinsic disvaluation of an extrinsic value.

Value Calculus Realism

Hartman’s Value Calculus takes a realistic, or fact-based, view of the world. People have and act upon values. Value scientists will seek to understand what those values are, and to analyze their structure. That empirical orientation is why the Value Calculus can serve as the formal side of the yet to be developed value sciences. To illustrate this realism, suppose that after church on Sunday Mary comments to her friend, Jane, that there are three things she loves most in the world. These are God, her new husband John, and her old dog Fido (no kids yet).How would a value scientist notate these value situations, or instances of valuing? Since the science of value has an empirical orientation, God is seen as a conception in Mary’s mind; hence, notated as S. Since she loves God, the valuation is intrinsic, or I. The Value Calculus formula for this is S I – read as S power I; or, as the intrinsic valuation of a systemic value. As to Mary’s valuation of John, the Value Calculus has a special rule: persons, and only persons, are always notated as I in the initial position of the Value Calculus formula. So her love of John is notated as I I – I power I; or, the intrinsic valuation of an intrinsic value. Since Fido is a non-human organism, or a thing in the world, his initial value category is E, an extrinsic value. Hence, E I – read as E power I; or, as the intrinsic valuation of an extrinsic value. Comparing value structures and trying to account for the similarities and differences will one day be a regular part of practicing value science. Instances of valuing can be far more complex than this illustration of Mary’s feelings. So, the Value Calculus uses “nesting” to notate further permutations of value. For example, notice that the formula for Mary’s love of Fido has the same value structure as her love of her new chairs: E I.

But suppose Mary protests that she loves Fido even more than her chairs because he is a living thing, and the chairs are inanimate objects. So Mary’s love of Fido as a living organism requires a different value structure than her love of the chairs. Since “life” is a principle, or conception, which adds value to Fido, a different formula can be used: [E S] I; or, the intrinsic valuation of the systemic valuation of an extrinsic value. Take another example: Mary has surgery to remove the mole on her nose, and is delighted with the results. From the value scientist’s point of view, the value structure of this situation is, [I E] I. The doctor operating on Mary to improve her looks is marked as I power E, because Mary is an intrinsic value being acted upon, and action is an extrinsic value. Mary’s delight with the results is an intrinsic valuation of the doctor’s extrinsic valuation of her. So, this more complex formula is read as I power E power I; or, the intrinsic valuation of the extrinsic valuation of an intrinsic value. In the future, computers will be able to workout extremely complex value structures. In the Value Calculus, superscripts represent what Hartman calls “compositions”(positives) while subscripts are for “transpositions” (negatives) of value. For example, Mary hated that mole on her nose. The mole is an extrinsic value, and her hate for it an intrinsic disvaluation. The formula: E I; read as E sub I, or an intrinsic disvaluation of an extrinsic value. This is the same value structure as her distain of the ugly chairs in the furniture store.

The Threat to Religion-based Morality

In a nutshell, then, this is Hartman’s Formal Axiology. It is the foundation, or computational framework, for the development of value sciences, but it is not value science in itself. Particular value sciences will have to be founded by pioneering thinkers. Hartman wrote that a new science of “ethics” will be developed unlike any of the existing ethical theories that philosophers and religious partisans have been arguing over for centuries. Value science, he hoped, would “secularize ethics,” and displace religion, superstition, and the current variety of ethical philosophies with an empirically based scientific method of thinking about ethical values. Hartman was fully aware of the threat Formal Axiology is to religion as a moral authority in the world today. He wrote that just as Galileo’s use of a formal system brought “revolutionary changes … in [pre-scientific] natural philosophy… the transition to moral science [will bring] radical changes in moral philosophy.”

Hartman envisioned a scientific ethics that would eventually displace religion as an authoritative, but not authoritarian, source of moral advice. He was aware, as we all are, of the shameful wars that dogmatic and fanatical religions some times engage in against one another. Each side believes itself in possession of The One Truth, and therefore Morally Superior to apostates, infidels, and the heretics in the opposed religions. In the value structure of such deadly conflicts, ideas and doctrines are regarded as more important than the real human beings who are murdered in the name of such “Truths.” Indeed, such murder is often considered “morally good” by the Believers. But the Value Calculus can expose this hypocrisy. Killing a person in the name of a religion is formulated as [I E] S; or, the systemic valuation of the extrinsic disvaluation of an intrinsic value. The religious warriors think it is “good,” or morally honorable, to kill folks with different views. But the formal structure shows that no matter how good one sees such killing, the disvaluation of a person is contained in the self-delusion that the act was a purely positive act. Thus are religious warriors confronted with the Real Truth, the Truth of Formal Axiology. Using the Value Calculus, ideas are never more important than people. Hartman wrote that Formal Axiology “thus helps expose the real evils – the disvalues posing as values – of our civilization … which are chronic diseases of the so-called Christian world and which arise from its inverted hierarchy of values.”
Hartman predicted that among the coming value sciences would be a new form of political science which could become an authoritative, but not authoritarian, source of political wisdom. It would analyze the value structures of laws, policies, and government practices.

Indeed, he outlined 18 different branches of the value sciences. Among these are a new form of aesthetics, economics, psychology, sociology, epistemology, jurisprudence, and literary criticism – all yet to be developed. Formal Axiology is intended to provide the formal system for the value sciences like mathematics provides the formal system for the natural sciences, such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics. Hartman predicted that just as the natural sciences have produced amazing and revolutionary benefits for humanity, when the value sciences develop and mature, so they will enrich the quality of human life beyond what is currently thought achievable. Hartman introduced his Formal Axiology, and discussed his hopes for it, in his1967 book,

The Structure of Value

Unfortunately, the book was slow to catch on, and tragically, Hartman died in 1973. A group calling itself “The Hartman Institute,” headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee was given possession of Hartman’s voluminous unpublished writings, by his grieving widow, Rita, and in exchange they pledged to make his work known to the world. Rem Edwards was one of the founding members of that group, and the book we are reviewing heres hows how they have gone about fulfilling their pledge to Rita Hartman (who is now deceased.)

The Augustinian Plot

Rem’s book presents itself as an explanation of R.S. Hartman’s Formal Axiology. But it is not that at all. Unhappily, it is a rambling, repetitious, screed bent upon so mutilating and misrepresenting Hartman’s work that no one will be interested in learning more about it. It is, in short, not a difference of opinion, but an act of sabotage. A little history will put this poison pill in its proper context.

In the Fifth Century, Saint Augustine formulated Church doctrine with such books as The City of God, which, among other things, disparaged Pagan beliefs and the study of nature. Philosopher Michael Polanyi notes that Augustine “denied the value of a natural science which contributed nothing to the pursuit of salvation. His ban destroyed interest in science all over Europe for a thousand years.”

As interest in science began to re-emerge with the Renaissance, one of the major challenges to Christian beliefs was brought by Copernicus. He claimed that the universe did not revolve around Earth, as Church officials taught, but that Earth revolved around the sun. Galileo used a telescope to gather evidence which, among other things, supported Copernicus. In the 1630s the blessed Bishops of the Catholic Church threatened Galileo with torture and prison if he didn’t recant some of his more offensive findings. Mindful of what happened to Giordano Bruno, Galileo complied. The astronomer Bruno went even further than Copernicus, and asserted that our sun was just one among many in the universe. In 1600 he was burned at the stake after the Inquisition declared him guilty of heresy. Over the years, many other scientists, as well as witches, heretics, Pagans, and suspected or known nonbelievers suffered imprisonment, torture, and death for their independence of mind. But religion’s war on science didn’t stop in ancient Europe. It has continued wellin to modern times. For example, Christian Fundamentalists had a law passed in Tennessee prohibiting the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution in public schools, because they said such teachings contradicted the Bible. The Scopes Trial was conducted in that Bible Belt state in 1925, and high school teacher John Scopes was convicted and fined $100 for “teaching Darwin.” (A new Model T Ford, then, cost around $300.)

Now, if Rem and his group of True Believers in the Scope’s Trial sub-culture have their way, value science will suffer a fate like that of natural science under Augustine, and be neglected for the next 1000 years. They have already let Hartman’s main book, The Structure of Value, go out of print, even as they publish a stream of their own works on “Christian Values.” They have kept Hartman’s papers locked up in Tennessee, not put online, inaccessible to the world for nearly 40 years. Their Augustinian plot is well on its way towards success.

Hartman’s Unitary Vision

As stated above, Hartman’s Formal Axiology consists primarily of three parts. These are his Value Axiom, the three dimensions of value, and his Value Calculus. Hartman presented these conceptions with math-like clarity. However, Rem’s strategy is to save religion by discouraging anyone from seeing the opportunity to build value sciences on the foundation Hartman has provided.Rem does this by misrepresenting the parts of Formal Axiology as the muddled musings of a Perplexed Philosopher, who deserves feint praise for his efforts butwho has not left us with anything useful.For example, Hartman presents his “Value Axiom” as the core insight for FormalAxiology. It not only defines the meaning of “good,” but it enables the valuescientist to see that the value realm consists of three dimensions of value – theextrinsic, the systemic, and the intrinsic. Awareness of these three dimensionsmakes possible the Value Calculus, which uses the letters E, S, and I. But, as wewill see, the unity of Hartman’s vision is deceptively presented by Rem as anamateurish hodge-podge of disconnected nebulous notions.The role of vision in science has been well documented. Thomas Kuhn, thehistorian of science, has written that a field of natural science is defined by a“paradigm,” which is a vision of the field shared by its practitioners. Over time,this paradigm is “articulated” by working scientists.

Hartman understood thiswhen he wrote that the “cumulative process of science is the differentiation of theunitary vision.”

Formal Axiology was his “unitary vision.” This vision captured, for him, “the infinite unity of the whole field … the integrative core of the totality of all the phenomena in question.”

He saw the Value Axiom as “the symbolic form of the core of [the] phenomenal field [of values].” Hartman came to know the Value Axiom through “a direct and immediate intuition.”

Rem refuses to honor Hartman’s presentation of the Axiom of Value as the foundation for a science of values. Instead Rem refers to the Value Axiom throughout his book as “the Form of the Good.” He uses that term scores of times, while Hartman never used it in The Structure of Value.

Rem uses the term in an attempt to characterize Hartman as a ladder day Platonist who has succeeded where Plato failed; that is, at defining the Form of the Good. Rem condescendingly praises this as an achievement that all academic philosopher scan admire, but of no practical use. By associating Hartman with Plato, who pursued “Forms” and had no interest in the mundane studies of science, Rem’s rubric aims to distract his readers from Hartman’s decidedly non-Platonic scientific intentions. While Hartman held a “unitary vision” of Formal Axiology, Rem denounces that as delusional. He argues ad nauseam that the three dimensions of value are neither inclusive of the entire value realm, nor deducible from the Axiom of Value, but are mere constructs and “attachments.” Rem challenges Hartman’s discussion of the three dimensions of value by asking, “How do we know that there are only three?” Without skipping a beat, Rem answered his own question by proclaiming, as if speaking for all humanity, “We don’t.” But he pats Hartman on the head for at least making a “great start” on thinking about values.

Actually, Rem’s claim that the three dimensions of value “cannot be deduced or inferred from” the Value Axiom is true from a hyper literal-minded point of view. The three dimensions of value cannot, literally, be deduced from the words “goodness is conceptual fulfillment.” But Rem’s failure to see the unity of parts does not mean that no unity exists. Hartman often referred to “Gestalts;” that is, the vision of relations within a whole, as opposed to picking at words about the vision. A landscape painting might feature a tree, but there is also the sky, clouds, birds, the ground in which the tree is rooted, grass, flowers, and a blanket upon which picnickers are enjoying themselves. When a viewer says “the focus of this painting is a tree,” the rest of the picture “cannot be deduced or inferred from” the literal words about the painting. But all the parts are there when the picture itself is looked at, as a whole. Hartman wanted people to know that when contemplating the Value Axiom, which he primarily illustrated with examples of extrinsic value, the other two dimensions come into view as completing the Gestalt of the value realm. For the holistic thinker, the three dimensions cover the field, but not for Rem, who insists that the three dimensions were pulled from a hat. Indeed, Rem’s insistence that Hartman’s three dimensions can’t be “inferred or derived from it [the Value Axiom], despite his claim to the contrary, ” actually attributes a claim to Hartman that he never made.

For Hartman, the three dimensions of value constitute the entire value realm of the human mind, and are neither “inferred” nor “derived” from anything. At best, Rem is simply reifying his own value blindness.

The Moral Fallacy

Rem’s main strategy is to undermine Hartman’s claim that Formal Axiology is a “science,” and make it appear to be just another moral philosophy. Although Hartman uses such words as “good” and “goodness,” and even “bad” on occasion, he intends Formal Axiology to be a method for describing and analyzing actual value situations, and not at all a philosophy about prescribing what kinds of thoughts or actions are right or wrong, good or bad. For Hartman, Formal Axiology is no more a moral system than is chemistry. But if Rem can effectively muddle this distinction in the minds of his readers, and make Formal Axiology appear to be morally prescriptive, then scientific minded folks will turn away from it rather than use it to develop the value sciences that Hartman hoped would follow. Early in his book, Rem sets the stage for the “faith based” line of attack he will take against Hartman’s efforts to establish a foundation for the science of values. After expounding on what he mislabels “the Form of the Good,” Rem criticizes both Hartman and Plato for failing to see that there could also be “a Form of the Bad.”

Rem tries to give Hartman’s use of the word “goodness” a moral gloss by contrasting it with the term “badness.” Rem writes that, “badness, evil, or ‘sin,’ as the theologians would say, has real power and reality in itself; and, despite Hartman, it is not mere privation of goodness.” Human vices, for Rem, “are real and powerful inner forces or manifestations of evil that actually exist.” Rem believes in “morally bad people. Hitler, for example, was not a bad man simply because he lacked [good qualities]. No, he was a bad man because he possessed demonic power, hatred, malice, viciousness, cruelty, etc.” Here Rem seeks to undermine the very possibility of a science of value, independent of religion, by associating Hartman’s Value Axiom not only with the speculative philosophy of Plato, but with such bizarre theological notions as that “badness, evil, or ‘sin,’” have as much “reality” as wind and rain, or arms and legs.

For Rem, “values” cannot be understood, except through the interpretive framework of religious morality, the only frame of reference he can imagine. As Hartman intended it, when “good” is defined as conceptual fulfillment, then goodness can be measured on a scale from good, to fair, to not good, or bad. A “bad” chair, for example, is one that collapses when you sit on it. Hartman’s use of the words “good” and “bad” are descriptive of measurements based on defined concepts. In Formal Axiology, these words are as completely free of any moralizing connotations as are the degrees measured by a thermometer. Temperature extremes may cause people some discomfort, but few people would call them “evil,” or “morally bad.” But Rem wants to pollute that scientific moral detachment and clarity by baptizing his presentation of “the Form of the Good” with Holy Water. Hartman saw this type of confusion coming, and warned against what he called the “Moral Fallacy.” This is a logical “confusion of different types of frames of reference, such as … the axiological with the moral.” It also occurs in the confusion of “goodness in general with moral goodness.”

For value sciences, “goodness in general” is the Value Axiom – that goodness can be measured as degrees of conceptual fulfillment. “Moral goodness” is a subset of goodness in general. Indeed, there won’t be any single theory of “moral goodness” in the value sciences, as there is in religion. Instead, moral goodness will be divided up as applied elements of the value science “ethics,” the value science “psychology,” “political science,” and other yet to be spelled out value sciences. These fields of pure research will develop applied branches which will then make recommendations about “morals,” that is, how to avoid or reduce value transpositions and enhance value compositions. One analogy is the growth of public health knowledge over the past century.

As an example of Formal Axiology’s non-moralistic perspective, a murder can be “good.” That is, if a “good murder” is defined as “the unlawful killing of another person without leaving any evidence behind,” then one murder can be better than another. A “bad” murder would be one at which the murderer left behind his business card and a video tape of him committing the crime. The value structure of murder is I E; the extrinsic disvaluation of an intrinsic value. In Formal Axiology, killing a person is always the extrinsic disvaluation of an intrinsic value. This is not a moral position, but an axiologic formula. So, a good murder does not make murder good. From the moral point of view, a homicide can be justifiable. The value structure of a “justifiable homicide” would be [I E] S – the systemic valuation of an extrinsic disvaluation of an intrinsic value.

While the same value structure as killing in the name of a religion, a justifiable homicide is free of self-deception because it recognizes the disvaluation of the victim, but excuses the wrongdoer from punishment. The value structure of the moral disapproval of killing a person is [I E] S; the systemic disvaluation of the extrinsic disvaluation of an intrinsic value. This is the same value structure of a conviction for murder under the law. The purpose of the Moral Fallacy, as an axiologic maxim, is to preserve Formal Axiology’s status as a “science,” and to keep it from being misunderstood as amoral philosophy. But, “despite Hartman,” Rem persists in committing the Moral Fallacy on every page of his book, in line with his project of misrepresentation. For Rem, there is no scientific point of view from which to understand values, but only that of his Old Time Religion.

Components of the Value Calculus

As we have seen, there are three primary components of the Value Calculus. These are the initial position, in which the object of valuation is notated, the valuation of that object, and nesting as a way to show successive valuations. For Rem, Hartman’s Value Calculus is an abomination. He seems to find two aspects of it especially repugnant. We noted earlier that because value science is empirically oriented, God is classified as a conception in the minds of people. As such, God is a systemic value (which can be valued intrinsically by believers).Also, placing an individual person, and only an individual person, in the initial position as an I, or intrinsic value, is a rule of operation for the Value Calculus. But Rem wants God to be treated as real, and to be valued as an I-value in the initial position of the Value Calculus. If he cannot have his way, then he will try to destroy the Value Calculus.

Why Only Persons in the I-value Category?

Regarding his first objection, Rem raises a legitimate question; that is, why is the I-value in the initial position of the Value Calculus reserved only for persons? In other words, why did Hartman treat people in the Value Calculus as categorically unique in value compared to any other living creature, or any thing, or any idea? It appears that Hartman has built the seemingly moral principles of honor or respect for the individual person into the Value Calculus. But upon what grounds? One reason seems to be that Hartman took it as a matter of fact that one person’s life has special value in the minds of other persons. In recognition of this fact, persons get a special spot in the Value Calculus. But this value is non-quantifiable. Except for some lawyers and insurance agents, most folks would likely agree that, aside from business and legal affairs, intuitively “you can’t put a price on a human life,” at least not as a universal measure. Since the value of a person’s life cannot reasonably be quantified, and no limit can be put on it, Hartman sometimes used the term “nondenumerable infinity” for a person’s value. In this sense, the term “intrinsic value” refers to the special category of persons, whose value is immeasurable. Thus, he is not saying that all persons “ought” to be valued intrinsically, but only that for the Value Calculus this “is” the most fitting category for persons. This marker for the Value Calculus does not mean that folks cannot, or should not, regard other folks with disrespect, contempt, dislike, or even hatred. But those are valuations about the I-value category. Such valuations do not define the category itself, which is built into the Value Calculus.

While Hartman does not say this, it seems that another weighty reason for giving persons a special category in the Value Calculus is that doing so enables the calculus to work. In other words, it is an intellectual commitment in the same sense that the commitment to “zero” is necessary for mathematics to work. Nobody has ever seen, touched, or measured “zero,” or nothing, but the concept is a necessary a priori condition for a useful mathematics. People might reasonably disagree that persons universally deserve a special and exclusive spot in the Value Calculus, but without it there can be no Value Calculus for Formal Axiology. Hartman wrestled quite a bit with the problem of justifying a special spot for persons. He agreed with Kant, who wrote that respect for other people means that they should be treated “as ends in themselves, and not as means to an end. ”Formally, this maxim compares I E with I E. Kant’s doctrine has been widely accepted intuitively by people for over two centuries, although often violated. Hartman also offered his own speculative argument, or “proof,” of the infinite value of persons, as opposed to the limited value of extrinsic and systemic values. In short, besides agreeing with Kant, he also agreed with Aristotle’s understanding of “man” as “the rational animal,” and made human reason, or thinking power, one of the bases for the special category of persons as intrinsic values.

But Hartman’s intrinsic value category for persons is regarded with horror by Rem, who sees it as heresy. Thus, Rem throws everything he’s got at it, in the hope that something negative will stick with the reader. “Traditional Christian theology,” Rem righteously declares, “was much more inclined to call us human beings infinitely bad than to call us infinitely good, something that Hartman never realized or considered.”

A believer in the First Commandment, Rem invokes the wisdom of those theologians who see granting persons intrinsic value as a form of “heresy and a blasphemous self-deification.” Such a value category for human beings is “definitely not anywhere in the Bible.” A Knight of Faith, defending the doctrine of Original Sin, Rem reminds his readers that “Traditional Christianity clearly did not affirm that we have infinite value because of properties that we inherently possess [such as being born sinners].” Rem goes on at some length “refuting” Hartman’s special value category for the person. Concluding this section, Rem seriously wonders whether the Christian theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr (and perhaps Elvis), would see Hartman as “a devil in disguise, a finite being pretending to be infinite?” If Rem’s first line of attack has not put the fear of Jehovah in his readers and sent them running from the Value Calculus, he has other resources. As another line of attack he simply misstates Hartman’s conception of the category “intrinsic value” so that it will include all “conscious beings.” Then he makes up the term “intrinsic value-objects,” uses it as if it were a part of Formal Axiology’s terminology, and repeatedly states that it includes “people and other conscious beings like animals and God.”

To make Hartman look confused, Rem offers the baseless observation that in deciding what to include in the Value Calculus category of intrinsic value, Hartman’s “position on animals was ambiguous, to say the least.” Rem takes credit for clarifying Hartman’s perplexity by adding animals to the category, “as well as other unique conscious beings like God.”

This misrepresentation reveals one of Rem’s tactics, which is to conflate uses of the word “intrinsic,” like in a shell game, and then attribute the confusion he causes to Hartman to make him appear as a Perplexed Philosopher. After executing this slight of hand, Rem innocently declares, as if speaking for the members of the Hartman Institute, “This leaves us wishing that Hartman would just make up his mind!” But it is Rem who is the obscurantist, not Hartman.

Rem’s Attack on the Forms of Valuation

Having demolished the clarity of the I-value category, or hoping he did so, Rem goes to work on the three forms of valuation. Rem knows that if the S, E, I forms of valuation are not as clear and distinct as the numbers 1, 2, and 3, the Value Calculus will seem to his readers to be a useless hodge-podge of blurry notions. Then Hartman’s foundation for the science of values will appear to be about as solid ground as a mud puddle, and no one will want to try to build on that. To that end, Rem shamelessly states the sheer fabrication that a “continuum of feelings runs throughout the three dimensions, so no sharp affective lines separate them.”

Why not say this? Since Hartman’s book has been out of print for at least a couple of decades, who’ll know the better? In case the reader missed the point, he repeats that S, E, or I valuation “typically differs significantly by degrees,” and that “all valuations are on a continuum of feelings; the lines between them are never drawn with exactitude.” Also, “The lines between the three are not absolutely sharp.” Let us then re-examine the differences between the three forms of valuation to test the veracity of Rem’s remarks.

S Value

A systemic valuation is a linear assessment of whether or not a thing fits in a certain category. Suppose Joe spots a coin in the street. He picks it up and assesses its proper category in an instant. Clearly, a penny is not a nickel, nor a dime a dollar – no matter how wishfully he feels that it were otherwise. The notation for Joe’s act of classification is E S; an extrinsic value, the coin, valued systemically. No feeling involved here, just a classification. But suppose Joe is a member of the Anti-Penny League, a group that demands Congress abolish the penny. He might view the coin with the feelings of anger and disgust. Then the value situation would be E I; an intrinsic disvaluation of an extrinsic value. If he goes to church and drops the penny in the poor box to make a contribution, he values it extrinsically; E E. If he then praises himself for his unbounded generosity; [E E] I. This is how feeling is accounted for in the Value Calculus. There isn’t any S or E feeling, but only I represents feeling as either superscript or subscript. If all valuations are a muddle on a continuum, as Rem has presented them, then of course lines cannot be drawn. But that is not how the Value Calculus works. Rem’s mendacious explanation of S, E, I valuations would make the Value Calculus untenable – a result he and his ilk value intrinsically.

I Value Intensity

An intrinsic valuation is a positive or negative feeling about something. Anything imaginable can be valued or disvalued intrinsically. A house, a car, an idea, a philosophical system, a TV program, a fairy tale, a star, the moon, a Martian, another person. It can be a slight feeling or a strong feeling. Indifference is no feeling about something, and thus not an intrinsic valuation. But the tiniest step, positive or negative, beyond indifference is an intrinsic valuation. Mary’s interest in the TV show, “Days in Our Lives,” is a positive feeling, and her disgust with “The Friday Night Fights” a negative feeling. John’s feelings are the reverse. But these are not intense feelings, so neither wants to murder the other for their different preferences. Rem, however, writes as though the “I” in intrinsic value stands for “intense.” For example, he characterizes the intrinsic valuation of systemic values, such as ideas, or philosophies, as involving “Intense curiosity or wonder,” “intense concentration,” or otherwise being “intensely involved” with an idea, etc.

Rem earnestly assures us that “If we love anything with all our heart … we evaluate it intrinsically, we are one with it.” From there, Rem’s continuum moves to dimensions with less intense valuations. “Extrinsic evaluation is liking but not loving.”

Rem further mutilates the lines that distinguish valuations by telling his readers that when negative emotions are “in their extreme forms they manifest intrinsic disvaluation. They may also be quite tame, mild, ordinary, and less extreme, thus extrinsic.” Nonsense!

E Value

Unlike the feelings of intrinsic valuations, and the either/or categorizations of systemic valuations, the extrinsic valuation is made with quantifiable degrees of fulfillment. As we saw in the example of a “chair,” the predicates in the definition of a thing can be numbered and matched with the corresponding properties of the thing. The number of matches between predicate and property can be counted. This count can be used as a measure of goodness. If the thing has 10 properties that match each of the 10 predicates, it is an excellent such thing. Five matches might be average, and one, two, or no matches, “bad.” For example, a “good” toilet bowl would make a “bad” chair. (Of course, in value science a “bad” chair is not a “sinful” chair, except perhaps for Rem and his cohorts.)The measure of a thing’s goodness can be made more precise by taking a closer look at each match of predicate and property. How well, or fully, a property matches up to its corresponding predicate can, for example, be rated on a scale of 1 to 10.

There is no limit on the number of predicates someone can set out as a measure of goodness. Specifying a back, a seat (for one sitter), and four legs only sets up three predicates. But many more could be added. The type of wood, the style of the design, the thickness and length of each part, etc. can be requirements for the measure of goodness. Then each match of these rated 1 to 10. Thus, Hartman notes that for extrinsic valuation the predicates and properties can be numbered into infinity (a “denumerable infinity”). Fortunately, for most practical purposes that will not be necessary! But the point here is that extrinsic valuationsare based on quantifiable matches, and are not vague feelings.As we have said, for the Value Calculus, intrinsic valuations are alwaysexpressions of feeling. They may be positive, and notated as a superscript, or negative, and notated as a subscript. But the intensity of feeling has no formal notation in the Value Calculus. Once the value structure of a value situation is formalized, people can be asked as a separate step to rate their feelings, for example, from 1-10. But such ratings are entirely subjective, both personally and culturally relative, and not amenable to the degree of objectivity required for formal expression in the Value Calculus. While value structures are universal among humans, the personal meanings and experiences of feelings are not. As the various value sciences emerge, they will explore personal meanings and experiences of feelings in greater depth.

Formal Axiology is the general system to which each new value science will connect as a subsystem, like the various natural sciences connect to mathematics.

Math and the Cult of Hartman Fixers

Besides his Ph.D. in philosophy, Hartman also had a law degree and a Ph.D. in math. Given his interest in math, there are some lengthy discussions of that subject in The Structure of Value. For example, in reference to the Calculus of Value, he writes, “There are nine compositions and nine transpositions of the three value categories.”

That is, each of the S, E, I categories of value can be valued with a positive or a negative systemic, extrinsic, or intrinsic valuation. By notating an S, E, I valuation subscript or superscript in connection with a value category, a “secondary value combination” is created. There are, then, 18 (and only 18) possible secondary value combinations, as follows: Compositions: S S, S E, S I; E S, E E, E I; I S, I E, I I
Transpositions: S S, S E, S I; E S, E E, E I; I S, I E, I I

As mentioned earlier, nesting begins with tertiary combinations. There are “108[possible] tertiary value combinations.” Using a double nest, there are “648quaternary combinations, and so on.”

Theoretically, there is no end to the complexity of Value Calculus combinations for illuminating value situations. We also saw above that there is plenty of opportunity for mathematical complexity in the application of extrinsic value. Hartman writes, “like a mathematical formula in the natural sciences, a value formula is capable of infinite interpretation.”

Indeed, Hartman was so taken by the parallels he saw between mathematics and the applications of extrinsic value and the Value Calculus that he frequently digressed into discussions of math throughout his book. Hartman experimentally drew parallels between his concepts of systemic, extrinsic, and intrinsic values, and mathematical theories of “finite numbers,” “denumerable infinities,” and “non-denumerable infinities.” He thought that by making such heuristic comparisons, there would be all kinds of “interesting possibilities for the axiological scientist.”

Although a math lover (thus, S I, the same value structure as the love of God), Hartman was fully aware that it was only incidental to Formal Axiology, and not essential to it. That is one reason why he specified the “Metaphysical Fallacy;” an error of axiologic reasoning that occurs when “the mathematical frame of reference of the natural sciences is confused with the axiological frame of reference of the [yet to be developed] moral sciences.”

Commission of this Fallacy shows a failure to understand that Hartman intended his Value Calculus to be the primary computational system for the value sciences, analogous to the role of math in the various natural sciences but not reliant upon it. Just as math enables natural scientists to articulate formal structures for the phenomena they study, so the Value Calculus will enable value scientists to articulate the formal structures of their phenomena. Unable, or unwilling, to separate the wheat from the chaff, Rem completely misrepresents the role of math in Formal Axiology. Seeing that Hartman took his parallels “from set theory and transfinite math,” Rem leaps to the unwarranted and false conclusion that transfinite mathematics is as essential to Formal Axiology as are the Value Axiom and the three dimensions of value. Although Hartman warned against the confusion of math with the Value Calculus, Rem writes deceptively that “He thought there could be no real science without mathematical formulas.”

Then Rem rejects as “unworkable…Hartman’s own calculus of value, based as it was on applied transfinite mathematics and set theory.” Too bad: “Formal axiology will just have to find another math” Rem declares triumphantly, “We are only halfway there in creating a science of value.” And, “Having a formal calculus of value that is isomorphous with its subject matter still awaits the insights of creative mathematicians.”

Thus Rem hopes to discourage everyone but a few “creative mathematicians” from trying to develop any value sciences based on Hartman’s Formal Axiology. Taking their cue from Rem, the Board of Directors of the Hartman Institute has made one of their five most “important goals … To develop a formal Calculus of Value that really works.”

Oblivious to the meaning of the Metaphysical Fallacy, the Quest for this Holy Grail has inspired a whole crop of Hartman Fixers and other Lilliputians. Their motto seems to be “We must fix Hartman before we understand him!” The Institute publishes a pricey members-only journal full of “Hartman fixes.” Although pledging their dedication to “fixing” Hartman, the honorable Board, as noted above, has let his main book go out of print, and since 1977 has kept his unpublished materials stored in about 60 boxes in Knoxville.


Rem dedicates this book “to the loyal Officers and Board Members of the Robert S. Hartman Institute.” He praises them for toiling selflessly to fulfill the promise they made to Hartman’s widow, so as to obtain legal possession of Hartman’s published and unpublished writings, lectures, and speeches. According to Rem, that promise was “to make Hartman’s work available to the world.” viii This promise is their self-set standard of goodness. Applying this standard to the efforts put forth so far, how would you rate them? Judging by their behavior, one might wonder whether their actual intentions have always been to duplicate the success of St. Augustine. With lots of help from Rem, they are doing “good” at that!

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.Email:wjkellpro@aol.com


From this primary value axiom two “fallacies” and two “enhancements” follow.

Value Fallacies: The Ideological Fallacy — to value ideas over persons. The Instrumental Fallacy — to value persons solely for their usefulness.

Value Enhancements: The Ideological Enhancement — using ideas to enhance or enrich the lives of persons. The Instrumental Enhancement — using persons to enhance or enrich their lives.


Several members have made fortunes as business consultants using the Hartman Value Profile, but these “HVP millionaires” refuse to fund the publication of a free, peer-reviewed open access online journal from which scholars around the world could learn, and to which they could contribute to help in the development of the value sciences.


Axiology: Two Worlds in Three Dimensions of Value http://www.valueinsights.com/axiology3.html

Value Calculus Realism?

Hartman’s Value Calculus takes a realistic, or fact‐based, view of the world. People have and act upon values. Value scientists will seek to understand what those values are, and to analyze their structure. That empirical orientation is why the Value Calculus can serve as the formal side of the yet to be developed value sciences.



Subjective Things in the World but Making Objective Conclusions?

“The first part of Formal Axiology is the Value Axiom, or the definition of “good. ”Hartman defines “good” as conceptual fulfillment. That is, a thing is a good such thing if it fulfills the definition of its concept, or classification. For example, suppose we define a “chair” as an object with a back, a seat, and four legs. Then we look around the room and find just such an object. By matching the thing with our conception of it, we know at once that it is a chair. Beyond the initial identification of the object, we can also formulate a judgment as to how good of a chair the thing is. We can add to our specifications for the goodness of a chair by requiring that it has padding, or can rock, or can be folded and stored away. One chair can be compared to others. Then, using our conception of a good chair, we can make assessment about which chairs are “better,” or “worse,” or “average,” and “best,” etc.”


My point (Damien AtHope) about subjective things in the world but making objective conclusions I am referring to let’s say the chair explanation above. The concept of chair is subjective as it only relates to humans; as such, fish would not see any chair as having a good or bad status, but as humans who do hold the concept of chair we can make some objective statements of what makes a good chair.


Axiological Investigations (JONAS OLSON)

Sometimes it may be a legitimate as well as advisable tactic to postpone, as far as possible, commitments to controversial stands on the semantics, ontology, epistemology, and psychology of value and evaluative judgements, in the course of our formal axiological investigations. It also deserves to be emphasised that the discussions in this introduction and in the essays do not presuppose a particular normative position. It is sometimes assumed that questions about value are of interest exclusively to philosophers of a consequentialist or teleological bent. But surely, deontologists, contractualists, virtue ethicists and anyone with a serious interest in moral philosophy should pay some consideration to questions about good and bad. And if so, anyone with a serious interest in moral philosophy should pay some consideration to conceptual and structural issues about value, i.e., to formal axiology.

I have already stated that the focus of this thesis is formal axiology. The issues I want to discuss are those in terms of which I outlined the discipline of formal axiology. For the purpose of making the discussions as clear and well-focussed as possible, I want to bracket what I take to be the core issues in meta-ethics; those issues that jointly constitute meta-ethics in the narrow sense of the term. That is, my approach to the formal axiological discussion will be agnostic and unprejudiced with respect to issues concerning the semantics, ontology, epistemology, and psychology of normative judgements.

My reason for adopting this approach is purely pragmatic; the core issues in meta-ethics are much discussed and highly complex. To postpone, at least initially, the final verdicts in these areas therefore strikes me as a wise methodological tactic. But the legitimacy of bracketing these issues in the formal axiological discussion may be doubted. For instance, it might be assumed that questions about intrinsic or final value are of interest only to philosophers inclined to accept some kind of realism about value, or that accepting realism is necessary in order to be entitled to make use of the concept of intrinsic or final value. If these assumptions were correct, my methodological approach would be wrongheaded from the start. But the assumptions, whether real or imagined, are groundless. Theorising about value does not presuppose a realist view of the semantics or the ontology of value. Even if you are an error theorist and believe that there are no value properties in the world, or if you are an expressivist or prescriptivist and believe not only that there are no value properties, but also that evaluative terms do not purport to describe anything, you need not deny that there is a concept of intrinsic or final value that is useful in normative theorising.

Obviously, these different theories will differ in their ultimate analyses of the concept of intrinsic or final value, but a welcome consequence of adopting an unprejudiced theoretical point of departure is that we can, temporarily at least, postpone the pursuits of finding answers to these questions. This is not to sweep difficult problems under the carpet. It is an attempt to steer clear of a massive problem complex in order to enable and facilitate advancements in formal axiology. However, even granted the legitimacy and advisability of adopting an approach that is unprejudiced and agnostic on the core issues in meta-ethics, it is an open question how far we can advance in formal axiology while maintaining this agnosticism. It is surely an unwarranted assumption that all formal axiological theories are innocuous with respect to these issues. But such questions must, I believe, be tackled as they crop up in the course of investion.

It also deserves to be emphasised that the discussions in this introduction and in the essays do not presuppose a particular normative position. It is sometimes assumed that questions about value are of interest exclusively to philosophers of a consequentialist or teleological bent. But surely, deontologists, contractualists, virtue ethicists and anyone with a serious interest in moral philosophy should pay some consideration to questions about good and bad. And if so, anyone with a serious interest in moral philosophy should pay some consideration to conceptual and structural issues about value, i.e., to formal axiology.

However, a caveat must be entered here as well. Just as it is an open question how far we can advance in formal axiology while remaining agnostic on the core issues in meta-ethics, it is an open question how far we can advance in formal axiology while remaining agnostic on normative issues. But once again I find it methodologically advisable to avoid, as far as possible, controversial normative commitments, and to tackle these questions if and when they crop up in the course of our formal axiological investigations.


Moral Skepticism and Moral Disagreement (Brian Leiter)

“Moral realist” explanation for the data—the data being the existence of incompatible philosophical theories about morality—is both less simple and less consilient.  First, of course, it posits the existence of moral facts which, according to the more familiar best-explanation argument I have defended elsewhere (“Moral Facts and Best Explanations” in E.F. Paul et al. (eds.), Moral Knowledge [Oxford:  Blackwell, 2001]), are not part of the best explanation of other phenomena.  Second, the moral realist must suppose that this class of explanatorily narrow moral facts are undetected by large number of philosophers who are otherwise deemed to be rational and epistemically informed.  Third, the moral realist must explain why there is a failure of convergence under what appear (and purport) to be epistemically ideal conditions of sustained philosophical inquiry and reflective contemplation across millennia. We can agree with Peter Railton that we lack “canons of induction so powerful that experience would, in the limit, produce convergence on matters of fact among all epistemic agents, no matter what their starting points” (“Moral Realism,” Philosophical Review [1986]), and still note that there exists a remarkable cross-cultural consensus among theorists about fundamental physical laws, principles of chemistry, and biological explanations, as well as mathematical truths, while moral philosophers, to this very day, find no common ground on foundational principles even within the West, let alone cross-culturally.

Moral realists—who, for purposes here, will just mean those who deny skepticism about moral facts—have developed a variety of “defusing explanations” (I borrow the phrase from John Doris and Alexandra Plakias) to block the abductive inference from apparently intractable moral disagreement to skepticism about moral facts. Moral disagreement is, after all, an epistemic phenomenon, from which we propose to draw a metaphysical conclusion.  The ‘defusing’ explanations of moral disagreement propose to exploit that fact, by suggesting alternate epistemic explanations for the disagreement, explanations that are compatible with the existence of objective moral facts. I want to consider here the most promising response.

The standard optimistic refrain from philosophers ever since “moral realism” was revived as a serious philosophical position in Anglophone philosophy in the 1980s has been that under improved or idealized epistemic conditions—conditions of full information and rationality—there would be convergence on the objective moral facts.

With respect to very particularized moral disagreements — e.g., about questions of economic or social policy — which often trade on obvious factual ignorance or disagreement about complicated empirical questions, this seems a plausible retort. But for over two hundred years, Kantians and utilitarians have been developing increasingly systematic versions of their respective positions.  The Aristotelian tradition in moral philosophy has an even longer history. Utilitarians have become particularly adept at explaining how they can accommodate Kantian and Aristotelian intuitions about particular cases and issues, though in ways that are usually found to be systematically unpersuasive to the competing traditions and which, in any case, do nothing to dissolve the disagreement about the underlying moral criteria and categories. Philosophers in each tradition increasingly talk only to each other, without even trying to convince those in the other traditions.  And while there may well be ‘progress’ within traditions — e.g., most utilitarians regard Mill as an improvement on Bentham—there does not appear to be any progress in moral theory, in the sense of a consensus that particular fundamental theories of right action and the good life are deemed better than their predecessors.  What we find now are simply the competing traditions — Kantian, Humean, Millian, Aristotelian, Thomist, perhaps now even Nietzschean — who often view their competitors as unintelligible or morally obtuse, but don’t have any actual arguments against the foundational principles of their competitors. There is, in short, no sign — I can think of none — that we are heading towards any epistemic rapprochement between these competing moral traditions. Are we really to believe that hyper-rational and reflective moral philosophers, whose lives, in most cases, are devoted to systematic reflection on philosophical questions, many of whom (historically) were independently wealthy (or indifferent to material success) and so immune to crass considerations of livelihood and material self-interest, and most of whom, in the modern era, spend professional careers refining their positions, and have been doing so as a professional class in university settings for well over a century — are we really supposed to believe that they have reached no substantial agreement on any foundational moral principle because of ignorance, irrationality, or partiality?

Does this line of argument prove too much?  Is not the apparently intractable disagreement among moral philosophers regarding foundational questions mirrored in many other parts of our discipline?  Are not metaphysicians and epistemologists also  locked in intractable disagreements of their own? Think of debates between internalists and externalists in epistemology, or between presentists and four-dimensionalists in the philosophy of time.  If disagreement among moral philosophers supports an abductive inference to denying the existence of moral facts, what, if anything, blocks that inference in all these other cases?