The naturalistic "fallacy"

Sunday, 30 May, Year 13 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Sadly, we're stuck quoting some sampled nonsensei. See you after the jump.

10. 'Good,' then, if we mean by it that quality which we assert to belong to a thingii, when we say that the thing is good, is incapable of any definition, in the most important sense of that word.iii The most important sense of 'definition' is that in which a definition states what are the parts which invariably compose a certain wholeiv; and in this sense 'good' has no definition because it is simple and has no parts. It is one of those innumerable objects of thought which are themselves incapable of definitionv, because they are the ultimate terms by reference to which whatever is capable of definition must be defined. That there must be an indefinite number of such terms is obvious, on reflectionvi; since we cannot define anything except by an analysisvii, which, when carried as far as it will go, refers us to something, which is simply different from anything elseviii, and which by that ultimate difference explains the peculiarity of the whole which we are defining: for every whole contains some parts which are common to other wholes also. There is, therefore, no intrinsic difficulty in the contention that 'good' denotes a simple and indefinable quality. There are many other instances of such qualities.ix

Consider yellow, for example. We may try to define it, by describing its physical equivalent; we may state what kind of light-vibrations must stimulate the normalx eye, in order that we may perceive it. But a moment's reflection is sufficient to shew that those light-vibrations are not themselves what we mean by yellowxi. They are not what we perceive. Indeed we should never have been able to discover their existence, unless we had first been struck by the patent difference of quality between the different colours. The most we can be entitled to say of those vibrations is that they are what corresponds in space to the yellow which we actually perceive.xii

Yet a mistake of this simple kind has commonly been made about 'good.' It may be true that all things which are good are also something else, just as it is true that all things which are yellow produce a certain kind of vibration in the light.xiii And it is a fact, that Ethics aims at discovering what are those other properties belonging to all things which are good.xiv But far too many philosophers have thought that when they named those other properties they were actually defining good; that these properties, in fact, were simply not 'other,' but absolutely and entirely the same with goodness. This view I propose to call the 'naturalistic fallacy' and of it I shall now endeavour to dispose.xv

11. Let us consider what it is such philosophers say. And first it is to be noticed that they do not agree among themselves. They not only say that they are right as to what good is, but they endeavour to prove that other people who say that it is something else, are wrong. One, for instance, will affirm that good is pleasure, another, perhaps, that good is that which is desired; and each of these will argue eagerly to prove that the other is wrong. But how is that possible? One of them says that good is nothing but the object of desire, and at the same time tries to prove that it is not pleasure. But from his first assertion, that good just means the object of desire, one of two things must follow as regards his proof:

(1) He may be trying to prove that the object of desire is not pleasure. But, if this be all, where is his Ethics? The position he is maintaining is merely a psychological one. Desire is something which occurs in our minds, and pleasure is something else which so occurs; and our would-be ethical philosopher is merely holding that the latter is not the object of the former. But what has that to do with the question in dispute? His opponent held the ethical proposition that pleasure was the good, and although he should prove a million times over the psychological proposition that pleasure is not the object of desire, he is no nearer proving his opponent to be wrong. The position is like this. One man says a triangle is a circle: another replies 'A triangle is a straight line, and I will prove to you that I am right: for' (this is the only argument) 'a straight line is not a circle.' 'That is quite true,' the other may reply; 'but nevertheless a triangle is a circle, and you have said nothing whatever to prove the contrary. What is proved is that one of us is wrong, for we agree that a triangle cannot be both a straight line and a circle: but which is wrong, there can be no earthly means of proving, since you define triangle as straight line and I define it as circle.' -- Well, that is one alternative which any naturalistic Ethics has to face; if good is defined as something else, it is then impossible either to prove that any other definition is wrong or even to deny such definition.

(2) The other alternative will scarcely be more welcome. It is that the discussion is after all a verbal one. When A says 'Good means pleasant' and B says 'Good means desired,' they may merely wish to assert that most people have used the word for what is pleasant and for what is desired respectively. And this is quite an interesting subject for discussion: only it is not a whit more an ethical discussion than the last was. Nor do I think that any exponent of naturalistic Ethics would be willing to allow that this was all he meant. They are all so anxious to persuade us that what they call the good is what we really ought to do. 'Do, pray, act so, because the word "good" is generally used to denote actions of this nature': such, on this view, would be the substance of their teaching. And in so far as they tell us how we ought to act, their teaching is truly ethical, as they mean it to be. But how perfectly absurd is the reason they would give for it! 'You are to do this, because most people use a certain word to denote conduct such as this.' 'You are to say the thing which is not, because most people call it lying.' That is an argument just as good! -- My dear sirs, what we want to know from you as ethical teachers, is not how people use a word; it is not even, what kind of actions they approve, which the use of this word 'good' may certainly imply: what we want to know is simply what is good.xvi We may indeed agree that what most people do think good, is actually so; we shall at all events be glad to know their opinions: but when we say their opinions about what is good, we do mean what we say; we do not care whether they call that thing which they mean 'horse' or 'table' or 'chair,' 'gut' or 'bon' or 'ἀγαθός'xvii; we want to know what it is that they so call. When they say 'Pleasure is good,' we cannot believe that they merely mean 'Pleasure is pleasure' and nothing more than that.

12. Suppose a man says 'I am pleased'; and suppose that is not a lie or a mistake but the truth. Well, if it is true, what does that mean? It means that his mind, a certain definite mind, distinguished by certain definite marks from all othersxviii, has at this moment a certain definitexix feeling called pleasure. 'Pleased' means nothingxx but having pleasure, and though we may be more pleased or less pleased, and even, we may admit for the present, have one or another kind of pleasure; yet in so far as it is pleasure we have, whether there be more or less of it, and whether it be of one kind or another, what we have is one definite thingxxi, absolutely indefinable, some one thing that is the same in all the various degrees and in all the various kinds of it that there may be. We may be able to say how it is related to other things: that, for example, it is in the mind, that it causes desire, that we are conscious of it, etc., etc. We can, I say, describe its relations to other things, but define it we can notxxii. And if anybody tried to define pleasure for us as being any other natural objectxxiii; if anybody were to say, for instance, that pleasure means the sensation of red, and were to proceed to deduce from that that pleasure is a colour, we should be entitled to laughxxiv at him and to distrust his future statements about pleasure.xxv Well, that would be the same fallacy which I have called the naturalistic fallacy. That 'pleased' does not mean 'having the sensation of red,' or anything else whatever, does not prevent us from understanding what it does mean.xxvi It is enough for us to know that 'pleased' does mean 'having the sensation of pleasure,'xxvii and though pleasure is absolutely indefinable, though pleasure is pleasure and nothing else whatever, yet we feel no difficulty in saying that we are pleased.xxviii The reason is, of course, that when I say 'I am pleased,' I do not mean that 'I' am the same thing as 'having pleasure.' And similarly no difficulty need be found in my saying that 'pleasure is good' and yet not meaning that 'pleasure' is the same thing as 'good,' that pleasure means good, and that good means pleasure. If I were to imagine that when I said 'I am pleased,' I meant that I was exactly the same thing as 'pleased,' I should not indeed call that a naturalistic fallacy, although it would be the same fallacy as I have called naturalistic with reference to Ethics. The reason of this is obvious enough. When a man confuses two natural objects with one another, defining the one, by the other, if for instance, he confuses himself, who is one natural object, with 'pleased' or with 'pleasure' which are others, then there is no reason to call the fallacy naturalistic. But if he confuses 'good,' which is not in the same sense a natural object, with any natural object whatever, then there is a reason for calling that a naturalistic fallacy; its being made with regard to 'good' marks it as something quite specific, and this specific mistake deserves a name because it is so common.xxix As for the reasons why good is not to be considered a natural object, they may be reserved for discussion in another place. But, for the present, it is sufficient to notice this: Even if it were a natural object, that would not alter the nature of the fallacy nor diminish its importance one whit. All that I have said about it would remain quite equally true: only the name which I have called it would not be so appropriate as I think it is. And I do not care about the name: what I do care about is the fallacy. It does not matter what we call it, provided we recognise it when we meet with it. It is to be met with in almost every book on Ethics; and yet it is not recognised: and that is why it is necessary to multiply illustrations of it, and convenient to give it a name. It is a very simple fallacy indeed. When we say that an orange is yellow, we do not think our statement binds us to hold that 'orange' means nothing else than 'yellow,' or that nothing can be yellow but an orange. Supposing the orange is also sweet! Does that bind us to say that 'sweet' is exactly the same thing as 'yellow,' that 'sweet' must be defined as 'yellow'? And supposing it be recognised that 'yellow' just means 'yellow' and nothing else whatever, does that make it any more difficult to hold that oranges are yellow? Most certainly it does not: on the contrary, it would be absolutely meaningless to say that oranges were yellow, unless yellow did in the end mean just 'yellow' and nothing else whatever -- unless it was absolutely indefinable. We should not get any very clear notion about things, which are yellow -- we should not get very far with our science, if we were bound to hold that everything which was yellow, meant exactly the same thing as yellow. We should find we had to hold that an orange was exactly the same thing as a stool, a piece of paper, a lemon, anything you like. We could prove any number of absurdities; but should we be the nearer to the truth? Why, then, should it be different with 'good'?xxx Why, if good is good and indefinable, should I be held to deny that pleasure is good? Is there any difficulty in holding both to be true at once? On the contrary, there is no meaning in saying that pleasure is good, unless good is something different from pleasure. It is absolutely useless, so far as Ethics is concerned, to prove, as Mr Spencer tries to do, that increase of pleasure coincides with increase of life, unless good means something different from either life or pleasure. He might just as well try to prove that an orange is yellow by shewing that it always is wrapped up in paper.

13. In fact, if it is not the case that 'good' denotes something simple and indefinable, only two alternatives are possible: either it is a complex, a given whole, about the correct analysis of which there may be disagreement; or else it means nothing at all, and there is no such subject as Ethicsxxxi. In general, however, ethical philosophers have attempted to define good, without recognising what such an attempt must mean. They actually use arguments which involve one or both of the absurdities considered in § 11. We are, therefore, justified in concluding that the attempt to define good is chiefly due to want of clearness as to the possible nature of definition. There are, in fact, only two serious alternatives to be considered, in order to establish the conclusion that 'good' does denote a simple and indefinable notion. It might possibly denote a complex, as 'horse' does; or it might have no meaning at all. Neither of these possibilities has, however, been clearly conceived and seriously maintained, as such, by those who presume to define good; and both may be dismissed by a simple appeal to facts.

(1) The hypothesis that disagreement about the meaning of good is disagreement with regard to the correct analysis of a given whole, may be most plainly seen to be incorrect by consideration of the fact that, whatever definition be offered, it may be always asked, with significance, of the complex so defined, whether it is itself good. To take, for instance, one of the more plausible, because one of the more complicated, of such proposed definitions, it may easily be thought, at first sight, that to be good may mean to be that which we desire to desire. Thus if we apply this definition to a particular instance and say 'When we think that A is good, we are thinking that A is one of the things which we desire to desire,' our proposition may seem quite plausible. But, if we carry the investigation further, and ask ourselves 'Is it good to desire to desire A?' it is apparent, on a little reflection, that this question is itself as intelligible, as the original question 'Is A good?' -- that we are, in fact, now asking for exactly the same information about the desire to desire A, for which we formerly asked with regard to A itself. But it is also apparent that the meaning of this second question cannot be correctly analysed into 'Is the desire to desire A one of the things which we desire to desire?': we have not before our minds anything so complicated as the question 'Do we desire to desire to desire to desire A?' Moreover any one can easily convince himself by inspection that the predicate of this proposition -- 'good' -- is positively different from the notion of 'desiring to desire' which enters into its subject: 'That we should desire to desire A is good' is not merely equivalent to 'That A should be good is good.' It may indeed be true that what we desire to desire is always also good; perhaps, even the converse may be true: but it is very doubtful whether this is the case, and the mere fact that we understand very well what is meant by doubting it, shews clearly that we have two different notions before our minds.

(2) And the same consideration is sufficient to dismiss the hypothesis that 'good' has no meaning whatsoever. It is very natural to make the mistake of supposing that what is universally true is of such a nature that its negation would be self-contradictory: the importance which has been assigned to analytic propositions in the history of philosophy shews how easy such a mistake is. And thus it is very easy to conclude that what seems to be a universal ethical principle is in fact an identical proposition; that, if, for example, whatever is called 'good' seems to be pleasant, the proposition 'Pleasure is the good' does not assert a connection between two different notions, but involves only one, that of pleasure, which is easily recognised as a distinct entity. But whoever will attentively consider with himself what is actually before his mind when he asks the question 'Is pleasure (or whatever it may be) after all good?' can easily satisfy himself that he is not merely wondering whether pleasure is pleasant. And if he will try this experiment with each suggested definition in succession, he may become expert enough to recognise that in every case he has before his mind a unique object, with regard to the connection of which with any other object, a distinct question may be asked. Every one does in fact understand the question 'Is this good?' When he thinks of it, his state of mind is different from what it would be, were he asked 'Is this pleasant, or desired, or approved?' It has a distinct meaning for him, even though he may not recognise in what respect it is distinct. Whenever he thinks of 'intrinsic value,' or 'intrinsic worth,' or says that a thing 'ought to exist,' he has before his mind the unique object -- the unique property of things -- which I mean by 'good.' Everybody is constantly aware of this notion, although he may never become aware at all that it is different from other notions of which he is also aware. But, for correct ethical reasoning, it is extremely important that he should become aware of this fact; and, as soon as the nature of the problem is clearly understood, there should be little difficulty in advancing so far in analysis.

14. 'Good,' then, is indefinable;

Enough of that. This is a century old, moth chewed tome ; but the pile-up of successors (and would-be successors, appropriators etcetera) has constructed a ludicrous tower of chairs around their very firmly held desire to make some things true. As the facts actually stand, there's two classes of people : the proper people, who come up with systems of values ; and the not-really-people people, who follow them. Needless to say such classification of humankind sits ill with the truebeliever socialist.

The first thing the truebeliever socialist wants to make true is the deranged notion that "all people are equal". This immediately falls down empirically, seeing how some people say what good is, and some other people follow that moral system without also saying what good is ; but the first thing is dearly held enough that...

The second thing is readily produced : since there are no empirical bases for morals, therefore nobody "has any good reason" to construct systems of morals. As fucking if that's how anything works ; but, cucks will be cucks, their worldview cucky par excellence. Yet (obviously enough) no man cares about their strange ideas, which directly leads to...

The third thing, desperately needed to bolster the second (which in turn...) is that nobody should produce systems of morals. Because it's too hard and not something anyone "reasonably" can do anyway and besides, it should be a monopoly of... the state! That's right, you've guessed it, bingo and flying colors for the one true non-theological state that's somehow managed to acquire a monopoly on the creation and disposal of systems of moral values, yet is totally not a theocracy believe you me yes siree! See, because it's scientific. It's not arbitrary, there's a (totally non-religious) SCIENTIFIC means of obtaining oughts, from... um... just the facts. How do you like that ? It's all in the filtering, the definition of "noise", and the sleigh of hand, believe you me.

By now the circle's complete : the fourth thing that's absolutely made necessary by the foregoing insanity is that... everyone agrees. I mean, they have to, what the hell! If they don't "everyone agrees" then it can't be the case that a mechanical-rational crucible exists in a theocratic non-religious state's basement whereby facts are moulded into values, and if that's the case then why shouldn't they who can make their own, and if they do how are everyone to be equal! It's absolutely necessary, and diplomacy is after all the faith of the impossible or however it wentxxxii. Obviously enough not everyone actually agrees, but that's ok, because... no, really, hold on to your butts, it gets epic :

In conclusion not all people are equal anyways! There's those who agree, and there's those who don't, and who therefore aren't! But at least, you see, the fifth thing (because yeah, the chairtower's unendingly endles) : at least thus people are split into two groups goodly, as opposed to any other way, which would be badly, because -- you've guessed it, any splitting of people into two groups is bad because all people are equal. Excepting those who aren't, but that's only because they're not really people, as proven by the fact that they don't subscribe to the machinery for making really people out of bricks admixed with shit or whatever it was.

Ain't science, logic, ethics an' poplitics the most wonderful things ever ?

Meanwhile back at reality ranch, values pre-exist and resist "rational" investigation. What can you do...

  1. G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, unsurprisingly from Cambridge univershitty press. []
  2. "Good" is not a quality that belongs to a thing. On the contrary, it is the thing that's a quality that belongs to it. To say an apple is good does not reduce to saying that goodness is a kind of property of that apple, such that when the properties of a certain apple are enumerated "good" will figure in an itemized list perhaps also containing "redness" or "having been shoved up a camwhore's gaping butthole three times". To say an apple is good reduces to saying that apple is a kind of property of good, such that when the properties of good are enumerated "that one apple" will figure in an itemized list containing all other good things. []
  3. Rather, in the only nonsense of the word. There can not be such a thing as words without definitions, and more generally speaking all dereferenced symbols point to the same great garbage collector in the sky.

    All words without definition are strictly synonymous. []

  4. No, that's not at all the definition of "definition", neither in "its most important sense" nor at all. A definition states what kind of item an item is, and what distinguishes it from the other kinds at that level. Thus an apple is a kind of fruit, and unlike all other fruits it is the fruiting body of genotype-X (in lieu of actual numerical definition, the item is momentarily, for ignorance, referenced as "Malus domestica", though it very much is, in fact and as a matter of fact, a completely explicit numeric collection). A fruiting body is a kind of sexuate part (genus), found in life forms at most as primitive as plants (specific difference) ; and so ongoing indefinitely. Without exception. []
  5. Also known as bullshit ; or whatever, "analytical phylosophy", UStardian blather, whatever you prefer. []
  6. No, it is not obvious ; though the proposition does become ludicrous on reflection. []
  7. The man who can not eat anything except through his asshole is kindly invited to not "we" in my direction, however vaguely. []
  8. Da fuck is this "simply different", and please don't say "it feels different" ty. []
  9. Fucking give one. []
  10. Normal in a pig's eye! How does my digital camera recognize yellow ? Is it a synthetic normal, those exist now ? Pshaw. []
  11. What ?! []
  12. This goffy highschooler's point of view creates the difficulty that neither are apples anything, in the same sense. By this insane criterion of "unless we had been first struck by one, indeed we shouldn't have ever been struck by one" everything indefinitely becomes nothing at all : apples aren't truly apples, but apples', because true apples and perceived the perception of apples aren't the same thing ; and then in turn the perception of apples and the perception of the perception of apples aren't the same thing, and should the perception of apples not've struck us we'd never had known of the perception of apples and therefore we don't perceive neither apples nor perceptions of apples but perceptions of perceptions of apples and so ongoing apple''''''''''etc.

    All this elaborate nonsense and nobody-understands-me aside, yellow is the respective band of electromagnetic radiation in the same exact sense 4 is four -- which is to say, in the only sense of assignment available : the symbol "yellow" stands for the fact of yellowness as perceived by the yellow receptor. Hurr. []

  13. Mno. It's true all things that are good are also things, in the same way all things that are yellow also have a measurable density. []
  14. This is eminently not what ethics concerns itself with. []
  15. This idiocy is beyond the god damned pale. So, when thirsty, water is good ; therefore, say these "philosophers" that aren't, goodness is wet ? Whereupon they run into the few escapees of Galveston cca September 1900, for the phylosophers among whom water is not good when hurricaning -- and now they've got the "more research needed" engine going, and will dispute with each other until they've run out of grants ?

    Is goodness wet or dry ? And how much wetdryness would fit on the prick of a pinhead ? Gimme a break, this is irrecoverably wank, straightly unadulterated. []

  16. This is not so different from "simply" wanting to know what is secret.

    To have a secret in the first place, there's need of an authority which is capable of proclaiming, arbitrarily proclaiming certain known things apart from other known things. The way then is to inquire with that authority. There is no other ; there's nothing intrinsic in the text that marks it as a secret -- not anymore than there's something about a plot of land that marks it as a "forest", or about a couple of cows, that makes them as the property of some particular guy. Every string is a secret to someone, and known to someone else, all strings equally carry the capacity of being secret or known, it's just... it's not about the things. []

  17. Now he breaks out the Greek! And as a purely linguistic fait d'armes, otherwise he's as ignorant of the tradition in that language as any (other) piece of furniture. []
  18. Looky-lo, we're back to a workable notion of definitions, somehow. Woe the poor brain, working only when the supposed person in charge's not looking, like the misfortunate employees inherited by idiotic heirs inclined to "apply their phylosophycal ideas" to the workings of a business they inherited and could not reproduce. []
  19. Definite un corno. Man never heard of Augustine, or should I spell it Αθγθστινε so I could too get published by Cambridge Unintentional Humourpress. []
  20. Yeah, right. There's definite meaning to words in natural languages now, horse means nothing besides a kinda mammal, rite. []
  21. Oh get the fuck off this planet.

    You know, I whip the girls tied to the horse. Sometimes, I mean, not all the time. And I am pleased, too. Choke on it. []

  22. The reason he can't define his private delineation of "pleasure" is that he's shot a cone out of a point, in some arbitrary direction, cut out a slice of realia thereby, and now frets whether he can "define" whatever happened to fall in (as far as he's noticed). The only possible definition's by reference to the process that produced the mess ; as there's no particular thing therein selected, there's nothing there to define.

    If the police board a bus, lay their grubby paws on some lanky kid with dreadlocks, they can forthwith define their catch : the very lanky kid with dreadlocks they laid their hands upon. If, contrariwise (and in the manner of this dork) the police open fire at a bus, from cover of bushes, sight unseen, they will not be able to define their catch anymore than Moore can : "whatever it is our bullets went through" shall be the whole of their available definition, and it might include poliurethane foam or Langerhans islets or wood shavings in a thin glue sauce just as well. There's no defining the mess ex-post-facto, either you pick something definite in which case the definition's the very definite in question, or you don't, in which case the only available "definition", after a fashion, will be a description of what the fuck it is you (think you) did. []

  23. What the fuck's a "natural object" supposed to be ?!

    Is 4 an object ? How about "4" ? Are they natural ? If they are, what about complex numbers ? Are they also natural ? It'd help if the philowannabe explained what he means ; but inasmuch an object is "that which is being inquired about", and natural is "that which physically exists" then pleasure's no natural object. Or if natural means "which can in fact exist", as counterdistinct from something like an Escher drawing, then pleasure's a natural object. But if natural is "that which occurs outside of human industry" then pleasure is no natural object.

    I know what you think, but no. This is the first occurence of the "natural object" string in the text ; and that's nothing yet. Hold on to your butts : it is the first occurence of the string "natural", too! How's that for the systematic tradition of analytic plypopopspy or whatever the hell it is ? Fucking insane clown posse over there... []

  24. How is it that a cuck will allllllways go right back to this one true macula of cuckitude, whereby he's going to "earn the right" to fuck the girl ? There's no such thing as an entitlement to laugh, for fucks sake! You laugh, if you do, as an abuse upon existence, an arbitrary act exactly and directly equivalent to any other rape, and any other reaping, and any other living : you take, by your own power and outside any possible justification, another life. To laugh is less, but not substantially different, from crowning yourself emperor by your own hand, a latter day Napoleon. It's what it is, deal with it already. []
  25. Poor Symbolists, for some reason every officious idiot's got a bone to pick with them.

    Pleasure's red, get the fuck over it. What do you want it to be, violet ? []

  26. Do tell. []
  27. Except for the part where it doesn't. Pleased rather means "experiencing the knowledge that the mechanisms which engender pleasure are spent". That's what pleased is, not the sensation of pleasure but the perception of its momentary impossibility for reason of exhaustion.

    Suppose you tell your slavegirl to wash the floor with her bare breasts. Some point later she inquires if you're pleased. Well, are you ? Do you return "Bitch, shoulda asked me while you were doing it, what the fuck do you want now that it's done ?" I... rather don't think so. I suspect once she's done, then you're pleased ; but before she's done... well... []

  28. This because "we" apparently feel no difficulty in saying all sorts of stupid things. []
  29. As it turns out, the man's attempting the most circumlocutory discussion conceivable of the conceptual tree. There's degrees of generality, Moore noticed, and in fact while 4's a number, nevertheless 4's not the same as number. Similarily in this vein, though his dog might be dead, nevertheless the dog's not the same as death, und so weiter.

    Needless to say this isn't exactly what the UStards have made of the concept of naturalistic fallacy meanwhile, but more on that later. []

  30. That was a whole lot of labour over nothing, wasn't it.

    Yet all the things that are an example of good are an example of good, and nothing else. Suppose you have a system of morals, which consists of the following aforegiven propositions : 1. The having yellow things is good ; 2. The having of sweet things is evil ; 3. No evil is better than any good and all good is better than no evil. Suppose we're shown three people, one of which has a coupla sweet lemons in his pockets, another who has three (distinct!) lumps of salt behind his ears, and a third who has a yellow marble up his ass and we're asked to sort them. Ethics to the rescue : as per the moral system considered the second man (no evil) is better than the first man (some good), and the third man's the best of them all, even though he has a single item. Should a different moral system be devised, the exact same ethics, immutable as logic, will proceed to a different ordering of the same men.

    Yet why was the best man the best man ? Was it because the asshole ? No, it wasn't. Was it because the marble ? No it wasn't. The best man was the best man because of the moral system employed and for absolutely no other reason ; there's no possibility of "good" being a natural object because, quite simply, good is no object at all, not in that sense. There's nothing about anything that's ever good, nor ever could be ; the assignment goes the other way. Good can be [exemplified by] oranges ; but oranges can not be good -- they're stuck just being oranges. To put it another way : goodness sticks to oranges exactly to the degree "being a pile" sticks to any pile you perceive. No orange is good anymore than some lass is beautiful and so ongoing -- if you want it to, and not otherwise.

    Statements like "This is a good orange" or "This orange is good" are indeed used colloquially, but they are used to state nothing in particular. The absence of notional content does not prevent people from interpreting messages, it's true (even correctly -- your moans while being sucked off might be notionally void, but they're not necessarily uninterpretable therefore) ; but it's equally true that the mere fact of a message having been interpreted offers no proof of some content having been included in the first place. Eulora as a fine example uses symmetric ciphering (in that case, Serpent), which means anything can be decrypted equally well, including randomly generated nonsense. Anything will decrypt to something ; whether it was or not a message is a separate question, in fact separated in practice (for the practical reason that it can't be discerned otherwise).

    I will occasionally take the trouble to make the formal statement, "This is a good example of an orange", not usually for oranges, but for various fruit and other things owing to the happenstance that being more worldly and experienced than my slaves I can afford to, and it greatly interests them to know whether the first example they encounter in a class is also representative. Suppose you bought a fifteen year old from a hole somewhere, and you ask her what'd she like ? She tells you she'd like to see a town, for she's heard of them but never saw one. So you reach your hand in the townbag, and pull out... what do you pull out, say Akron. She takes a bite, looks at you, and you say "meh, not much of a town". I wish I knew what example to give here in the other direction, but anyway, at least when it comes to pineapple or cashews or such you I can say "this is a good example of a pineapple" -- or, more prizedly indeed, "this is a fine moussaka you've made", meaning it's good enough an example of one she may now deem herself qualified in judging moussakas! The man who's seen a million items has a great advantage over the girl that's seen none, or five : he can see whether the mean, mode, min/max etcetera of her sample fall anywhere near the same statistical measures of his, and thereby allow her unimpeded vision into the future, rather the greatest gift there is.

    Now, supposing there's two sets, one consisting of a million natural numbers from one to one million, and the other consisting of the numbers 8, 75, 119`500 and 996`000 -- what does the utterance "That 996`000 is a good example of a million" say about the numeral 996`000 ? Nothing at all. At issue is not the value, but its context, what's said's entirely that "the largest value in your set is not so far off from the largest value in my canonical set". That's all ; and the exact same statement could be applied to any other two sets, with whatever other numbers -- it'd still not be about the god damned numbers. I say "it's a good example" because in my moral system goodness of examples is closeness, and my ethical approach readily resolves 996`000 as close enough to 1`000`000 in that context ; no more is involved whatsoever. There's nothing good about the number, there's nothing good about the example. Because I had pre-decided that in the case of examples closeness is what counts for goodness, therefore I said "it's a good example". It's not the number that "earned" it, it's my divine grace that granted it. Sola gratia et gratia sola ; the assignment does not flow the other way, there's nothing in that example that characterizes or qualifies goodness whatsoever. Should all eternity hence be spent assigning "good" to examples involving odd numbers, the "empirical observation" that "there's something about Mary odd numbers" will be and perpetually remain absolutely spurious. Unless and until I declare oddity good, oddity's entirely irrelevant, and stays irrelevant irrespective of "social sciences".

    Let's say it all together now : goodness, "being good" etcetera neither are nor could be a property of objects. It's the other way around, what! []

  31. That "good" means nothing at all of itself does not mean that there is no such subject as ethics. It does mean that Moore's notion of ethics coincides with the null set, as there can never be such an object as satisfies a list of self-contradictory criteria ; but that is little impediment to ethics or anyone besides Moore himself. []
  32. The science of the improbable ? The religion of the possible ? The art of shutting the fuck up already ? []
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7 Responses

  1. Andreyi`s avatar
    Sunday, 30 May 2021

    Speaking of Moore, what do you make of the paradox?

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 30 May 2021

    Nothing much.

    English has picked the canonical form "I can't believe it is raining" or "It's raining, I can't believe it!" to express the tension of that intension. Using a non-canonical alternative that conveys the same meaning grates because of the way languages work (they have to be quite opressive to survive) ; using a "more pedestrian" non-canonical alternative elevates the irksomeness to taboo status. Then from there the self-flattery inherent in the modern ear readily misrepresents it as some kind of "rational" or "reasoned" objection, which it isn't, which is why no explanation's forthcoming. That's not exactly the same as a paradox ; really the only explanation either useful or needed is something along the lines of "you take yourself way way too seriously", and it'd benefit analytical philosophy in general to just as marked a degree.

    Compare "I love you" with "you are the object of my love" or whatever other "alternative" expression of a canonized intension and you'll see the same exact linguistic processes at work. Otherwise, there's no great contradiction inherent in fact and belief failing to allign. "Jesus is dead but I do not believe he is dead" doesn't encounter the same "paradoxicity", while saying something like "The [measuring instrument] shows [measured value] but I don't believe that's right" clearly exposes the lack of any sort of problem there. Both "I can't believe that's right" and "I don't believe that's right" equivalently run into "Why not ?" "Because...", and there's no further distinction to be made unless one is so hell-bent on pedanticism as to observe that technically the can't variant should discuss a moral, as opposed to a factual impediment (which readily explains why the discussion of raining takes the can't -- at the time this was formalized there wasn't any expectation a factual impediment could be raised against the rain).

    If it weren't for Wittgenstein's notorious inability to secure paid employment and attendant lack of activity, it's unlikely anyone'd have ever bothered with it.

  3. Andreyi`s avatar
    Sunday, 30 May 2021

    So it could be said the mistaking of that paralogy for a paradox is a symptom of something carefully not called "speech thought fallacy", whereby speakers of english as a principal or more often only language confuse the workings of language for the workings of thought?

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 30 May 2021

    Quite ; and that's exactly what explains the "difficulty", entirely self-secreted, in learning another language "experienced" (in the sense "the paradox" is experienced here) by they who aged (past 15 or so) on a single language. It "doesn't come natural" because their notions of logic, morals and whatever pragmatic and ethical heuristics have become dried on the structures of the one language they did learn. Much like long-term monogamous derps become socially disfacilitated, often to the point of actual disability, much like windows that should be openable by design but haven't in fact been opened in decades are more likely to fall off their hinges than actually open as intended, the speaker of a single language is apt to confuse the way things are to be said in that language with their actual thoughts.

  5. May I ask how would you translate sola gratia et gratia sola yourself?

  6. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Sunday, 30 May 2021

    "Only faith and faith alone" works.

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