Thursday, February 17, 2011

From 'Is' to 'Could' to 'If and Why we Should'

On deriving 'Ought' from 'Is' effectively (from Hume's problem of induction).
And, as we shall see, on 'purpose.'

Baron P said...
Science cannot say what 'ought' to be with anything like precision, but what it can do is predictively determine, from what more accurately 'is,' the more likely parameters as to what 'could' be. The jump from could to should or ought will then be up for grabs. 
It has always seemed to me that Hume saw 'is or isn't' as somehow equivalent to 'can or can't' and had left the choice of 'could' out of the game plan - and thus saw the jump from is to ought as an essentially bad move. Presenting us with a form of "you can't get there from here" paradox.
February 16, 2011 4:25 PM

Baron P said...
Massimo, you wrote:
 "But no amount of 'could' can possibly determine your values or the logic of your moral reasoning."

Logic is eliminative as well as determinative (and I'm not talking about eliminative materialism which is inherently illogical).

 'Could' is a probability assessment - an attempt to sort out the less probable - to go from could to couldn't or vice versa. We all make those assessments and I don't see how we could survive to, in the end, be moral agents without having made them. I suspect there'd be no science without the necessity to improve the quality of that process. Has our science then brought us to the philosophical point or level where we no longer need to turn to it for improvement?

 (This is not an argument in support of Harris' thesis - just one that if he felt he could have made, he must not have felt he ought to.)
February 16, 2011 6:08 PM

Baron P said...
Bayesian confirmation involves eliminative induction, no?* Choices are 'restricted' to their seemingly more proper places in the range of possibilities. Science, which has helped in that endeavor in the past, might by that measure be asked in future to help alleviate or lighten those restrictions, as we all seem to agree could well be needed. Our logical processes are anticipatory, and we move from is to could to why we should accordingly. I expect/anticipate that science will be a major player in how and why we make our moves.
February 16, 2011 6:44 PM

These excerpts from blog commentary re Hume's problem of induction didn't sit too well with the blog owner (who poo-pooed eliminative logic in particular) or with its coterie of the usual suspects - liberals of the status quo is the best way I know to describe them. A new idea to them is the fine tuning of some last surviving old one. And worse, they are encouraged to have the narrowest view possible of purpose.
So I've happily removed mine from the blog. They'll have neither me nor Nixon to kick around s'more. (OK so I've posted since - nobody's perfect.)

But here's what I would like to have left them with:
Science is a method we developed for a purpose, which was and is to perfect the use of our predictive faculties, our forms of logic. How we could move from 'is' to where we 'ought' to move with a better understanding of why we felt the need to; the need from which we derive/acquire our purposes, which create in turn the need to examine and perfect them. How should we act to achieve those purposes if in factual terms we could.
And the 'how' can't be accomplished as separate from 'why' - 'why' depends on all of the above in combination. There is no linear progression from is to ought, just as there is no purely linear causation in the universe. Our brain, as our science tells us, is a parallel processor - and of what, if not each aspect of our logic.

So that you can get there from here. Life forms have done so successfully for millennia.
And their strategic methodology has given purpose to that which we call science.

*Also see this reference re eliminative induction:

No comments:

Post a Comment