Tag Archives: Morality

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
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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
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A moral universe

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

A few articles ago (see Tweedledum said to Tweedledee) I floated the idea of an evidence principle:

[EP1] It is wrong to believe anything, within the category of descriptive belief, on insufficient evidence.

I called it ‘EP1’ because I expected to have to amend it later on. I could then call any future versions EP2, EP3 etc.

EP1 is based on William Clifford’s principle, which I’m calling ‘CP’:

[CP] …it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.1

EP1 only applies to descriptive beliefs, unlike CP. But as we saw in Would you Adam and Eve it? Clifford clearly intended CP to be a moral principle, and EP1 will also be a moral principle.

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Less of the sermon

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

The two previous instalments (Would you Adam and Eve it? and I just can’t help believing – or can I?) quoted for authenticity a number of passages from Clifford’s The Ethics of Belief.

At times he comes across like a Victorian sermon though, which can be a tad off-putting.

But if we dial down the rhetoric I think we can make a fairly strong case for much of what he has in mind, particularly in relation to belief in its social context.

So here is my own version.

Clifford expressed his evidence principle (which we are calling ’CP’) in universal, absolute terms:

[CP] …it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.1

Staffordshire figure of Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon
Staffordshire figure depicting Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, circa 1860 [photo: David Madelena]
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More equal than others?

Pigs graffitiWhy should we follow the principle that, when applying the Golden Rule, we should act so as to preserve, protect and promote the Golden Rule itself?

Well, if you subscribed to the Rule would you want others to preserve, protect and promote the Rule? Yes? Then you should preserve, protect and promote the Rule yourself.

This follows Publish and be damned as number 16 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule.

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Ifs and buts

Mourning angel, Florence

Mourning angel, Florence

This follows Payback time as number 11 in a series of posts on the Golden Rule. The first was Any fool can make a rule. Next one is Two big ideas.

What is ‘categorical’ about Kant‘s categorical imperative? This is to distinguish it from a hypothetical imperative, for example:

(i) If you want to (or have to) achieve y, then do x.

A categorical imperative would be simply:

(ii) Do x.

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