Skip to content
August 9, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Answering meta-ethics and skepticism in policy debate

What are the types of arguments they are making as to why skepticism is good? Or are you using this as an impact turn to Ks?

1. Rorty, Achieving Our Country (post-modern skepticism, not just skepticism or “rational” skepticism)
2. Pragmatism itself is a form of truth–which says go with what works. This is especially good if you have historical evidence or or say economic/public policy/think tank research or you use a model based on currently proven truths.
3. You should make an argument for change based on the pragmatism of Pierce Sanders (it may be Sanders Pierce). Any innovation requires a different type of logic.
4. Analytical DAs based on what skepticism would give up (ie what a world of extreme skepticism would give up). Grouped into types of answers. (one specific one I would suggest is that it results in conspiracy theory & paranoia–this is just a solvency takeout because they will say without skepticism we can’t solve for these).
5. Many authors I imagine would say that skepticism destroys itself–it eats itself.
6. You might make an argument for a positive post modernism (its pragmatism combined with post modernism)……or you could argue for a less extreme version of skepticism (ie you critique stuff, but you don’t ask why one million times….you only ask it 2 or 3 times).
7. Victor Frankl has 2 arguments against skepticism. He’s a psychologist who lived in the concentration camps/gulags of WWII Germany. I think one of them is that skepticism
8. Anyone in the positive psychology movement…and almost any one in the human potential movement should answer this–given a more opportunity based approach is key to their argument & assumptions.
9. Depending on how they deploy that argument–you should be able to ask 5 or 6 questions why….and they will say because. At some point you reach an end.
10. Skepticism results in paralysis of analysis. (it destroys almost every possibility at action). It depends on how extreme their type of skepticism is.

——–

This argument is a category mistake. Its a read herring in terms of what ethics is supposed to do or how you are supposed to justify it.

Note: you don’t have to win their standard of ethics and truth–you can still win another one. (ie pragmatism, etc..)

This seems like a pretty decent even-if argument if you can develop it better.
Subjective value is still value. If you say I want to vote for X candidate–you don’t have to wait for everyone else to agree.

Based on this concept–ideas and relationships don’t exist–because they don’t have a physical form.

They have the burden of proof–if you show there are examples–their nebulous and rhetorical assertions can paper over various pathways and methods of reaching ethics or reasons to act.

My guess is this is a combination of JL Mackie (or similar philosophers–aka his followers) with Schag and/or Nietzsche thrown in. Its possible there is some Hume on emotions and ethics thrown in–not sure.
See also: Philpapers.org and Google scholar (both of these sites are quite helpful in general)

There are also ways to get to ethics as empirical or otherwise good:
1. contracts & reciprocity & math. If I give you 3 and you give me 6 back–thats unfair.
2. ethics = emotionally based & emotions are scientifically proven (this is kinda dangerous territory, but possibly prove-able)
3. utilitarianism = good
4. rights = good & check bad stuff
5. there is research which post-dates JL Makie on the empirical connection between happiness and virtue. http://greatergood.b….b…ley.edu/
(this argument also shows up in the positive psychology and any defense of virtue).
6. defend character & virtue as good things. You can do it both intrinsically and extrinsically

There is a pretty good Havel quote that I think answers this. The impact is genocide & the human spirit.

A world without values or principles….is basically hell. The alternative is anything goes and might makes right. (relativism eats itself argument will prove this). Cross-ex and history prove.

Read an intro text to Philosophy–they usually cover these types of issues. They cover the issue of ethics/morality over time.

I would look at empirical defenses of ethics (or another philosophical school or worldview). That probably better than a couple of the answers I suggested before.

I would run a DA of moral relativism–it eats itself. Also it eats fairness (which means it contradicts their theory arguments, including topicality).

Make them look silly in cross-examination via examples….and ask what you can’t do to them (steal, lie, etc…). Should you obey the law? Also ask them why should we care about X, Y, or Z? Keep asking why until you get to a value. (specifically impacts–at that point they give a reason–they have empirically denied their own K)

People in the real world don’t make terrible arguments like this. Here’s a quote by Cory Booker which answers skepticism (it probably doesn’t answer the ethics question directly–but you can make it). I wouldn’t use this exact quote–this speaks a bit to the self-fulfilling prophesy issue (although Victor Frankl might do a better job if only because that was his intent):

“We are the result of people who did not see the world as others saw it. In the midst of sweatshops, they saw workers rights. In the midst of slavery, they saw freedom. We are here because of people who had the extraordinary vision and the courage to stand up and do something about it. To me, what you see in the world is less a matter of the facts that are there than more being a reflection of who you are. Your attitude about the world says nothing about the world, but speaks to your character.”
http://www.whatsbest…up-cory-booker/

This answer is probably your authors and possible answers–as Max Pow points out on a related thread on meta-ethics:

“You should read Alexander Miller’s A Contemporary Introduction to Metaethics. It covers most of the basics, and you should have a decent background if you read the articles he recommends as well. Some of it is reasonably technical, and it would help if you had a basic understanding of some symbolic logic (e.g., for understanding the Frege-Geach problem). There has been renewed interest in substantive moral realism lately, for which David Enoch’s very recent Taking Morality Seriously offers a good argument. Two other major, recent works that advocate a more procedural version of moral realism are Christine Korsgaard’s Sources of Normativity and Stephen Darwall’s The Second-person Standpoint. For an error theory approach, the classic source is J.L. Mackie’s Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. There’s also a Blackwell anthology titled something like Foundations of Ethical Theory (or something like that) which will provide you with a reasonable overview of the field.”

See also empiricism and ethics. I imagine the Standford Encyclopedia on relativism, meta-ethics, and JL Mackie perhaps will have possible answers as well–or at least springboards to answers.

Basically their framework would destroy any priority or value or the word duty, ought, and should would be erased from our language and debate. The DA to that is utter stupidity, no education, no value to live, and extinction.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Nathan Ketsdever / Aug 9 2012 4:55 am

    Here is the full thread. I provided some additional recommendations there:
    http://www.cross-x.com/topic/53539-a2-skep/

  2. Nathan Ketsdever / Aug 9 2012 6:44 pm

    In terms of debate this argument is–moral facts don’t exist (at least in a physical or objective sense). Ergo no such things as moral facts. Ergo no morality.

    This applies the idea of materialism or science to ethics–which is really a misapplication of it. Moreover, we as humans have to have ethics, principles, and priorities. You can’t make decisions without them.

    Plus, the subjective nature of ethics doesn’t mean there are central things we can agree on. For instance, the strike zone in baseball is kind of vague in baseball–but we still agree there is such a thing as a strike. We also disagree what exactly makes good literature–but we can agree on core authors, books, and principles of great literature. If you apply the idea of disagreement to any field of inquiry–it destroy the academy. Our most important issues are the ones we have disagreements on–you don’t throw up your arms with such issues.

    To me, the end result seems to be relativism or amorality–where anything goes for everybody–rape, mass murder, stealing, dehumanization, genocide, war, etc….

    To me, its like democracy. Ethics in some cases (particularly at the margins) may be difficult and thorny–but its better to have a common language to resolve disputes in and prioritize important issues–than to not have the language–because of it creating every kind of evil on the planet (aka metaphorical hell on earth)–from Pol Pot to Stalin to Mao to Mussolini to Hilter. Thats every bad impact in your files times the population of the earth.

    You can google ethical skepticism or moral skepticism to learn more. ‘

    I would also google criticism of ethical skepticism or criticism of moral skepticism as well–as well as moral absolutes exist.

    It also destroys the basis of human flourishing–because what we value–relationships, friends, trust, and family–all go out the window. They aren’t important in that world–and it puts material objects on the same level as ethical ones (which should be on a higher plane of import given their role in the human experience).

    * I’m not sure how their alternative would get them out of moral relativism. And if it does, somehow–it seems to provide a reason why your aff (particulary if you dont’ take moral stands on issues) is part of their alternative rather than what they are criticizing.

  3. Nathan Ketsdever / Aug 9 2012 6:54 pm

    Here’s a more complete version of the above:

    In terms of debate this argument is–moral facts don’t exist (at least in a physical or objective sense). Ergo no such things as moral facts. Ergo no morality.

    This applies the idea of materialism or science to ethics–which is really a misapplication of it. Moreover, we as humans have to have ethics, principles, and priorities. You can’t make decisions without them.

    Plus, the subjective nature of ethics doesn’t mean there are central things we can agree on. For instance, the strike zone in baseball is kind of vague in baseball–but we still agree there is such a thing as a strike. We also disagree what exactly makes good literature–but we can agree on core authors, books, and principles of great literature. If you apply the idea of disagreement to any field of inquiry–it destroy the academy. Our most important issues are the ones we have disagreements on–you don’t throw up your arms with such issues.

    To me, the end result seems to be relativism or amorality–where anything goes for everybody–rape, mass murder, stealing, dehumanization, genocide, war, etc….

    It also destroys the basis of human flourishing–because what we value–relationships, friends, trust, and family–all go out the window. They aren’t important in that world–and it puts material objects on the same level as ethical ones (which should be on a higher plane of import given their role in the human experience).

    It destroys meaning and purpose and prioritization, which destroys the ability to communicate meaningfully about what matters most–or make decisions about those issues. Ethical skepticism flattens the universe of meaning and prioritization–destroying responsibility to country, family, husband/wife, and friend–in short it destroys values and value.

    In fact, while trying to protect the individual (theoretically)–this philosophy actually undermines him/her, because it destroys the importance of even subjective ethics and the emotional and communal aspects of ethics. Or at a minimum demotes them or doesn’t take them seriously.

    To me, its like democracy. Ethics in some cases (particularly at the margins) may be difficult and thorny–but its better to have a common language to resolve disputes in and prioritize important issues–than to not have the language–because of it creating every kind of evil on the planet (aka metaphorical hell on earth)–from Pol Pot to Stalin to Mao to Mussolini to Hilter. Thats every bad impact in your files times the population of the earth.

    That ethics has emotional issues misses the point. You can’t put ethics into the test tube or we can’t touch it–doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or that it would be better to get rid of it.

    You can google ethical skepticism or moral skepticism to learn more. ‘

    I would also google criticism of ethical skepticism or criticism of moral skepticism as well–as well as moral absolutes exist.

    * I’m not sure how their alternative would get them out of moral relativism. And if it does, somehow–it seems to provide a reason why your aff (particulary if you dont’ take moral stands on issues) is part of their alternative rather than what they are criticizing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: