An Objection to My Metaethics
There’s a potential objection to my metaethics that I thought of which I’d like to address. It goes like this:
In “Making Sense of Metaethics”, you claim that it is “desirable” to have a moral semantics with the following properties:
- Moral claims are coherent. I.e. one can actually make sense of what is being claimed.
- Moral claims are interpreted in a way that agrees with how they’re already used in natural language.
- Moral claims are testable, and thus fall within the realm of science.
- Rational agents with overlapping moral values can reason with one another about morals.
Isn’t saying that it’s “desirable” to have a moral semantics with certain properties smuggling in values before your metaethics is even off the ground?
The values that you say I am “smuggling in” are that moral language should be useful in the sense that it says something about the physical world, moral claims are testable, it enables us to reason with one another, and it aligns more or less with what people already mean when they make moral claims.
I’m open to the idea that my formulation of metaethics (referring to values) may not be the best moral semantics for satisfying my own criteria, but if you don’t even care about moral language being useful to begin with, then I don’t know what else to say to you. We need some way in language to talk about shared values and goals.
Just as we all accept the fundamental axiomatic Laws of Thought so we can reason logically and go about our day, the idea that language needs to be useful is also properly basic in some sense. Just as there’s no non-contradictory way of expressing one’s rejection of the Laws of Thought, there’s also no non-contradictory way of expressing that language needn’t be useful. How could one even express such a thought without first having useful language to express it with?
You’re free not to accept properly basic claims, but frankly I think that’s just silly kindergarten philosophy that leads us nowhere. So I stand by the criteria I outlined which a good moral semantics should possess and I continue thinking that what I’ve said regarding my interpretation of moral semantics is at least a decent approximation to what people really mean when they use moral language and to what’s useful.