On Justification and Argumentation


Murali did his undergraduate degree in molecular biology with a minor in biophysics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He then changed direction and did his Masters in Philosophy also at NUS. Now, he is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

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11 Responses

  1. sonmi451 says:

    What it boils down to is this: I will say that ultimately X or Y or Z are fundamental liberal values because embracing them gives us policy positions that cohere with most of what we take to be provisionally liberal views. If we really cared about those values, we would embrace W, which we don’t. Now, my argument for W may ultimately not be successful. For example I suspect that that could be possible about my abortion argument. But because the argument uses concerns that are central to liberalism to make the move it does, whether or not it is successful, it is a liberal argument.

    You would also have to contend with people arguing that your argument about Rawls and the veil of ignorance as it applies to the abortion question is flawed, no? So it’s not just the question of people rejecting W even though it fits with fundamental liberal values because of their flawed “moral intuition”, it’s also the question of whether it’s even universally-accepted that W actually does fit with fundamental liberal values.  I don’t have a problem with you calling it a liberal argument; I have a problem with you saying that if people believe X, Y and Z, then they must also believe W, otherwise they’re not a consistent liberal, since whether or not W actually follows from fundamental liberal values is a disputed fact. Not sure if I’mmaking myself clear here, W is the abortion position in this case.Report

    • Murali in reply to sonmi451 says:

      Sonmi let’s clear 2 things.

      1. Let’s say that I find that my argument doesn’t work and is actually begging the question. Then of course I’m not going to say that people who believe X, Y and Z should also believe W.

      2. But what if the argument works? What if the logic really is tight? I mean, if the logic is tight, and the argument is a liberal argument then why can I not say that liberals (i.e. people who believe X Y and Z) should also believe W?

      Of course all this hangs on whether the logic of the argument obtains. The sense I was getting from the criticism you were making was that even giving an argument of that type was problematic in and of itself regardless of whether the argument ended up being sound or not. But maybe I’m mis-interpreting you.Report

      • sonmi451 in reply to Murali says:

        Who gets to define whether the logic is tight? You? General consensus from liberals? The position about abortion taken by Rawls himself?

        I don’t have the same disregard you feel for moral intuition, so I would be more inclined to trust that rather than striving for ideological consistency. At the end of the day, an ideology is also created by human, so it’s up to each individual to apply his/her judgment and yes, moral intuition, to the results coming from the ideology as well.Report

        • Murali in reply to sonmi451 says:

          Who gets to define whether the logic is tight? You?

          Wait, I’m talking about cases where the conclusion follows strictly from the premises. If laid out explicitly everyone should be able to see it. If I am the only one seeing it or not then something has gone wrong. Either I’ve not stated the argument as clearly as I could or the logic isnt tight. The way this could be challenged would be by showing where it broke down.

          So, if I said if A then B, then you could deny this by showing me cases of A which did not coincide with B.

          Or if I said the following:

          1. If A then B

          2. B

          3. Therefore A.

          You would show me that just because 1 and 2 are true doesnt mean that 3 obtains. B could happen without A. i.e. just like in maths, working can be shown and the answers precisely demonstrated.Report

  2. James K says:

    The thing is I don’t think our moral intuitions are worth jack shit. People differ vis-à-vis their intuitions so much on so many issues that they usually contain more heat than light. And it is absolutely mysterious how people expect their gut to have any access to moral truth?

    I wouldn’t go quite that far.  Our intuitions are in many cases the product of either decades (or centuries) of cultural practice or even millions of years of evolution.  This suggests they are at least not sufficiently harmful to destroy society, and may even contribute to a stable and prosperous society.

    Naturally they shouldn’t be a stopping point, for one thing our society is quite different to the time in which many of our moral sentiments developed, and there are some aspects of our common sense that were never well anchored to reality in the first place (our common sense developed for dealing with small groups of people, it’s not going to be very good outside that context).

    Still I think it’s worthwhile to try and reconcile a moral theory with our intuitions – if they differ we should try to figure out why.Report

    • Murali in reply to James K says:

      Yeah, but a republican’s intuitions are quite different from a democrat’s whose intuitions are yet again different from yours in certain important ways. All of you come fromlong lasting successful societies. Hell, the intuition that slavery is wrong is just 150 years old (maybe 250). Such societies lasted for 1000s of years. Also, it is not clear why we should want a stable and prosperous society. You see what I’m trying to get at here? I’m trying to say that unless we already have a moral theory that tells us that having a prosperous stable society is good or a minimal requirement, we cannot point to the importance of intuitions. But in getting this theory, our use of intuitions would be circular.Report

      • James K in reply to Murali says:

        I do see your point. All I’m saying is that intuitions may inform our attempts at moral theorizing. I don’t consider them a replacement.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

        I see what you’re saying here, but the term ‘moral intuitions’ is ambiguous between a cultural and an intellectual meaning. Personally, I agree with you that culturally determined moral intuitions – the feelings in your gut, say – are generally meaningless wrt informing objective moral issues – tho they are probably very informative wrt prioritizing individual preferences within any culture. But there is another sense of intuition – one which is revealed when you carve off all the cultural and idiosyncratic clothes moral judgments are usually dressed in. I think those intuitions (those are the only thing I refer to as intuitions) are very informative about moral issues.Report

  3. Will H. says:

    The first quoted comment depends on the concept of direct harm, and references “life and liberty” as the basis of direct harm. It can be shown from the resultant position that the conclusion that any manner of embryo/zygote/fetus is not “life,” and therefore to fish off is the logical conclusion.
    But there’s really no justification for the basis of “life.”

    I like Nob’s point that to conceive by ordinary mechanical* means entails repeated loss of life.
    Thus, the basis must be something other than the barest scrap of life.

    I see your point here, and I’ve written a few essays on it before, when the rhetoric of the right applied to finance and finance only, where all other manner of rights were disregarded. Read through the Sharon Statement and see how that rhetoric reflects Geo. W. Bush, and you’ll see what I mean.

    On the other hand, the “neo-progressive” movement (as far as I can tell) took off with the Port Huron Statement, which is notable for its opposition to nuclear energy (whereas “green” energy is a big deal to Leftists these days). From there on out, the American Left developed from the student protests of the 60’s into institutions in the 70’s. The institutions became radicalized in the 80’s, and gained more power in the 90’s (squelching opposing views).
    For much of the current century, the American Left has been pre-occupied with opposing Bush 43.

    But that’s a short synopsis of my own “History of the Left, Part One.”
    But, from what I see, that’s where the disjointedness of views stems from; they were, at the very first, a disjointed grouping.

    * I use “mechanical” in the sense of physic; ie non-medical. You know, the rhythmic, sweaty stuff.Report

  4. Eli says:

    Tagged: http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com/2012/02/either-be-close-to-truth-or-produce.htmlReport