Ethical Realism

October 13, 2018

Eyewitness Testimony is Evidence

Filed under: epistemology,philosophy — JW Gray @ 7:50 pm
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Eyewitness testimony is evidence, but is it reliable? I think it is usually reliable enough, but it ultimately has to be understood on a case by case basis, and expertise in relevant areas can greatly help us assess the evidence better. How evidence should function – what counts as good evidence – is an important issue that is not discussed or understood enough. It is greatly an issue of critical thinking and informal logic. In this case it is also highly related to natural science because eyewitness testimony is one of the ways we know about the natural world, and knowing about the natural world can also tell us a lot about how to properly assess the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony is an empirical (experience-based) type of evidence. (more…)

July 20, 2015

Predicate Logic 4: Natural Deduction

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:07 am

This is part 4. You should see part 1, part 2, and part 3 before reading this. This is also written with the assumption that you already know propositional logic.

Natural deduction is the use of rules of inference and assumptions in order to reach a conclusion, and they are used to prove argument forms to be logically valid. The entire reasoning process is made entirely explicit, and is known as a ‘proof’ or ‘derivation.’ I will assume here that you already know how to use natural deduction in propositional logic, and natural deduction in predicate logic is done in the same way as in propositional logic, except some additional rules of inference are needed. (more…)

July 2, 2015

Predicate Logic 3: Interpretation

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:53 am

This is part 3. You should see part 1 and part 2 before reading this. This is also written with the assumption that you already know propositional logic.

Interpretation is the conversion of a sentence in a formal language of a logical system into a natural language, which is primary done by providing a scheme of abbreviation for a symbolic sentence. The purpose of translation is generally to prove a sentence to be indeterminate, an argument to be invalid, a set of sentences to be logically consistent, or a set of sentences to be non-equivalent. (more…)

May 10, 2015

Predicate Logic 2: Translation

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 1:44 am

This is part 2. You should see part 1 before reading this. This is also written with the assumption that you already know propositional logic. Translation is the conversion of natural language into the formal language of some type of logical system. Every statement in predicate logic is either symbolized as a single letter (just like propositional logic), or it requires (1) a predicate letter, and (2) an individual. (more…)

March 26, 2015

What is Predicate Logic?

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:51 pm

I have discussed a logical system called “propositional logic.” I will now discuss predicate logic, a system that is a bit more complex than propositional logic because it introduces predicates, quantifiers, constants, variables, and the universe of discourse. It also uses the elements of propositional logic (propositional letters and connectives). I recommend you learn about propositional logic before learning about predicate logic. (more…)

February 23, 2015

The One Correct Definition of a Word

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:48 am
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I am wondering if the debates we have over certain words are often confused because we assume the word has one correct definition when it doesn’t. For example, does the word ‘atheist’ refer to someone who believes gods don’t exist or someone who just doesn’t actively believe in a god? Why would anyone think we have to define it one of these two ways, and that the other definition has to be wrong? Other examples include debates over the definition of ‘free will’ and ‘knowledge.’ The question is, “Is there really a correct way to define these terms?” We might think that debates over definitions isn’t really substantive because there is no essence corresponding to the words (at least some of the time). Words could also have a tendency to make use of family resemblance concepts that lack necessary and sufficient conditions, so it might be hopeless to try to define words based on how we actually use them using exact specifications. If there isn’t a single definition, then the debate could end up having various opposing views of how people should talk about things. (more…)

December 29, 2014

Writing Philosophy Essays

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:06 am
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Philosophy essays are a bit different from other types of essays, but there aren’t necessarily any strict rules about how to write them best, and there are a variety of different types of philosophy essays. I will discuss three main types of philosophy papers: (a) argumentative, (b) speculative, and (c) interpretative. I will also discuss some important elements of philosophy essays, such as the idea of philosophical content and what the introduction should be like. I hope that thinking about various types of philosophy essays and various elements of philosophy essays will help people improve their philosophical writing. (more…)

September 10, 2014

Utilitarianism & Going Beyond the Call of Duty

Filed under: ethics — JW Gray @ 11:09 pm
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Utilitarianism is a type of moral theory (that is meant to help us know how to identify right and wrong actions). Utilitarianism states that an action is right only insofar as it maximizes good consequences, and it is wrong only insofar as it fails to do so (or causes bad things to happen). (Go here for more information.) There are different types of utilitarianism. Classical utilitarianism states that happiness or pleasure is the only good thing (at least in some ultimate sense), and that suffering or pain is the only bad thing (at least in some ultimate sense), but other utilitarians argue that desire satisfaction is the only good thing (at least in some ultimate sense). There are other differences as well. Many people have argued that utilitarianism fails to account for good actions that are beyond the call of duty because they think that utilitarianism states that our duty is to do ideally good actions. However, one of the founders of utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill, did think there were actions that went beyond the call of duty and he might have explained how utilitarianism could be compatible with actions being beyond the call of duty. I will discuss the idea of actions being beyond the call of duty, why people think utilitarianism fails to account for those actions, and how utilitarianism might actually be compatible with those actions. (more…)

July 3, 2014

The Compatibilist Conception of Free Will

Filed under: metaphysics — JW Gray @ 11:36 pm
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moral responsibilityI suspect that the main reason there is a debate about determinism and free will in the first place is because people have different conceptions of free will and disagree about the nature of moral responsibility, which will also be discussed. I will briefly discuss the concepts of free will, determinism, moral responsibility, and the compatibilist conception of free will. (more…)

May 5, 2014

Normative & Descriptive Ethics

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:41 am
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I believe that one source of confusion can be solved by the distinction between normative and descriptive ethics. Whenever people talk about cultural relativism or evolutionary theories of ethics, I think they have descriptive ethics in mind, but they often jump to the conclusion that whatever they are talking about has certain obvious normative implications. In particular, some people claim that morality comes from evolution and others claim that morality is relative. What they have in mind often doesn’t actually make sense, as I will discuss in detail. (more…)

April 17, 2014

Can We Reason About Ethics?

Filed under: epistemology,ethics — JW Gray @ 7:51 am
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I think we can reason about what is good and bad (or right and wrong).

Let’s start off with a simple example. We have a choice to give to a charity that helps people or a charity we find out doesn’t really help people. Which charity should we give to? I think it is obvious. The one that actually helps people. There is no point to giving to a charity that doesn’t help anyone. (more…)

December 23, 2013

The View That Objective Morality Requires God

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,metaphysics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:48 am
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Theists often say that atheism is incompatible with objective morality. This point is not that atheists are bad people or can’t understand morality. The point is that they think there has to be a basis (found in reality) for morality to be objective, and they think only God can be that basis. Many atheists don’t think there’s objective morality, and they might agree that atheism is incompatible with objective morality. However, I will argue that atheism and objective morality are compatible.

I will provide some important terminology, introduce Plato’s “Euthyphro,” explain the possible connection between theism and objective morality, describe other types of objective morality, argue that atheism and objective morality are compatible, and briefly illustrate a view of objective morality. (more…)

December 20, 2013

Atheism as Nonbelief

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:20 am
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A lot of people are saying ‘atheism’ is what we call it when people don’t believe in gods.1 The more traditional meaning of ‘atheism’ is the belief that no gods (or certain types of gods) exist. This newer (nontraditional) type of atheism is sometimes called ‘soft atheism’ as opposed to ‘hard atheism.’ I will describe atheism, consider reasons that the newer definition of ‘atheism’ can lead to confusion, and I will consider reasons why people might prefer this newer definition. (more…)

November 1, 2013

Thoughts on Ontological Naturalism, the Natural, & the Supernatural

Ontological naturalism is the view that only natural stuff exists (stuff that has some special connection to natural science). The term ‘naturalism’ refers to the methods of natural science in addition to the natural stuff that scientists are thought to study. A lot of philosophers say that they are ontological naturalists (of at least some type), but what exactly is such a view really about? Such a view seems to require that we can identify what’s natural and what’s not. And since philosophers don’t agree about what counts as natural, there are actually multiple types of ontological naturalism. I’m not convinced that such a distinction means much of anything, but I can sympathize with certain types of ontological naturalism more than others. (more…)

September 30, 2013

More Philosophy Definitions Part 6

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:27 am
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I have defined several new philosophically-related terms for the Comprehensible Philosophy Dictionary (a work in progress). Some of these are words I’ve already defined before but have been significantly improved. You can let me know if you think any of the terms need further clarification or if any need improvement for any other reason. (more…)

September 22, 2013

Is Death Bad? Is Grief Appropriate?

Filed under: ethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 9:12 pm
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I will discuss two related philosophical questions related to death: One, is death bad? Two, how should we feel about death? (more…)

September 6, 2013

Interpreting Our Experience of Pain

Filed under: epistemology,ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 4:05 am

I recommend that you read “Do We Experience that Pain is Intrinsically Bad?” before reading this. If you don’t know what ‘intrinsically bad’ means, you should also read my FAQ on Intrinsic Values.

The question is how to properly interpret and describe our pain experiences. We say that there’s at least some sense that (intense) pain experiences are bad. What does ‘bad’ mean in this context? Could we ever experience that pain is intrinsically bad? I will define what ‘bad’ means and consider some examples of pain experiences. I will say a little about how I interpret the various pain experiences. (more…)

August 30, 2013

Manipulative Tactics

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:47 am
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Manipulative tactics are those that can get people into believing something without giving any reason to think the belief is true. Informal fallacies are errors in reasoning that are often used as manipulative tactics, but sometimes we can use a manipulative tactic without actually committing an error in reasoning. Although informal fallacies are only one type of manipulative tactic, philosophers often treat all manipulative tactics as though they are fallacies. Just about every type of manipulative tactic has a corresponding fallacy. I will give examples of various manipulative tactics and corresponding fallacies. I hope to help make it clear that the difference between fallacies and potentially nonfallacious manipulative tactics is generally not important enough to worry about. Some people might defend a manipulative tactic by insisting it’s “not actually fallacious,” but that reply would usually miss the point. (more…)

August 23, 2013

Why Care About Philosophy?

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 3:22 am

The most popular page on this site has been Philosophy is Important for quite some time, but that page has now been replaced with a new piece I recently wrote (that uses the same name). I was not convinced that the old piece deserved all the attention it got, but it is certainly an important issue.

The older piece that used to be there is now a PDF and can be seen here: 11 Reasons Philosophy is Important.

August 20, 2013

Eleven Types of Scientism

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 1:49 am
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A lot of people accuse those who are dismissive of non-scientific fields of study of having scientistic views. This raises important questions—Is science always the only legitimate source of knowledge? Could philosophy ever be a source of knowledge?

The main issue concerning scientism that I’m interested in is the scientistic view that philosophy has little to nothing it can contribute. For example, in 2011 Stephen Hawking said, “[P]hilosophy is dead… philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.”1 And in 2012 Lawrence Krauss said, “[S]cience progresses and philosophy doesn’t.”2

Even so, anti-philosophical views are not the only types of scientism, and I believe that some types of scientism can be explicitly favorable to philosophy. What exactly is scientism? I will define and categorize various types of scientism. (more…)

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