Problems In Philosophy • 2

Re: R.J. Lipton and K.W. ReganYou Think We Have Problems

Classical tradition views logic as a normative science, one whose object is truth.  This puts logic on a par with ethics, whose object is justice or morality in action, and aesthetics, whose object is beauty or the admirable for its own sake.

The pragmatic spin on this line of thinking treats logic, ethics, aesthetics as a concentric series of normative sciences, each a subdiscipline of the next.  Logic tells us how we ought to conduct our reasoning in order to achieve the goals of reasoning in general.  Thus logic is a special case of ethics.  Ethics tells us how we ought to conduct our activities in general in order to achieve the good appropriate to each enterprise.  What makes the difference between a normative science and a prescriptive dogma is whether this telling is based on actual inquiry into the relationship of conduct to result, or not.

Here’s a bit I wrote on this a long time ago in a galaxy not far away —

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3 Responses to Problems In Philosophy • 2

  1. abbeboulah says:

    A different take on this:  Coming from Architecture, straying into systems, (and thus being obviously unqualified to comment on treatises like this) I naively ventured into the poisonous swamps of evaluation of the kinds of arguments we use in design and planning, following the (political?) battle-cry that important social issues ought to be decided on the merit of issues and arguments.  Or putting it even more simply:  trying to find out what reasoning might be behind the pious promises of our fearless leaders that they would ‘carefully weigh the pros and cons’ of controversial plans.  A ‘planning’ perspective of the problem of the article, I presume — one that I suggest might be useful form a more practical point of view — for example in designing better platforms for the planning, policy-making, and political discourse.

    What I found was that most of the awesome body or research and thinking comprising logic and its associated disciplines had little if anything to say about those arguments — worse:  the few attempts that did (e.g. deontic logic) must be seen sleights of hand, in fact ‘begging the question’ — by starting their logics on concepts like ‘permitted’ and ‘forbidden, and still clinging to the mantras of pursuit of ‘truth’ and validity of logical reasoning.

    So I developed a crude approach of evaluating planning arguments (rf. “The Structure and Evaluation of Planning Arguments” in Informal Logic, Dec. 2010;  also on  The standard version of these arguments consists of two or three premises:  a factual-instrumental premise that links the plan to some consequence or implication, a deontic premise claiming deontic status (ought) to that consequence, and a factual premise claiming presence or absence of conditions under which the instrumental premise can be assumed to hold.

    The process derives judgments of ‘plausibility’ of planning proposals from the ‘argument weights’ of all the pros and cons people have brought up in a planning discourse.  Each argument weight being a function of the argument’s plausibility and the weight of relative importance of the deontic premise, and the argument plausibility a function of the plausibility of the arguments premises, and some assessment of the applicability (fit) of this argument pattern to the situation at hand.

    All of these assessments are of course individual, subjective ones, and the planning discourse is characterized by the fact that participants’ opinions (and thus, claims) are contradictory;  everybody may even claim to have ‘truth’ on their side — never mind that the ‘truth’ of deontic claims (about the future!) is a very different kind than that about facts of current conditions or laws of nature.  I suggest ‘plausibility’ for all these claims instead, it covers ‘truth’ of factual propositions, probability, and acceptability of deontic claims with one term.

    It seems to be the deontic premise that leads you to the view that the ethics of reasoning is related to aesthetics, if I understand the article properly.  I agree with this to some extent only — the ought-premises in the planning argument refer to functional, problem-solving, economical, and ‘moral/ethical’ as well as aesthetic concerns.  I find that many planning decisions are guided (not always by explicit arguments) by ‘image’ concerns:  ‘that’s (not) who we are;  and the ‘pursuit of happiness’ feature that often takes the form of just wanting to be ‘different’ from the usual:  ‘doing it my way’.  I suggest these issues need more discussion;  perhaps the planning entry I stumbled upon can shed some more useful light on the matter.  As I indicated:  this might be needed for the design of better platforms for the global widely participatory discourse humanity needs to deal with the crises and problems we are facing.

    • Jon Awbrey says:

      That does sound like roughly the same ballpark.  It is of course a very big ballpark.  I am using aesthetics in a very broad sense, something like “the good that befits our form of life”.  See the section of the article I linked above, especially this paragraph:

      “The science which examines individual goods, species goods, and generic goods from an outside perspective must be an aesthetic science.  The capacity for inquiry into a subject must depend on the capacity for uncertainty about that subject.  Aesthetics is capable of inquiry into the nature of the good precisely because it is able to be in question about what is good.  Whether conceived as empirical science or as experimental art, it is the job of aesthetics to determine what might be good for us.  Through the exploration of artistic media we find out what satisfies our own form of being.  Through the expeditions of science we discover and further the goals of own species’ evolution.”

      Logic, Ethics, Aesthetics

      • abbeboulah says:

        Jon Awbrey:  I agree with the intent of your post;  in practical discussions people are making clear distinctions between what they perceive as, say, functional or utilitarian concerns, and aesthetic ones.

        Such distinctions are of course of practical usefulness, and I think the efforts to determine which ‘domain’ or science a concern should be classed into is less important if, as you say, the question is simply whether some plan or plan feature is ‘good’ — a different way of saying whether it ‘ought’ to be, which is how the argument sounds during the planning discourse.  The controversy arises about the notion whether a ‘science’ — even a science of aesthetics — can determine what is good in a general, absolute sense, for everybody;  which if true would made the discussion between affected parties of a plan moot.  I obviously don’t think this is true for all features of plans — their ‘costs’ and benefits are almost always distributed inequitably, and the discourse is needed to sort that out — less for the scientist to explain to some disgruntled victims how the science has determined what’s good for them, than to work out how the sense of getting the short or long end of the deal will influence the decision — the consent of the ‘governed’ by the respective plan, to put it in constitutional terms.  It’s a big and multifaceted problem:  in history governing-planning folks have not been giving ‘due consideration’ to the scientists nor the affected citizens, to the satisfaction of either.  (Easier to buy votes and hide the unaesthetic aspects in the fine print amendments? …)

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