Testing time

This has put my political loyalty to the test.

First a bit of personal background.

In every UK election but one which I’ve voted in I have voted Labour. That’s since the early 1970s.

The single exception was December 2019 when I gave a tactical vote to the Liberal Democrats. As it happened that was the right decision. If another 5% of Labour voters in my constituency had done the same we would have unseated the sitting Tory MP.

Now for the test.

Ballot box
Continue reading

Heal thyself

‘Help us heal our planet’ says the front page of the Waitrose Weekend magazine.

That does seem a bit rich, considering the amount of packaging that supermarkets generate.

A lot of it is there purely to support automation.

Waitrose has now given itself a target to make their own-brand packaging recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2023.

But that is a bit like arsonists joining the Fire Brigade so they can put out their own fires.

© Chris Lawrence 2021

Two strikes and you’re still OK

Last month a UK High Court ruled that the health secretary, Matt Hancock, had acted unlawfully by failing to publish multi-billion-pound Covid-19 government contracts within the 30-day period required by law.

This didn’t particularly worry justice secretary Robert Buckland.

He said there are plenty of times when the government acts unlawfully, but “getting something wrong is not the same as deliberately flouting the law”.

What mattered, he said, was that the government did not break the same law twice.

Robert Buckland, UK Justice Secretary
Robert Buckland in 2020
Continue reading

Justifying an evidence principle

Part of a series which began with Fake news and the ethics of belief.

Time we returned to our proposed evidence principle:

[EP3] If anything is morally wrong, then it is morally wrong to believe anything, within the category of descriptive belief, on insufficient evidence, in the absence of any conflicting and overriding moral imperative.

A principle like this lays on the believer a prima facie burden of justification for acquiring and/or holding descriptive beliefs. To justify a belief morally, the believer would need to demonstrate that either:

(i) It is supported by evidence; or

(ii) By not believing the believer would breach a conflicting and overriding moral imperative.

William Kingdon Clifford
William Clifford, 1901
Continue reading

Full awareness

Part of a series which began with Fake news and the ethics of belief.

So why is conceptual normativity not enough for an ethics of belief? That’s the question on everyone’s lips.

To try to answer it we’ll go back to Jonathan Adler’s ‘full awareness’1 condition.2

If we’re saying (as Adler does) that this condition is something which we need to impose, or assume, that would imply that we could acquire or hold a belief without it.

Eyes
[Photo: Anna Bal]
Continue reading

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green

Part of a series which began with Fake news and the ethics of belief.

We came up with our test-case descriptive belief a while back:

I believe you are taking recreational drugs.

And we also said this could be just another way of asserting:

You are taking recreational drugs.

Jonathan Adler would agree. He sees a belief as simply what we regard as true: ‘what I believe is just how things are’1 for me.

Tablets and capsules
[Photo: Würfel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
Continue reading

Raising expectations

Part of a series which began with Fake news and the ethics of belief.

We talked last time about normativity in general, and normativity in relation to believing.

A good example of a normative word is ‘proper’. Jonathan Adler says that if I believe something, ‘p’, my believing that p is only ‘proper’ if my ‘evidence establishes that p is true’.

My belief would then be ‘in accord with the concept of belief’.1

Thinking
Continue reading

Normativity

Part of a series which began with Fake news and the ethics of belief.

I am trying to promote the idea of a moral principle (‘EP3’: see for example A moral universe) governing how we acquire and hold descriptive beliefs.

Descriptive beliefs are about what is or is not the case. They exclude for example beliefs representing our personal preferences and beliefs about what ought to be the case.

I am going to use the word ‘normativity’ to refer to any aspect of anything which relates to whether it ought to be, whether it is permissible, whether it is justified, and so on.

Moses receiving the Ten Commandments
1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
Moses receiving the Ten Commandments
1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
[Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]
Continue reading

Susan Haack: “The Ethics of Belief” Reconsidered #2

Part of a series which began with Fake news and the ethics of belief.

What has drinking and driving got to do with the ethics of belief?

I’ll get to that.

Our current question is: ‘What has epistemic appraisal of belief got to do with moral appraisal of belief – or vice versa?’

Continue reading