The Is/Ought Gap pt. II: On Its Implications for Reductionism and Intuitionism

I’ve very much enjoyed the excellent discussions that have been occurring in the comments section of my recent post on the Is/ought gap. All of the commentators have been provocative and informative, but Larry posted some fantastically critical remarks of two positions I was advancing in that post, (I) that the is/ought thesis has no implications for reductivism, and (II) given the is/ought gap, a priori moral knowledge seems to be the only way to clear the yawning gorge of epistemological moral skepticism. As my responses to Larry’s comments became of a length appropriate for an entry in-itself in elaborating on positions I only gestured towards in the original post, I decided to post Larry’s comments and my response as a “sequel” to that post. My only hope is that this entry will yield as much fascinating discussion as the original. Without further ado, here is Larry:

“Regarding your statement that “It seems they purposefully conflate [the “is/ought” gap] with a metaphysical thesis concerning reductivism”. You defined “reductivism” in an earlier post this way: “a reductive account of normativity would … provide necessary and sufficient conditions for a normative property in non-normative terms”.

I’ve always thought the existence of the is/ought gap serves as an argument against this kind of reductive account of normativity (and a better argument against such accounts than Moore’s “open question” argument). In other words, it’s a mistake to think that normative language can be analyzed in terms of or reduced to or inferred from descriptive language, as ethical naturalists have often tried to do, given the existence of the is/ought gap. At some point, as Hume argued, a normative language or assumption will have to come into play in order to allow the transition to a normative conclusion. I don’t think talk about ethical properties supervening on natural properties avoids the problem.

On the topic of moral knowledge, it’s true that IF we do have moral knowledge, it must come from somewhere, but concluding that it must be a priori or from a faculty of ethical intuition doesn’t seem to clarify matters. We might just as well say that most of us have very strong ethical intuitions, which we feel so strongly about that we can’t imagine we’re wrong (we just know we’re right).

Similarly, on the page from Brink’s book that you cite, he says: “Given only nonmoral background assumptions, for example, that moral realism is true [I guess that’s a metaphysical assumption] and the appraisers in question are fully rational and fully informed, the moral fact that [torture] is wrong may provide the best explanation of the nonmoral fact that appraisers unanimously agree that [a given example of torture] is wrong”. He goes on to say that one may question the background assumptions, in particular, that moral realism is true (a claim that he has argued for). Another explanation for the unanimity, of course, is that the appraisers are human beings who grew up in the same culture.

I think that “scientifically minded moral realists” can agree, as you say, that the is/ought gap exists, but making the case for moral realism would be much easier if it didn’t.

While Larry does speak about non-deductive methods of breaching the is/ought gap, and the hypothesis that things would be easier for the naturalistic moral realist if there were no is/ought gap, as I mentioned earlier, my concerns at present are with his comments that the is/ought thesis does seem to suggest troubles for reductivism, and a priori moral knowledge given by ethical intuition. Full disclosure: I don’t think normative properties are reducible to non-normative properties, and I think that if we have moral knowledge then it will be in virtue of some foundational a priori moral truths that are known through reflection.

On Reductionism
I think non-reducibility is consistent with the is/ought gap, but I don’t think it follows from the gap. Non-reducibility is a metaphysical thesis positing that the nature of normative properties is not exhaustively accounted for with non-normative properties. The is/ought gap is the thesis that a proposition with a normative term cannot follow as the conclusion from a set of propositions with no normative terms. How the essence of those normative properties is best articulated is a metaphysical question with no answer to be found in the theory that an argument cannot contain a predicate in the conclusion that was not in any of the premises of that argument.

I imagine that the thinking for this connection between the is/ought gap and the non-reducibility thesis is that insofar as the is/ought thesis is about how propositions amount to moral knowledge, and moral knowledge is about moral properties, that non-normative propositions don’t logically imply normative propositions would seem to imply that non-normative properties don’t entail normative properties, and so reducing a normative property by giving it’s necessary and sufficient conditions in non-normative terms is impossible because the is/ought gap suggests that we cannot give the sufficient conditions for a normative property with a non-normative property. We can see immediately that this is wrong, as this would amount to the claim that no set of non-normative properties is sufficient for a normative property. But of course a set of non-normative properties can be sufficient for a normative property, the metaphysical question of reducibility is whether a certain non-normative property is always necessary and sufficient for a normative property. In other words, if we understood the is/ought gap as a metaphysical thesis, then the thesis would be too strong, as it would entail that no non-normative property is sufficient to ground a normative property, and would rule out supervenience.

But I think it’s pretty easy to see where we went wrong with that argument; we changed the subject when we went from talking about how one type of proposition does not entail another type of proposition, to how one type of property does not entail another type of property. We went from talking about epistemology to metaphysics and it turns out the is/ought thesis does not translate well. But we can shift from talk about propositions to properties and still remain speaking about epistemology, it’s just that this wouldn’t have any implications for reductivism. Then we might say, insofar as the is/ought thesis is about how propositions amount to moral knowledge, and moral knowledge is about moral properties, that non-normative propositions don’t logically imply normative propositions would seem to imply that knowledge of non-normative properties doesn’t logically imply knowledge of normative properties. Again, I think all the implications of the is/ought thesis are epistemological, even when we focus on properties rather than propositions.

On Ethical Intuitionism and A Priori Moral Knowledge
Which leads to your comments on moral knowledge. Your objection against a priori moral knowledge, as I understand it, is incredibly incisive. Against my argument that the is/ought gap exists, and so we need a bridging premise with a normative term in order to get us to the other side and the best option for this an a priori foundational moral belief, you note that this explains how we got to the evaluative conclusion just as well as if we hadn’t added the evaluative premise at all. In essence, the idea of ethical intuitions are so mysterious, and thus, meaningless, that adding a belief given to us by ethical intuition as a premise in the argument is really to add nothing at all; we might as well have made the leap from non-evaluative premises to an evaluative conclusion without the premise. I won’t sugarcoat it – this is a powerful objection.

My tentative response is that we need to be careful not to mistake the mysteriousness of the method by which we come to a belief, and the mysteriousness of the belief itself. The reflective process that amounts to what has come to be known as ethical intuition is mysterious to many philosophers. The belief “it is morally wrong to cause (unnecessary) pain and suffering” is not so mysterious, we know what the belief means. We may have trouble implementing it in our choosing between two actions, as it is a general and abstract principle, but by and large, we know what the belief means. For the argument to go through, that is, for the conclusion to follow from the premises, it matters not that the method by which we have a belief is mysterious, all that matters is that the belief itself is not mysterious.

Returning to the example I gave earlier, the belief “To eat factory raised livestock is to financially support factories that cause livestock pain and suffering through the course of their lives” it not itself mysterious, but, upon reflection, the method by which I came to hold that belief is mysterious, it was based loosely on inferences from theories in economics and sociology, which I believe on account of what might best be described as expert testimony. Still, I think most people would allow this belief to function as a premise in an argument I make. The point is we can responsibly hold beliefs without understanding the process by which we come to hold beliefs. Even if it is true that saying that we know something through ethical intuition is uninformative, the belief itself need not be uninformative, and if the belief is informative and not mysterious, regardless of whether it is or is not a normative belief, it can add to an argument in such a way that how the premises lead to the conclusion is less mysterious than if we had made the jump to the conclusion without that premise with mysterious origins. In short, I deny that adding a belief given to us by ethical intuition as a premise in an argument is to add nothing. This measured response might be the most an intuitionist can hope for against your charge. I submit that it is enough to keep intuitionism in the picture.

 

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  1. #1 by SamL on October 14, 2014 - 3:15 am

    Hi there — really enjoyed these two posts. I have a quick thought about irreducibility.

    In the first post you quote Huemer as saying “one cannot validly deduce a conclusion that applies a predicate P, from premises that nowhere contain that predicate. This is nothing special about evaluative predicates; it applies to any predicate whatsoever”. This seems true, but only on the proviso that the conclusion contains no terms which are synonymous with (though different from) P. If for some normative predicate N there was some descriptive predicate (or some conjunction/disjunction of descriptive predicates) P such that N(x) iff P(x), then a normative conclusion could be drawn from descriptive premises, just because the normative conclusion is equivalent to a descriptive conclusion. So the existence of the is/ought gap does seem to imply that normative predicates can’t be analysed into descriptive ones.

    So there’s two different kinds of reducibility on the table: one is the semantic reduction discussed above which concerns the analysability of normative predicates into non-normative ones (which the is/ought gap does have implications for — I may be wrong but it seemed to me that this was Larry’s point as well), the other is the metaphysical question about the reducibility of normative properties. I agree with you that the is/ought gap on its own doesn’t have consequences for the question of metaphysical reducibility. Perhaps with some plausible extra assumptions the irreducibility of normative properties would help explain the semantic irreducibility of normative terms, but then this latter irreducibility could also mesh well with various theories which don’t take normative predicates to refer to properties.

    Sam

    • #2 by ausomeawestin on October 16, 2014 - 10:57 pm

      Hey Sam! Glad you enjoyed the posts; I’m very grateful for your comments – to be perfectly honest, I was hoping that you would weigh in, given your knowledge of the philosophies of mind and science, and thus, supervenience/reductionism.

      It’s interesting that you posit the distinction between semantic and metaphysical reducibility. I had assumed semantic reducibility was out of the picture because it had seemed to me that semantic reducibility is a product of the analytic period of philosophy where it was taken that most philosophical problems were rooted in issues of language, such that analysis of normative predicates would get us closer to some more fundamental truth. My assumption was that, after Quine and with the work of Putnam and Kripke, we have entered a period of “post-analytic” philosophy, where the general failures of conceptual analysis have moved us to think of reductive projects as metaphysical and not semantic, and this as just as true for metaethics as for general metaphysics. This is not to dismiss your objection, but to admit that your comments are provocative, because if you are right then I think the is/ought thesis does have metaphysical implications, as it seems to me that if normative concepts are not semantically reducible to non-normative concepts, then a good explanation for this is that normative concepts are not metaphysically reducible to non-normative concepts.

      Still, I’m skeptical that the is/ought thesis entails irreducibility. It seems your argument is that if a normative property were equivalent to a disjunctive set of non-normative properties (such that n is reducible to p), then if p were predicated of x in propositions listed as premises in an argument, then n could be validly predicated of x in the conclusion. As the is/ought gap tells us that no evaluative conclusion can be deduced from strictly non-evaluative premises, n cannot be validly predicated of x, so n is not equivalent to p, and thus, n is not reducible to p.

      The problem is that I think this argument leaves out synthetic necessary identities. A substance could be identical with another substance without our knowing it, and so they could be equivalent without one implying the other. What this suggests, is that the way to understand the argument is: if P (A, or B, or C) is equivalent to n, then it follows that if x is p then x is n; but n doesn’t follow from p, so n is not reducible to p, where the conclusion that n is not reducible to p is an inference to the best explanation for why p doesn’t entail n. That n is not reducible to p is a decent inference to make from the fact that p doesn’t entail n, but the latter by no means entails the former, as there are other explanations that present themselves, such as a lack of knowledge in the case of as-of-yet-undiscovered synthetic necessary identities. My claim has all along been merely that the is/ought gap does not entail the truth of irreducibility. I have noted that I think the is/ought gap is consistent with irreducibility, and I’ll note here might even be best explained by irreducibility, but this is not necessarily so, as the gap might be due to other (epistemological) issues.

      Another way I’ve been thinking of phrasing why the gap doesn’t entail irreducibility is more metaphorical. There is, I submit, a fundamental difference between listing properties that explain another property, and listing premises/propositions that imply another proposition, because differences in the way information flows amount to different ways in which knowledge can be expanded without implications for the other method of expanding knowledge. In reducing a property, we go down to a more basic level of discourse; we narrow the discourse. With the is/ought thesis we seem to be going up (to higher-order/psychologically-complex properties) in a way that broadens the discourse. The is/ought thesis tells us that we cannot broaden the discourse without changing the subject. Reductivism tells us we can narrow the discourse without changing the subject. Does the notion that we cannot broaden the discourse without changing the subject entail that we cannot narrow the discourse without changing the subject? I don’t think so, because the way knowledge is being expanded is different enough among the two methods for us to reasonably think that the consequences for knowledge are isolated to each method; we can expand knowledge through one method without changing the subject, while it still being the case that we cannot expand knowledge without changing the subject with the other method.

      • #3 by SamL on October 19, 2014 - 12:27 pm

        Hi there — thanks for your reply, I have been puzzling over it for a while now!

        First let me say that I agree with you completely that Kripke, Quine, Putnam et al have ushered in a post-analytic era. However I do think that conceptual analysis is still very much a relevant concern — what marks the difference between the analytic and the post-analytic philosopher, to my mind, is that the former sees the results of conceptual analysis as the end of the road whereas the latter sees it as providing one component in a larger machine. In the present case, for example, the claim is that semantic irreducibility of normative predicates provides some evidence for the metaphysical irreducibility of normative properties. I think we’re on the same page about that, so I won’t dwell on it any further.

        I think the point you raise about synthetic identities is an extremely good one. Let me make sure that I’ve understood it properly. I wanted to show that the existence of an is/ought gap implies that normative predicates couldn’t be analysed in terms of non-normative predicates, or, equivalently, that if they can be then we can construct a counterexample to the is/ought gap. So let N be a normative predicate which can be semantically reduced in terms of a non-normative predicate P, i.e., it is true that necessarily P(x) iff N(x). I then contended that given this we could infer N(x) from any set of non-normative premises that entail P(x). So if, say, Q is another non-normative predicate and we have the following premises:

        1. Q(x) implies P(x)
        2. Q(x)

        then from 1 and 2 we can infer not just P(x), but N(x), and we have a counterexample to is/ought. If I understand you correctly, your objection to that line of thought is that the inference to N(x) from 1 and 2 will only go through if necessity is equivalent to analyticity. If so, the necessity that gives the reduction of N to P is an analytic truth, allowing us to swap one for the other as we wish. But as you point out, synthetic identities are an example of necessary non-analytic truths. So we can’t take the existence of a semantic reduction of N to P as allowing us to just swap out P for N — what we’d actually need to get N(x) from our original premises is an extra premise which allows the swap to be made, i.e., the necessity which constitutes the reduction itself (which may well express a synthetic truth):

        3. Necessarily N(x) iff P(x)

        Clearly N(x) can be deduced from 1-3. But then N appears in a premise as well as in the conclusion, so it fails at providing a counterexample to the is/ought gap.

        Now I think that would answer my argument pretty well (I’m not sure at this point if that was quite what you were getting at!), but a few things occurred to me while going through it. If the is/ought gap is, as you say, the thesis that “no evaluative conclusion can be deduced from strictly non-evaluative premises”, then what this means depends, of course, on what is meant by a “strictly evaluative proposition”. You seem to take it — and the above objection my argument takes it — that what is required for a proposition to be an evaluative proposition is that it contains an evaluative term. But if this is the case, then the following proposition (call it A) is evaluative:

        x is 3cm long and (N(x) or ~N(x))

        But since N(x) or ~N(x) is a tautology, A is logically equivalent to “x is 3cm long”, which doesn’t contain any evaluative terms. So have I just shown that a non-evaluative proposition is logically equivalent to an evaluative proposition? I don’t think so, because I don’t think the appearance in a proposition of an evaluative term is sufficient to make the proposition an evaluative proposition. For example, I do not think “necessarily N(x) iff P(x)” is an evaluative proposition, despite the appearance in it of the normative predicate N — because it doesn’t express an evaluative judgement. If this is true, and it isn’t an evaluative proposition, then the inference from 1-3 to N(x) provides an have example of an evaluative conclusion following from non-evaluative premises, and so the is/ought gap does indeed imply the semantic irreducibility of normative predicates.

        You might say that I’ve just pulled a bait-and-swith here, and that the claim was only ever that conclusions involving evaluative terms do not follow from premises involving only non-evaluative terms. But I think this is a rather trivial claim (it’s just a point of logic, and has nothing to with normativity per se — as I think you mention elsewhere). I find it hard to believe that this what has occupied philosophers for so long under the title of the “is/ought gap”. I think, rather, that the claim that “no evaluative conclusion can be deduced from strictly non-evaluative premises” is a much stronger one than that “conclusions involving evaluative terms do not follow from premises involving only non-evaluative terms”, and that it is the former which pertains specifically to normativity, and that has implications for semantic reducibility of the sort I’ve traced out.

        Sorry about the length and density of that!

        Sam

      • #4 by ausomeawestin on October 25, 2014 - 5:37 pm

        I’m very grateful for your response, I think the horns of the dilemma you present for my views are sharp, and I appreciate the care you put into presenting your ideas, no need at all to apologize for the length and density, in truth I am thankful for it, if I was more confident in my response I would turn your comments and my response into a new entry, but alas, I am not very sure of my rebuttal.

        But yes, I think your rephrasing of my argument is about right, and frankly, is better presented. But restated very briefly, my concern was that what has to get us across the gap from descriptive premises to evaluative conclusion is a conceptual entailment from the descriptive properties to the evaluative property. With as of yet undiscovered synthetic necessary identities we wouldn’t see this conceptual entailment, and so we couldn’t jump the gap, though it would still be true that the normative property is reducible to those descriptive properties, so it is conceivable that there be a state of affairs where the is/ought gap exists and yet normative properties are reducible to non-normative properties.

        I’m hesitant to say that this conceptual entailment must be stated as a premise in the argument in order to get across the gap, but if I’m being honest I don’t know if this is more because that idea strikes me as false or more because I don’t want to step into your well placed trap. As with the case of water:

        1. Substance xyz is wet (W)
        2. Substance xyz is clear (C)
        3. Substance xyz is tasteless (T)
        4. Necessarily W, C, T, iff h2o
        5. Therefore, substance xyz is h2o

        I suppose that would make a valid argument but it’s not necessarily true that this argument is sound (there’s a reason I said “substance xyz”), it might be that substance xyz is twin earth water, and has a different molecular makeup than h2o. So what entitles us to premise 4? I’m not sure what does, even though it must be said that the substance with the phenomenal properties of wetness, clearness, and tastelessness reduces to h2o. This is of course a bastardization of Putnam’s work, but my point is that even if one property reduces to another, it’s not clear to me that we can help ourselves to a conceptual entailment between the properties by positing a synthetic identity relation as a premise in an argument. The very nature of synthetic necessary identities seems to be that we must discover them through experimentation and inductive generalizations about the most economical explanations, not deductive arguments in the laboratory of the mind, and considering this, it shouldn’t be surprising that we can’t deduce one property from another set of properties, even if the one is reducible to that set. That’s a lot of flailing around on my part, but all of this is to say that I don’t think that “necessarily N(x) iff P(x)” is the right sort of premise to get us from descriptive premises to normative conclusion. So I avoid stepping into your (brilliant) snare, here at least.

        To be quite blunt, the reason why I don’t think that “necessarily N(x) iff P(x)” is the right sort of premise to get us from descriptive premises to normative conclusion is exactly as you say, it is not an evaluative judgment, even though it does include an evaluative term. So you have definitely opened by eyes to some finer nuances to the is/ought gap, and for that I thank you. But again, I don’t think this leads to the problem with my arguments that you suggested, because even taken as a non-evaluative premise, I don’t think “necessarily N(x) iff P(x)” gets us across the gap, and this because we cannot make deductive arguments regarding synthetic necessary identities, as they are synthetic.

  2. #5 by SamL on October 15, 2014 - 2:47 am

    Just noticed a small but potentially confusing typo in my comment above — where I say “on the proviso that the conclusion contains no terms ….” it should say “on the proviso that the premises contain no terms….”

  3. #6 by PeterJ on October 16, 2014 - 7:18 am

    What you say seems reasonable but it is predicated on an is/ought gap. I would deny such a gap. Too big a topic for here, but there is a way around the gap. This is indicated by Lao Tsu when he states that the laws of all realms are as they are ‘Tao being what it is’.

    • #7 by ausomeawestin on October 16, 2014 - 11:08 pm

      Fair enough. I had argued for the gap in the precursor to this post; this one here is something of a sequel where I defend claims about the implications of the gap that I made in that post. I’d be interested to here more about the implications of Lao Tsu’s thoughts for the denial of the gap, here or in a post of yours. My guess from the quote is a teleologically based objection, but I don’t remember my Taoism very well. Thanks for stopping by.

      • #8 by PeterJ on October 17, 2014 - 5:44 am

        Most people see a gap, I think, so I’m not suggesting it’s clear that there isn’t one. I just wanted to mention that a more ‘mystical’ view allows it to be closed (with no teleology). It’s too much for here to discuss it but I’ll follow your suggestion and get around to writing a post. Not an easy topic.

  4. #9 by Daedalus Lex on October 23, 2014 - 5:54 pm

    Your circle seems heavily populated by professional logicians, so I weigh into these two posts from a non-expert point of view. I agree with you that “the consequences of accepting the ‘is/ought’ gap are not very serious” (but that the topic is interesting nonetheless). I’m good with the idea that an evaluative conclusion requires an evaluative premise (hidden or otherwise). But per the idea of a “scientific morality” in general, I’ll call up, for the sake of discussion, a variant of the old subject/object dyad to address the issue in a way that is unsettling to my science-minded friends. I won’t argue that “subjective” and “objective” are different domains, metaphysically as it were, but that they are two abstractions from lived reality (or two ways of looking at lived reality). I’ll further divide the “objective” abstraction into “empirical” and “logical” abstractions. Empirical and logical framings of lived reality are powerful tools for gaining knowledge about the world in its objective aspect. I think moral values are more at home via the “subjective” interface on lived reality, but categories are necessarily blurry. For some more purely subjective experiences like love, there’s a fairly sharp difference between the immediate (subjective) experience of the world (the feeling of being in love) and the mediated analysis of the world (e.g., finding the chemical process that corresponds to the feeling of being in love, or recognizing valid propositions about love). Science and logic are a mediated views of the world, gaining their power by limiting their scope to what can be gleaned at an objective distance from lived reality. Moral values are perhaps a little more hybrid. As SelfAwarePatterns sensibly said in your comment section: “Science cannot determine values, but it can inform those values in a major way.” That’s probably more true of moral values than of falling in love, but still, I think moral values will always “mysteriously” intrude as “a priori” disruptions when being subjected to an objective analytic. They are more the flora and fauna that manifest through the subjective abstraction of lived reality, more at home in Blake’s visionary poetry or Jung’s collective unconscious than under a microscope or inside a syllogism. OK, I guess I’m a non-reductivist 🙂

    • #10 by ausomeawestin on October 23, 2014 - 9:46 pm

      Well said! As a quick aside, I’ll note that I feel quite fortunate to have the excellent comments that I do from such insightful commentators, and all the more fortunate for you to be among them.

      Per your particular comments here, I am in in general agreement with you, in that I don’t think a science of morality where there are empirical means to objective moral knowledge is workable, but I do think there are rationalistic means to objective moral knowledge. My reasons for distrusting a science of morality are similar to yours — I doubt that empirical methods can exhaustively account for the normativity inherent to moral belief, where we see the reasons for a thing to be done and thereby feel the pull of those reasons. But precisely because we can see the reasons for a thing to be done, where it seems the internal evidence for a belief is enough to justify that belief (aka rationalism), it seems we can have knowledge about the tight connections between worldly properties and reason-to-be-done properties where reflection (a mediated method) can determine whether that connection seems necessary enough to justify the belief in a conceptual entailment from that worldly (natural) property to that reason-giving (normative) property.

      Whether this relation can be generalized for the purposes of crafting a moral principle is another question (generalism vs particularism), as it is possible to have justified belief that objectively, the various worldly properties of a situation combine to create a reason for one action to be done over all others, without any implications for other situations. This gets us to another feature that makes me wary of scientific morality, the idea that we can find that some natural properties always yield some normative value, with the result that we can discover an overarching general moral principle (frequently for scientific realists it is maximizing utility or pleasure). The sort of view I favor would have it that normativity is too complex to be simplified to one or even several moral principles, while still allowing that someone can be objectively right about what normative property is entailed by the grouping of natural properties before them. In this way, one could say that on this view morality is “not an exact science”, in the sense that there is not a general principle of morality to discover and guide ones’ decisions by, morality is more of a being skilled in judgment, perception and critical reasoning, such that the view is Aristotelian in inspiration, and this sort of stance on morality distinguishes further how there might be some objectivity to morality without there being the basis for a science of morality.

      Thanks again for your excellent comments, and for the chance to explain my ideas further, with the hope that I might show our shared beliefs lead to further common ground.

      • #11 by Daedalus Lex on October 23, 2014 - 10:40 pm

        Yes to a rational basis for ethics. I guess that was the point of my Kierkegaard piece – praising the rational and therefore universal principles that became the basis of post-Enlightenment ethics (Kant, etc.). Perhaps the difficulty (for me) of the formal logic in your pair of blog entries forced me into an orientation shift, where I was no longer looking at the benefits of a rational/universal ethical platform but was looking more at the “reductivist” danger of a “quantitative analysis” approach to human values. I guess we’re back to a full appreciation of the rational method for steering us toward universal ethical principles, but we’re both thinking that the premises subjected to that ratiocination involve some content in excess of what any scientific study of the objective world can glean. I need to read your comment again when time permits. I believe you and I are much in agreement and yet each of us is able to tease out some half-hidden strands in the other one’s way of thinking. Definitely works for me 🙂

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