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englishAnti-morality: replacing ethics with a new, epistemic theory.

Kym Farrand, 27.08.2004, 05:04
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Anti-Morality, Truth And Peace
(Replacing Moral Philosophy With
An Epistemic, Science-Based Theory.)
Kym Farrand  2004
Philosophy Department, Flinders University, Australia
DEAR READERS: After reading “Anti-morality” on this website, you may be interested in the following possibly applicable note:- The whole book might not fit on this website. This site’s software may have replaced colons, quote marks and maybe other text with symbols such as ’. Footnotes/endnotes and/or italics might not visible. (This sentence should be in italics, with either a footnote or endnote here:   .) Footnotes/endnotes discuss some points further. Italics can make sentences more obviously meaningful. You can see italics, footnotes/endnotes and all the book, with no symbol-replacements, via:-


Any unfamiliar terms and ideas in this Introduction are further explained, in an elementary way, soon after it.
The book investigates whether we can have an epistemically justifiable moral theory. That is, can we have a moral theory we can know is justified? (‘Epistemics’, or epistemology, concerns what and how we can know.) If a theory is not epistemically justifiable, what is it? (‘1+2=7’ is not epistemically justifiable: it is not knowledge What do we think of such statements? We think they are false, or wrong, i.e., unjustifiable. What would we be doing if we based our lives or any practices on them? We would be doing something unjustifiable.)
I argue that it seems likely there is an epistemically justifiable theory concerning how one should live — but that it is not a moral theory. That is, it has no moral concepts in its foundation. It is a theory discoverable by investigating what ‘epistemically justifiable’ means, and looking at the implications of that. Its foundation consists entirely of epistemically-based concepts.
The negative aspect of this book is its anti-moral argument. It argues that all existing moral theories are too problematic. This is largely because no moral theory can be known to be true or close to the truth. That is, they are all epistemically unjustifiable:-
Quine & Ullian  point out that to believe a statement, S, is to believe that S is true. (To ‘true’ I often add ‘or close to the truth’. The reasons for this are explained soon.) What else could ‘believe’ mean? (E.g., to believe S is false is to disbelieve S.) So a justified belief is a belief which has been justified as true or close to the truth. That is, a justified belief is knowledge, namely a justified true (or close to true) belief.
Thence, if someone believes a moral theory, they believe that the theory is true or close to the truth. If the theory is also justified, namely via evidence, then the theory is known to be true or close to truth. That is, ‘justified’ really means ‘epistemically justified’, i.e., known to be true or close to the truth. This equivalence is often implicit or not fully recognised. In sum, epistemic justifiability is, at least implicitly, basic or crucial regarding moral theory , or regarding belief in a moral theory.
This book makes that equivalence explicit, and develops the in-part unrecognised implications of this. Epistemic justifiability is the main focus of this book. That is, it asks, ‘What evidence is there for the theories people live by?’
This focus involves what Socrates said is the most important issue regarding our lives, namely ‘How should one live?’. So, plausibly, the most important issue for us in life involves the epistemic justifiability of what we do — in what can be called the ‘how-should-one-live sphere’.
I’ll use that term to include what has traditionally been called the moral (or ethical) sphere. However, as this book rejects moral theories, seeing them as epistemically unjustifiable, I’ll call that sphere the ‘so-called moral sphere’ — and suggest replacing that term with ‘the how-should-one-live sphere’, or, because it concerns all intended practices, ‘the practical sphere’.
The book’s main body starts with the negative, anti-moral argument. However, the book is mostly positive: it later argues for a way out of the problems discovered by that negative investigation.
To defend in detail the book’s negative criticisms regarding all existing moral theories would take far longer and be more complex than the book should be. Many skeptics, taken as a group, have already criticised all moral theories in devastating detail. Or, equivalently, the holder of moral theory T1 has devastatingly criticised other theories, and the holder of one of those theories has devastatingly criticised T1 and other theories; and so on, across the whole range of theories. Some criticisms are implausible, but overall there seems to be sufficient points made against each moral theory to conclude that all are too problematic.
So there’s no need to repeat the attacks on all existing theories in detail here. For the purposes of the book, some attacks below are detailed. Others are not, because they are not so relevant to those purposes, or detailed criticisms made below can be adapted to apply to them.
Below there are representative explicit criticisms of non-Kantian theories, and there is much implicit criticism of them. Kant’s theory is discussed in some detail. Kant is used partly as a case study of the problems with all moral theories, and partly because he supplies effective criticisms of various alternative theories. So, in discussing Kant, representative explicit or implicit criticisms of other theories will be made.
The concentration on Kant is mainly because some aspects of his theory, and criticisms of other aspects, suggest how it might be revised so as to solve all epistemic problems with moral theories as far as is practicable — namely by rejecting and replacing moral theories.
Those revisions give us a new theory, unrecognisable as Kantian, applicable to what is normally seen as the so-called moral sphere. (This sphere obviously concerns acts such as murder, lying, selfishness and sex, but can also be defined broadly enough to include areas such as politics, law and economics. Also, where the authority or basis for a moral theory is believed to be religious, biological or whatever, those religious etc beliefs can be included in the sphere.) The new theory is also applicable beyond that sphere. The new theory is holistic. That is, it concerns all intended practices, e.g., in science, art, politics and sport, as well as in what is traditionally often seen as the moral sphere. The sphere covered by this theory is the broadest possible ‘how-should-one-live’ or ‘practical’ sphere.
So a more accurate term for the new theory is ‘a holistic practical theory’. This theory will be contrasted with moral theories. Only the former, I’ll argue, is epistemically justifiable.
Kant sometimes calls his theory concerning the so-called moral sphere, a ‘practical theory’. This is partly why I’m using the term ‘practical’ for the new theory, as his theory is partly based on a principle applicable beyond what is traditionally called the moral sphere. Yet Kant’s theory is not a holistic practical theory of the type discussed below. Kant does not go far enough, I’ll argue — not far enough to be epistemically justifiable. His theory is a mix of (1) what has traditionally been called a ‘moral theory’ and (2) epistemic ideas applicable outside of any such moral theory. (2) gives us scope to develop further those ideas, to help give us the holistic epistemic practical theory advocated below.
In this book, terms such as ‘moral theory’ will mean a prescriptive  theory based at least partly on some moral concept(s). Moral concepts include: fairness, justice, freedom, selfishness, power, patriotism, virtue, well-being, happiness, equality and Kant’s ‘respect for persons’.
That holistic epistemic practical theory is not based on any moral concept. So, via the above definitions, it is not a moral theory.
Next, Part I’s attacks on all moral theories. Then, Part II will argue that moral theories can be replaced by an epistemically justifiable theory. (For readers primarily interested in the positive arguments, or the new theory, or readers only wanting a mostly positive discussion which is as simple as is reasonable, Part I could be ignored — except for Part I, Chapter I, Section 1. Part II, along with that section, stands on its own sufficiently for it to be understandable. Similarly, for readers not interested in the concentrated discussion of Kant, the discussion of non-Kantian theories implies sufficient criticisms of  Kant’s moral concepts, and for such readers or readers only wanting a mostly positive but somewhat negative discussion which is as simple as is consistent with not oversimplifying — Part I’s  chapters/sections with titles stating they concern Kant can be ignored, except that, for readers interested in criticisms of moral theories in general, Part I, Chapter 3, Section 1 gives some such criticisms as made by Kant. That section tends not to discuss Kant’s theory as such, or presuppose knowledge of Kant’s theory. The theory argued for in Part II was originally developed independently of Kant, and can be understood without any knowledge of Kant.)

The rest of the book is at any of the URLs given at the start.