Irrational Axioms?

triften's picture
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Irrational Axioms?

Greetings fellow Atheists,

During some of my ponderings (strictly amateur since I have made no formal study of philospohy), I came to a conclusions that all morality (atheist, theist, whatever) is based on "irrational" axioms.

Basically, you use the "Reductionist's Hammer" as my friend and I like to call it. If someone states a moral rule/value/law, you keep asking "Why?" and it seems that they will always reach either "I don't know" or "Because I said so."

I was considering providing a more concrete example, but my psychologist says I should stop arguing with myself. Actually, I wanted to keep it abstract, otherwise concrete examples are often faulty for other reasons and distract from the main point.

Then again, those "irrational" axioms may be based on reproducible evidence and not so irrational.

Am I making any sense? Or at least enough so that someone can explain any flaws I have bouncing around here? It's this argument that keeps me widely tolerant of theists (at least those who aren't trying to kill, convert, or oppress me.)


P.S. I appologize ahead of time for the formatting. The preview appears to be grey on white or something. Ick.

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Meta-ethics is

Meta-ethics is interesting.
I'll be doing a module on it starting in a week or so so I'll be informed on this topic soon enough.

Morals are to do with 'goodness' so they are more about values than facts but we also believe there are facts in morality so we get something that needs to be both objective and subjective.

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Interesting thoughts

Interesting thoughts triften.

What you say is that because every moral theory/system is subject to the problem of having no first principle, and thus is always found in an infinite regress of justification. Their axioms or the event horizon from which they say morality starts is contingent and therefor irrational.

It's quite a classic objection but it is not always immediately clear whether any or all moral theories apply to this problem of justification. Our actual practice of moral justification at least shows us that from a day tot day basis, just choosing a first principle suffices (e.g. I chose to value the human rights declaration as being a first principle for how a human may or may not be treated by individuals and institutions).

But everday practice set aside, it seems that it is sound to consider the fabric of moral discourse (whether it is real or just something for the social sciences) as being problematic from a rational point of view. Meaning that I as a rational being should be guided by scrutiny of this so called morality in coming to which principles I belief to be true (e.g. If there are no reasonable argument for hold the human rights as principles, I should withdraw them).

But there are so many more ways of understanding morality that possibly do not require this kind of test, rationality seems to impose on us. And I think it is true to see them closely connected in the connection between normative ethics and meta-ethics. Normative ethics being that discipline that argues about what makes an act morally good and meta-ethics asks about the reality of morality. Does a moral domain exist in our world in which we can tap into? Or is morality just the rationalization of sentiments, or is it void?

Your thought that every moral theory would fall into the regress of finding a first principle. But I think this criticism if taken to radical sceptic lengths would be applicable to anything, and thus making the critique self-defeating. So I'd rather say that this problem is not a "real" problem, but a methodological problem, since we are not trying to justify our morality, but why it would be possible at all to make normative assertions. And our practice show that we do, why is that and how is it possible.

I think I am making this post a little to big to be fruitfull for discussion. So I'll leave it to this for now, one last thing is that Kant's transcendental argumentation for the categorical imperative is a form of normative theory that perhaps shows why the your claim isn't valid for any kind of theory (unless you are a radical sceptic).

P.S.: I'm a non native English speaker, so any oddities or ambiguities could be the result of that.