Saturday, September 08, 2007

My posting cherry popped.

For reasons outside my enthusiasm to tell (nevertheless we can chalk it up as a direct result of my immaturity) I have been asked to post a set of my beliefs. Being the sceptic that I am this should not take long.

As a moment of consciousness (the existence of which this post will assert, constitutes an I, although this is merely for the use of language rather then any need for the argument) I do not have ultimate justification for my actions. (if you happen to have one, please tell me.)

While, intuitively, there seem to be better answers (utilitarianism) then other answers (Devine Command), the existence of any doubt (even if one is to define it as a small amount) results in the answer being equally unjustified as an answer riddled with doubt. It is the nature of doubt that its limits can not be defined. One can not say how much one does not know; only that one does not know. This being so, doubt as a technical term, can not have a magnitude (even though as a psychological term, it can).

Therefore all action, at the moment, is equally unjustified (as in all justification for action experiences doubt). Being equally unjustified, by necessity makes it equally justified. Resulting in all action (from suicide to giving money to the poor to acts of a sadistic nature) equally justified.

This is my position, and I believe in the truth of the sentiment. However, I am sure there will be language problems. Since we are playing a language game this is serious but I am confidant that the skilled philosophers out there in blog-land will help me with the language issues.

Furthermore there are some possible objections, but I would like to deal with them as they come up rather then put the effort in now.

Finally as part of the challenge I was suppose to draw out the implications outside of philosophy, at the moment I am not completely sure what this means. However, I think it would be best to see if my claim holds up within the rule of philosophy before we draw conclusions outside of it.

James Bernard Willoughby.


Enigman said...

Hi James, can one doubt insincerely? If not then your extremely thorough doubting would seem to be a display of extreme sincerity. And justification is either internal or external. Internal is trivial, you can get it easily, and external is all about language-use, for which sincerity is a basic virtue. So I recon that your doubting is definitely justified, if anything is (externally, and if nothing is then it must all be internal, and again you're justified:)

MH said...

Question: An old man is trapped in Throsby Creek, the crowd standing on the bank asks for your assistance - what do you do?

j.b.willoughby said...

I would help. Furthermore, if I were in a forest without a crowd, I would still help the guy out.

Now, one would then ask why?

The answer is because I would will to so.

Again, why?

I don’t know. Perhaps the effect of deployed strategies or some innate nature? What I can say is that it is not a result of rational justification.

I would like to now make the revision that needs to be made.

Rather then assert that there is no justification for action, I assert that there is no rational justification for action.

The fact that I will something seems to provide a justification of sorts. (Then again, you can only ever do what you will, otherwise you would not be the one doing it. So it seems unusual to say ones actions are justified because one wills them as it seems to be saying, ones actions are justified because they are ones actions. Nevertheless this would not constitute rational justification.)

By the term rational I mean a necessary relation of ideas. So what I am asserting does not exist is behaviour that is dictated by a necessary relation of ideas.

So, if I were unfazed by the consequences of the non-action of not helping a drowning man, I would be as rationally justified laughing at him as I would be saving him.

Unfortunately I would feel bad, so as I stated above, I would save him. (Furthermore I want to fit in to society and take part in it so I at least have to seem to know ‘right’ from ‘wrong’.)

I think I have addressed the question above, however, in doing so I may have misunderstood the intention or direction of the question (as I have pre-empted some following questions.) If I have misunderstood, I apologise.

Nevertheless I would like to thank mh for the question as it alerted me to my sloppy use of ‘justification’. I am sure there is more sloppy language; the presence of which escapes me due to my lack of experience in philosophy. I appreciate anyone taking the time to correct it.

James Bernard Willoughby.

Enigman said...

Hi again, I'm puzzled: You say that what you are asserting-does-not-exist is behaviour that is dictated by a necessary relation of ideas, and yet if your behaviour-that-resulted-in-my-reading-that was not so-dictated, then you might be wrong, and so such behaviour may well exist (and if it was so-dictated, you are certainly wrong), and so why do you (a sceptic) believe this?

j.b.willoughby said...

I take “I assert that there is no rational justification for action.” not to imply that there never can be rational justification. Rather, it is a statement about the lack of object certainty in subjective experience. I am saying, when I perform an action, I do not have rational justification.

Nevertheless, if you forgive my previous imprecision, we can see that I am not saying “I believe my behaviour to be right” rather, that without rational justification, I can not (rationally) separate any action. Making any given action as rational as any other given action.

So in reference to the drowning man; it may be wrong to let the man drown. However, I can not (at the moment) say weather it is rationally dictated to save him or let him drown. Furthermore, things can not be more rational and less rational (on a scale); they either are rational or are not rational (refer to section on doubt in first post). So the fact that we don’t know if any behaviour is wrong or right means that every action is rationally justified (or unjustified). So it does not rationally matter if I save him or let him drown.

Nevertheless, I would save him, but for reasons that lay outside rationality.

So I am not asserting any specific behaviour is right or wrong, just that all behaviour (at the moment) is equally rationally justified.

I hope this answers your question. However, truth be known, I am not certain of what you mean by “your behaviour-that-resulted-in-my-reading-that,” I do not believe I said that; I may have though (I tend to say a lot of things) so if I did, could you tell me where. Furthermore if you were paraphrasing, I am not sure of what you are in reference to. So if I have not answered your question could I ask you to clear up what you mean by this statement.

Nevertheless, I thank you very much for the question and look forward to your reply.

James Bernard Willoughby

Enigman said...

Hi (sorry for the tardiness but I've been moving town:), by "your behaviour-that-resulted-in-my-reading-that" I meant to refer to your behaviour, your actions (as your actions, rather than as sets of facts), and in particular (insofar as such things can ever be particularised) to that of writing "By the term rational I mean a necessary relation of ideas. So what I am asserting does not exist is behaviour that is dictated by a necessary relation of ideas."

Samuel Douglas said...

Hi James & Enigman.

Enigman: After some time pondering I think I finally get what you are saying: that James writing what he did about asserting the non-existence of "behaviour dictated by a necessary relation of ideas" was itself a behaviour (action) dictated by a necessary relation of ideas. Am I even close?

James: I know that we have talked about this before, but I wonder still if you have set the bar for what is rational too high? In the case of the drowning man and the crowd, not saving him could lead to negative consequences. What part of avoiding them is lacking in rational justification? I suspect that you'll argue that it is reasonable rather than rational to avoid the wrath of the crowd or your own guilt that could result if you don't save him. But I digress.

If as you say rational belief cannot exist in the company of any doubt, then I'd concede that there is not much room for rational belief.

But if doubts are a kind of belief, then if you entertain any doubt about your doubting, they are rendered irrational and we would have no reason to accept their undermining of rational belief.

Even if you are sincere in your doubt (and what other measure than intention is there?), then the problems don't end there. If doubt functions as you say, then surely we cannot claim that some doubts are more justified than others.

If your doubts are no more justified than the things you are doubting, what possible basis for claiming a lack of rational justification can there be?

j.b.willoughby said...


You will have to forgive me but i am not sure where the problem lies in your objection. I do not maintain that my behavior is objectively right, just that it is as rationally justified as any other behavior because i am not certain what is right (good and so on).


as for you first point, "What part of avoiding them (negative consequences) is lacking in rational justification?", i ask, isn't avoiding negative consequences just another way of doing what you want? And is not doing what you want another name for willing. To avoid certain consequences is just to will a certain state of existence. And if this is so, i refer you to my post on the 14th, where i believe i have established that will as justification is just saying something is justified because you did it.

as for the second part of you post:

i shall deal with doubting doubt in my next post. I am going to attempt to establish a difference between psychological doubt and rational doubt. That being- you're just not sure and something is not by necessity true.

i am going to say that doubting doubt may be a psychological possibility but not a rational possibility.

furthermore, just because all rational doubt is equally rationally justified (i agree with you) does not mean it is unjustified (like specific behavior) (i do not agree that this result in doubt being as equally unjustified as behavior, remember behavior is only justified in context of other behavior not in context of other things that are rationally justified like doubt.)

Sorry if i am vague or in anyway unclear; i am physically tired and very much tired of doing essays for uni.

James Bernard Willoughby.

Samuel Douglas said...

Well you are no Pyrrho or Aenesidemus, that is for sure.

I think this division between rational doubt and so-called psychological doubt is spurious, but probably does not matter.

I see how you can't have rational doubt about rational doubt.

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