Pulled apart

Pictorial accompaniment for Sis' recent post.
much thanks to Trazy



What may motivate?

Some draft material* for thought, since 'tis the season for New Year's Resolutions.

Prichard’s Fork divides the justification of moral theories from their normative power. The argument may be summarized this way. Say that ΓN is the set of statements (call them axioms) which justifies a moral theory N; these are statements within the bounds of normative discourse. Let us use for an example the deontological theory of Kant’s Groundwork , abbreviated name ‘G’, where the categorical imperative of that theory implies (in conjunction with those statements which give all relevant aspects of the situation S:{xh, …, xj} in which the rational agent required by the theory finds herself) the actions recommended by G: A₁, A₂, …, &c. Then presupposing the argument of the Groundwork ΓK, for an action An, since ΓK⊢G and {G ∪ S}⊢An, we may say that the axioms plus the situation (which is really superfluous for us since all ethical theories rely on a specification of the situation before recommendation of an action) imply the correct action to be taken: {Γk ∪ S}⊢An. Since the situation’s specification is, for our present purposes, superfluous, we may abbreviate this by saying the axioms of the theory imply the actions to be taken, as Γk⊢Ai.

Transcendental argument or no, it is not the case for any known ΓN that ⊢ΓN. That is, none are generally agreed to be true “in virtue of their form,” as it were: to be true on the basis of their logical structure. So there is no logical necessity attached to the supposed truth of any known argument for any ethical theory. Prichard’s point may be put as saying that if we do not presuppose a theory, as we did with G above, then there is a strong sense in which none of the recommendations of the theory are justified. But say that we take the arguments for each of the axioms: the axioms are the basic statements that justify a theory we are concerned with (and here I do not mean the example), and these, as basic, are not justified within normative discourse. That is to say, there are no moral reasons which show these premises to be true, whether they are in fact true or not—they are themselves unjustified. And on Prichard’s account they are unjustifiable, since any justification of them (or argument for their truth) must be given in terms that are not themselves within “normative discourse”: they must be justified by reasons that are themselves not within the realm of moral discussion. So justifications of Γ are not justifications on morally significant grounds, and the contention is that this then is no justification at all; for the sense of justification is wanted is the kind of justification that will motivate an agent to follow the prescriptions of the ethical theory Γ grounds. But justifications from without the normative (moral, ethical) realm of thought cannot so motivate actions. They could motivate only in conjuction with normative (within the realm of the ethical) beliefs such as, for a particular agent, “I ought to act upon the dictates of pure rationality insofar as it can be applied to rational actors.”

Here we have, however, reached the crux of the problem, and I want to move beyond Prichard’s specific challenge (which is itself aimed at deontological theories of morality). The problem is, either the ultimate reasons (the axioms, or whatever presumptions are made and taken as assumptions) for acting according to a moral theory are themselves unjustified, indeed unjustifiable, and therefore no case can be made that one ought to do one thing rather than another (follow one theory rather than another), or they are not justified on normatively significant grounds, in which case the “justification” can be dismissed as having no normative force (e.g. “Yes, but why would I want to be perfectly rational—I’m certainly not built that way?”). Suppose ΛN is the set of claims that justifies acceptance of ΓN, then whatever relation it is such that ΛN⊰ΓN, it (⊰) is not a relation that grounds acting upon what follows from ΓN. That is, {ΛN∪ S}⊬Ai for any action Ai. If it remains mysterious why this might occur, it may only be suggested that because A-ing follows from B, and we accept B on the basis of C, we may not have ground for A-ing on the basis of C alone. That kind of justification, logical justification, may be transitive, but what is wanted is normative justification, which does not appear in C (so to speak). Analogously, I may accept that the definitions of ‘2’, ‘4’, ‘+’, and ‘=’ justifies the claim that 2+2=4, but it does not follow that I must, in any sense, add two and two. Whereas, if I accept that addition is what I am doing, then if two and two arise, I shall (must) produce four.

I assume that this division between normative (specifically ethical) justification and other kinds of justification, and that the general problem extrapolated from Prichard is intelligible. That is, that the objection is not a phantom. Another way of putting the problem is to ask the following question, one fundamental to meta-ethics: even given that an agent is aware of some sort of necessary (or, one might say, objective) constraint on her behavior qua moral, what can be said or shown that will motivate that agent to act within those constraints? Why, in other words, ought we to be ethical rather than not?

A virtue-ethical framework for justification of acting morally (rather than not) may effectively answer this question. The aim is to produce a general schema or set of necessary (adequacy) constraints on what an effective answer is, and show how modern virtue theories may meet those constraints. A specific answer is not to be proposed herein...

[That is to say, we have only the introduction of a problem here, not a whit of solution.]

In the previous characterization of the transition from logical justification of the axioms that give rise to an ethical theory to the actions of an agent aware of that theory (if the theory is true, an agent acting in accordance with the right), practical reason was characterized as though it followed sentential reasoning in the predicate logic. That formulation ought not to be misleading, for this is merely a convenient way of characterizing the chain of justifications, by showing the disconnect between logical justification (implication from known truths) and normative justification (what happens when that which when given as input to the faculty of practical reason results in an action). It is not as though a practical syllogism is in play, though Aristotle’s mechanism is a useful metaphor....

An ethical theory must not only be true (and, likely, its truth must also be epistemically accessible) but it must actually result in morally good behavior. That is, it is a condition of adequacy on an ethical theory that one who understands the theory is moved by it to act in accordance with what it dictates. This condition makes a characterization of the motivation of “purely rational” agents from the statements that compose an ethical theory so perspicuous in the example case used in the first section. According to such a theory, motivation to action results from reasoning, which can be modeled as logical implication in the sentential calculus, thus it literally follows from the categorical imperative that agents like that act in accordance with it. But this psychologically unrealistic condition on morally good action was untenable even for Kant. Another failed attempt at changing human psychology so as to guarantee morally good behavior is psychological egoism, which despite its other problems is worth mentioning here for the fact that it has no explanation how anyone could fail to act well. An ethical theory needs an accurate philosophical psychology, in order to provide a proper explanation why an agent does anything, let alone act well or badly.

Here is a motivation test, then:
(M) Will a normal adult human who understands the ethical theory be
moved to act in accordance with it subsequent to the time
understanding begins?

The test does not imply that only one ethical theory can be true, but it does limit the field. The question that embodies the test, however, is full of philosophically loaded terms (‘normal’, ‘understands’, etc.), and it is part of the aim of this section of the essay to explain the conditions under which the answer to that question is “Yes.” If that is the answer with regard to a specific theory, it satisfies (M), which is merely one necessary condition upon its being a moral theory that applies to (has normative force over) humans.

*Those for whom the symbols here are not found ought to install Code2000 in their browsers.

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quiet, dark, slipping into the quicksand of sleep

forceful kitty:
once i wanted 2 be the greatest
no wind or waterfall could stall me
an' then came the rush of the flood
stars of night turned deep 2 dust

melt me down
into big black armour
leave no trace
of grace, just in your honor

lower me down
to culprit south
make 'em watch
a space in town

4 the lead an' the dregs
of my bed i've been sleepin'
lower me down
pin me in
secure the grounds
4 the later parade

once i wanted to be the greatest
two fists of solid rock
with brains that could explain
any feeling

once i wanted 2 be the greatest
no wind or waterfall could stall me
an' then came the rush of the flood
stars of night turned deep 2 dust
thx c. marshall


At the seams

This is a time of year for burning the Yule log at both ends, ramping up for an otherwise lackluster election cycle by deciding to do something you'll never do, and making resolutions you don't really want to make in the face of an omnipresent self-doubt brought on by late-empire America. Like the degeneration of the traditional culture of the Romans as they became richer and more powerful and more remote from the striving for survival that is the lot of the average human in all of our species' history, we are breaking down. I'm not calling for a raturn to traditional values. I'm saying, civil society is coming apart, breaking down, dissolving. Dripping out the bottom of that handbasket everyone's always talking about.

No one interacts with anyone anymore, except by remove behind the walls of an electronic world in which physical harm is made to seem at once both remote and continually threatening. An electronic cocoon whose inner atmosphere is like the Scarecrow's fear-chemicals... I've railed against infantilization of the citizenry of, well, everywhere (elsewhere), and this is a part of it. A child needs the protection of the parent figure, but the adult doesn't require this support: she gives it. Thus in order to keep the people docile and dependent the ever-present threat of harm must seem real, must be lurking behind every shadow and person whose appearance isn't like the appearance of one's own ancestors.*

But this is obvious--see also basically anything N. Chomsky's said about the power structures of Western culture, especially since the end of the New Deal. After the establishment of (somewhat) effective social support systems, elites needed a new method for maintaining power. Thus the Cold War, thus crack addicts, thus single mothers, thus Slobodan/Saddam, thus Terra-ists. Thus liberal media. Thus democracy. But that last one isn't mentioned. To keep the people from trying to figure out what's good for them (though, they must be too busy with their lives to be able to figure that out anyway, right?), elites ought to do it for them. Gives everyone job security, as it were. Win-win.

Corporations fight corporations, trade groups fight trade groups, strongarms wrestle strongarms for the keys to slaves' chains. And what have we got? Bread and Circus. Or, obesity and "pop culture." And it's all coming down, by which I mean the facade by which elites maintain control of the purposefully mislead populace. That doesn't mean the revolution is coming. No, it means, more likely, that the revolution won't come in time, in our lifetimes. And then it's climate change and the end of fossil fuels and the end of clean water and finally the collapse of those precious structures which the aging and obsolete top .000005% are busy protecting.** A return to a township-style societal structure, anyone? Thus the "end" of capitalism is not a quiet dissolution of government, as perhaps Marx predicted, but a firey collapse. Not a whisper but a cry of agony.

*Thus mixing of the races (as it were) must be subtly discouraged. Thus mass media stereotypes by effete elites in (perhaps unknowing, see **) service to their cause.
**Class consciousness being what it is, I can't in good conscience accuse anyone of doing more in service to the elites than acting in their own (material) self-interest. Certainly usually not in their moral self-interest. Bill Gates' philanthropy is not a balance to his misdeeds or those of his issue (corporations) if any. But the net effect is very similar to what would expect if there were a conspiracy in the WTO or Trilateral Commision or Illuminati/Masons, or whatever. It's those advocating for lower echelons of society who know just what they're doing, whether futile or not. And this is itself commendable. The mutineer captain has committed to going down with the ship even if she succeeds in her coup.




continoo 2 get own up-ah:
u said, u said u got tha
u said tha feelin'
u said tha feeling u got 2 get
u give me tha fever 'n' a cold sweat.
tha way i like, it is the way it is
i got mine 'n' don't worry 'bout his
thx JB.



get up (ah)/ a-get on up:
wait a minute!
shake yer arm, then use yer form
stay on the scene like a sex machine
u got 2 have tha feeling sure as you're born
get it together, right on, right on.
thx 2 the godfadder, now a soul.


James Brown Is Dead

he's dead y'all. dead. happy jesus day or whatever. damn. dead.

you best get up on it one last time 'fore the year is out, yo. UP on it!


Redact Bush!

What can I say? (That won't be censored...)

Pathetic how instead of outraged, the cowardly editors of the Times are confused about how their (they thought) gov't-approved dude got his words chopped. Here's an idea: publish it anyway. It could not be more simple. What are they going to do, start a war on false pretenses?


Weather Report

Sweeping calm dark fogs and rainclouds will drizzle sloshingly down upon family rooftops from now until washing away under low-angled sunstorms and brainshowers, as the earth's northern hemisphere continues to cool even as the days grow longer; a 90% chance of ball lightning, marsh gases, and tornados in the bedroom over the weekend.


for those in the know

Hey, have a link. It's friday. And Cephalopodmas.


nickelback iz my anti-fun

hey yall this's kinda old but i ran inta dude th' other day who w's like, all up bumpin fuckin nickelback frm his SUV speakers like if he were inna trailer park stead a tha damn middle a'tha city n so i wanna let u all in on this comparison o' 2 singles ~NB put out this century n no matter how u dress it up itz all crap [turn on yer speakerz. u need flash]. i'm talkin bout givin corporate rock a bad name, damn.



Here, finally, is a badass video of a brain-controlled robot what can pick a thing up. Finally, you'll be able to get your remote control without getting off the couch or even leaning forward!


brain-o-matical puzzlerz

wow so if u like popular media 'n shizzle u gots 2 check out tha game of office movie poster imitations. just like figure out what the movie is the poster is supposed to be of. mad funs, all.


what's in a book?

SecondWaver posts a meme that seems "revealing." By which I mean neither personally revealing nor particularly difficult.
1. Go to the nearest book in your reach and turn to page 123.
2. Go to the fifth sentence of the book.
3. Copy the next three sentences, then tag someone else.
I decided not to go for the nearest book, since it's a logic text. Fizhburn's been grading a bit lately. So, instead:
For the above two reasons, coherence cannot be accepted as giving the meaning of truth, though it is often a most important test of truth after a certain amoun of truth has become known.

Hence we are driven back to correspondence with fact as constituting the nature of truth. It remains to define precisely what we mean by 'fact', and what is the nature of the correspondence which must subsist between belief and fact, in order that belief may be true.
From Bertrand Russel's The Problems of Philosophy. I don't tag people though. Bird flu, and all.

Via Twisty.


Dirty it up, go ahead.

You fuckers put style over substance in every imaginable way, but of course, don't really give a care about the substantial damage you're doing to everything with the trash and chemicals and what-not. Even the Steampunks. Boy howdy I tell ya (you POS) I'm glad all the infantilized kids have gone home to their infantilized parents to suck from the moldy teat of consumerism. I am.

Merry Fucking Whatever.


Fuckin' A Right

Hey customers, please be reminded that at this festive season of the year you don't have the right to be an ass. So if you feel like your service hasn't been top-notch, consider whether you are contributing to the problem. If you have occasion to yell about the service, it's almost certain that you are the core cause of said bad service; so, STFU. Excerpt:
I have a theory about asshole customers: I think they only act that way because no one ever calls them on their bullshit. The poor kids behind the counter can’t stand up for themselves lest they lose their jobs and other patrons look the other way claiming ‘it’s none of my business. via digg