Moral realism and the sceptical arguments from Disagreement and Queerness." The discussion which Brink starts regards moral realism. He argues that J.L. Mackie who suggested that there are arguments which demonstrate that the concept of moral objectivism is intrinsically flawed. The arguments through which Mackie attempts to demonstrate this derive from disagreement and queerness. The present paper shows how Brink demonstrates that the categories which Mackie uses in order to support his thesis fail to achieve this goal.
Brink starts by explaining what moral realism is. He states that it represents a particular case of global realism. But what are we dealing with when dealing with the latter one? We are dealing with a belief according to which there are some facts the moral dimension of which does not depend in any way of our beliefs regarding them. In other words there are things which are moral, regardless of our consideration of them. Taking the analysis further, it is safe to say that there are facts which are moral beyond any evidence. Therefore, a logical independence is possible outside the realms of our judgment. The expression "moral realism" refers to the existence of objective moral facts.
The first argument that Brink supports in his paper and which is of extreme importance is the one according to which moral realism and moral scepticism are compatible. But how is it possible for the two doctrines not to mutually reject? We have seen that according to moral realism, there are facts which are moral regardless of our acknowledgement of their moral dimension. On the other hand, moral scepticism claims that we have no access to moral facts because our intellectual and cognitive abilities are limited. If the thesis of moral scepticism is real, then the whole issue of connecting the two doctrines falls out of place. If the human intellect can not penetrate the significance or logic of moral facts, then the latter ones can exist only independently of our judgment. Therefore the entire discussion would be nothing more than a fake problem. However, things are not really that simple.
This is the point when Brink attacks Mackie in a direct manner. He declares that moral scepticism is based not on the belief that moral knowledge is impossible, but on the belief that a moral fact simply does not exist -- and this is what allows Mackie to construct his entire system in which moral scepticism is positioned as an anti-realist claim. Therefore before starting the analysis of this thesis, presenting the visions and the arguments of both the authors under discussion, it is imperative to underline that Brink views moral scepticism as nothing less than a "denial of the existence of objective values."
Right from the beginning one must make the difference between the different kinds of scepticism. On the one hand, there is the radical sceptic. He does not believe in anything or differently said, he denies the existence of moral facts, but also the very possibility of an objective existence of any entity. While this argument could generate a long discussion regarding the mechanism of perception and co, we limit ourselves for now and state that the radical dimension of this perspective has prevented it from ever achieving a strong impact within the discussed philosophical area (moral scepticism).
On the other hand there is the sceptic who admits the fact that a direct connection between realism and ethics presents various challenges. According to Brink, Mackie is part of this second category and he goes on explaining Mackie's view from this perspective. Here is how things stand:
Admiting that the relation between the two doctrines does not lack challenges is a manner of saying that moral realism is possible- however to a limited degree. In addition, a thing which we ought to take in consideration is the very mechanism through which we arrive at the conclusion according to which something is moral or not. This mechanism is not fully objective either, since the very values and beliefs that we use in order to make up our intellectual arguments can not be viewed as fully objective. From this point-of-view, since the very mechanism is flawed, we can only agree with Mackie according to who moral scepticism can be considered a type of error theory (it demonstrates how and why our very positioning regarding the argument is flawed).
Further on Brink describes the two main arguments which Mackie uses in order to support his thesis of moral scepticism as error theory. These arguments derive from disagreement and from queerness. The argument which derives from disagreement refers to those cases in which moral disputes have been left
unsolved because there was no possibility of reaching an agreement (this implies that the intellectual capacities involved is limited and that the process is flawed. Had the capacities been greater, this would have made the process less flawed, therefore leading to a positive result in the form of a solution.)
The second argument which Mackie relies upon, the one which derives from queerness refers to the so called "mysterious" dimension which objective values are endowed with (mysterious because not accessible to the intellect).
So far we have presented the manner in which Brink understands Mackie;s arguments in favor of a thesis which claims that moral realism is an utopia. In the following part we will present and analyze the manner in which Brink attempts to destroy these arguments and demonstrate that moral realism is possible.
Right from the very beginning he draws the attention to the slight differences which exist between his manner of conceiving moral realism and Mackie's. While his doctrine is a metaethical one focused upon understanding how things actually function and why this happens in this manner and not another one, Mackie assumes that there is a direct connection between thinking and acting. In other words, once the intellectual and cognitive processes have been achieved this will autocratically lead to a certain course of action. At this point it is safe to speak about externalism and internalism, whereas Mackie is a supporter of internalism.
Internalism is an apriori thesis according to which once the moral dimension of the facts has been acknowledged, this either motivates the course of action in the moral direction or provides a "reason" for it. There are two types of internalism, MI (motivational internalism) and RI (reasons internalism).MI focuses on the motivational force which the acknowledgment of the moral dimension is necessarily endowed with. RI focuses on the capacity to provide a justification for action which the acknowledgment of the moral dimension is necessarily endowed with . The theory which denies the validity of both types of internalism is called externalism. Brink declares that not only are the arguments unlikely to be plausible, but it is also difficult to understand the logical connection which unites them to the conception of the moral realism doctrine.
Brink believes that both types of internalism are absurd. He wonders about the reasons which one person should have to initiate a course of action based solely upon the understanding of the validity (truth value) of a moral entity, regardless of the subjective psychological implications regarding him. If the moral fact is against our desires or our best interests, taking into account the fact that we always follow a behavior pattern which is meant to satisfy our desires and serve our best interest, how could we even conceive that the mere acknowledgment of a moral fact will make us act in the opposite direction?
Continuing the analysis Brink underlines the fact that the weaknesses of Mackie's arguments is to be found in the assumption that the recognition of a moral fact alone acts as a stimulus for action in a manner which is absolutely necessary. He declares that Mackie ignores two very important factual realities. These are the psychology of the individual on the one hand and what the moral facts turn out to be, on the other one. This aspect is believed to be the real motivating agent. In addition, one must also take into consideration the psychological factor. In other words, not all subjects will consider the recognition of moral facts as a reason to act, since they will have to take their desires and interests into consideration first. The a priori dimension of internalism is what makes it false.
Brink furthermore attacks two claims which Mackie makes regarding internalism. One is that internalism is so obvious that it could be considered common sense. The other one is that moral realists have traditionally been considered to be internalists. None of the two is solid enough to be considered irrefutable. Since they can be revised, they do not represent solid proofs, therefore the whole argument can be eliminated, taking Brink a step further in his attempt to demonstrate that Mackie's thesis is wrong and that the focus must be put on externalism in order to eb able to understand objective realism.
In the following part we will see how Brink attempts to demolish…