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charlie, computer cat

April 2019



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"Although it is generally true that people say what they mean and mean what they say"

Are you allowed to put a sweeping general statement like that in the middle of a paper on medical ethics?! I keep being derailed from my reading by stuff like this. There's also

The common morality contains moral norms that bind all persons in all places; no norms are more basic in the moral life … [it] comprises all and only those norms that all morally serious persons accept as authoritative.

I can't decide whether this is so restrictive as to encompass nothing or merely a circular definition which basically boils down to norms that I and people who agree with me (and are therefore morally serious) accept. Thoughts?


Are you allowed to put a sweeping general statement like that in the middle of a paper on medical ethics?!

Yeah, I'd say it's pretty normal to explicitly declare some of your philosophical assumptions in a paper to use as the basis of your arguments without expecting to debate them in the context of that paper itself. You'd normally put that stuff in an introductory paragraph rather than throw it into the middle of the article, and you'd normally do it slightly less flippantly than this, but it's reasonable to take a basic position on something like the philosophy of language and then apply that in the context you're actually talking about.

And yeah, I totally agree with your assessment that the second quotation is either meaninglessly restrictive or meaninglessly circular.
Interesting. I read it as almost more of a cultural assumption (I think - I'm not quite sure how I would word it) than a language related one, but I guess that's probably different ways of wording the same basic thing. I would definitely have had a lot less problem with it if it had been presented as an assumption at the start rather than pitchforked in in a cavalier "everyone knows" sort of way. On the other hand, my default philosophical approach is to be nitpicky about assumptions :)
As ever, Daily Dinosaur Comics has covered this question (and cultural universals in general), apparently with rather more consideration that the author of that paper.
Ah, Daily Dinosaur Comics. How I wish I could cite thee in my essay.
I woulda made a comment but actually it's all covered in DDC.
I think the last phrase is an attempt to say there is such a thing as absolute morality and probably that you can deduce this rather than just receive it from an external source.