Re: [sl4] normative language is rational

From: Dimitry Volfson (
Date: Sun Feb 15 2009 - 11:44:14 MST

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 2009/2/15 Dimitry Volfson <>:
>> We might agree on all the facts, but weight the facts differently - based on
>> personal experiences that have calibrated our weighting schemes. If we give
>> weight to all salient aspects the same as each other, such as reduction of
>> murder rate and value of retribution to the victims' friends and family,
>> then we will come to the same conclusion.
> But this is the point: the weighting I give to the facts depends on my
> experience and brain makeup, as for example does my preference for tea
> or coffee. There is no objective morality to which we can appeal to
> determine the "correct" weighting.
It is still rational - if the weighting does not come out of thin air.
And you can connect your actions (maybe contributing money to an ad
campaign to stop the death penalty) to your scheme - which also does not
come out of thin air, but through consideration of what exists in the
real world. And possibly, relating your experience of the real world to
another person, can recalibrate their weighting schemes; -- persuasion.

Rational and Absolutely Right, are not the same things. For the most
part we cannot know what is absolutely right.

Consider again the simple idea of 1 + 1 = 2. It does not come from thin
air, nor is it the only possible scheme. Arithmetic is about counting.
If you want to know how many marbles you will count if you place one
marble on the ground and then place another marble on the ground, then 1
+ 1 = 2 is a useful shortcut to actually moving the physical marbles and
then proceeding to count them.

But if you want to know how many molecules you have as a result of
combining X-number of molecules of type A, with Y-number of molecules of
type B; then arithmetic does not usually hold; 1 + 1 = 1 (or even 2 + 2
= 1) may be the correct answer, the correct shortcut scheme.
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