Saturday, April 21, 2007

Theistic and atheistic ethics

Peresozo makes a good point and mentions the theist charge that atheists are unable to account for evil. But is the atheist account really deficient? And against what standard could we call it deficient?

Peresozo's comment raises several fundamental questions. We want to know not only why there's evil, but how to think about it and what to do about it. A simple causal account of evil is itself deficient; what we really want is an account of ethical thinking we can use in practice. Thus we can recast the question: Are atheistic accounts of practical ethical thinking deficient? Are theistic accounts sufficient?

Taking the second question first, I submit that theistic accounts of ethical thinking are themselves deficient, consisting of at best content-free platitudes, sometimes incoherence, and at worst moral nihilism. The theistic causal accounts of evil entail either that God is not omnipotent or that we don't understand good and evil; in either case, the accounts don't help our ethical thinking at all.

The "free will" defense to the Problem of Evil entails that God cannot or chooses neither to prevent evil nor promote good: We are, rather, free to choose one or the other. This is not a bad defense of theism, but removes God from our moral reasoning, making morality our problem, not God's.

The "greater good" defense entails that although some things appear evil, they are really in the service of a greater good. In which case, all our language condemning and praising acts seems at best entirely metaphorical; a realistic view would entail a Panglossian approval of everything. We can still make pseudo-moral judgments—and it's part of the greater good that we do so—but such judgments are not about good and evil per se (since everything is for the greater good) but about who-knows-what else. And again we are back to figuring out for ourselves what all this ethical thinking is really all about.

Both defenses throw morality back into the realm of purely human reasoning. They may (in the usual Swinburne-style non-explanation explanation) "account for" what we call evil in the sense of explaining why there is evil, but neither defense at all accounts for our actual practical moral reasoning. So it's not clear that there's any standard at all against which the atheistic account might be judged "deficient".

Of course, atheism per se does not do anything but describe a lack of belief in a God. Atheism just constrains explanations and thinking, but as noted above, it does not place any more constraints on our moral reasoning than theism in the face of the Problem of Evil.

There are two ways atheists tend to look at the world: naturalistic physicalism[1], a fundamentally monistic view, and naturalistic dualism: That the universe is composed of physical stuff (the stuff that we ends up interpreting as matter and energy) and, in this context, ethical stuff (probably a subset of mind stuff). The dualistic view has the advantage of very simply accounting for the words "good" and "evil" as naming this ethical stuff. However, I've never been persuaded to this view: This ethical stuff or mind stuff seems very elusive.

Scientific physicalism entails that our moral reasoning is about something physical: Either some kind of physical substance or some physical arrangements of this substance. Since there doesn't appear to be any kind of good or bad matter or energy or quantum states, we have to look to arrangements. And the obvious place to look for these good and bad arrangements is to look at those arrangements of matter we call minds, which entails meta-ethical subjective relativism, that our ethical thinking and language fundamentally names states of mind[2].

Peresozo raises the obvious objection: This view entails that our judgment of Hitler (or Cho) is merely that their actions are "not to [our] taste." But why should this be an objection at all?

First of all, I the characterization of ethical beliefs as "taste" is misleading, and trades on the equivocation fallacy of similarity entailing identity. According to MESR ethical beliefs are, similar to tastes, subjective, but "tastes" are precisely those subjective beliefs we do not condemn differences in others[3]. It is less prejudicial to say that our judgment of Hitler[4] is that his actions meet with our violent subjective disapproval.

Thus we can say that if Hitler's acts did not meet with our violent subjective disapproval, we would not call them unethical. Well, of course. But so what? His actions do in fact arouse our violent subjective disapproval. Why should we be concerned with the acts of fantasied possible worlds or alien species in which the actual here-and-now facts do not apply?

As Peresozo notes, if ethical beliefs are about mental states, there will be conflicting ethical beliefs. It is a fact that some people approve of Hitler's actions. It is a fact that millions (if not hundreds of millions) of Muslims actually cheered the attacks of 9/11, indicating their hearty approval. Millions (if not hundreds of millions) in America and the West naturally disapprove of both Hitler and bin Laden. According to MESR, none of these people are objectively mistaken: Since our ethical beliefs do not fundamentally name facts about objective (outside the mind) reality, there is nothing to be mistaken about.

How are we to deal with such conflict if objective truth discourse is simply inapplicable? Well, we can deal with ethical conflict in precisely the same way that we do in fact deal with it here and now: Propaganda and negotiation. Democracy. At worst imprisoning or killing people with objectionable beliefs and fighting wars. Institutions and techniques that do not fundamentally use objective truth discourse.[5]

Given this view, the account of evil offered by naturalistic physicalism is trivial: We evolved minds which make value judgments; to the extent that we make different value judgments, a person with one value judgment will label as "evil" the differing judgment in another. There is no "problem" of evil, there's no unexplained phenomena, and naturalistic physicalism entails precisely what we do in fact see: that we use propaganda and negotiation discourse, rather than objective truth discourse, to resolve our ethical conflicts.

The bar that theistic morality raises to atheistic ethical discourse is entirely illusory. The ethical bar, however, that atheistic philosophy raises to theism is considerable.

[1] I prefer the term naturalistic physicalism to scientific materialism; if quantum mechanics makes anything clear it is that our ordinary intuitions about matter are not applicable to fundamental physical reality, and naturalism is a superset of scientism, avoiding the connotation of science as a process that relies only on public facts. I personally tend to use science and naturalism more-or-less interchangeably.

[2] I.e. whatever physical characteristics of our brains on which our abstract concepts of states of mind supervene.

[3] Tastes are those beliefs we also do not condemn in ourselves. Internal ethical conflict is as important a consideration as external conflict; I'll write more on this topic later.

[4] Note that for any Abrahamic theist who gives any intrinsic weight to scripture, which in both the Old Testament and the Koran has God explicitly ordering genocide, the condemnation of Hitler is not a condemnation of his acts themselves, but only of his authority to act in such a manner. Again we see that at least Abrahamic theism does not raise much of a bar that atheistic ethical discourse must surpass.

[5] Except in the senses that we want to determine what in physical reality what it is we're actually subjectively judging, and to determine what people's ethical beliefs actually happen to be.


  1. "Unethical" is a word that names the state of mind (identical to brain state?) of "violent subjective disapproval." "Ethical conflict" is a disagreement between two or more states of mind. There is no objective standard by which to say that one state of mind is preferable to the other. There are, however, logical and rhetorical methods (negotiation and propaganda)that can change states of mind.

    Does it follow that, if through the successful manipulation of negotiation and propaganda we can for the most part excise that state of mind which disapproves, say, of enslaving Jews or Africans, and thus reinstitute slavery as a social practice, that this would be "ethical" (in that there's no majority state of mind of subjective disapproval)?

    And if so, are you really okay with that?

  2. As many writers have suggested, objective, normative ethics may be established via atheist, or, perhaps secularist grounds (and the objective, ethical propositions would still be describing brain states); OR it's established via theistic, or platonic concepts, perhaps (more difficult to justify, obviously).

    First, the secular version, in brief: there was some chat about Gewirth. According to Gewirth all rational agents (sane, more or less) are committed to valuing their own "right" to, well, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (not sure Gewirth would say that, but Jefferson does). Intuitively that seems "true", or at least strongly cogent; and of course the law holds that as correct. And that is NOT simply a matter of consensus. We can call that valuing of our liberty a "right," or entitlement, if you will, however quaint. One could quibble whether that is a sort of natural law or not (in some sense, it would seem so, at least if humans are considered rational prior to society), but it is not simply a matter of taste as Hume suggests.

    Regardless if a person might think it's ok to deprive someone of their liberty because it gives pleasure, they would not want that done to themself: in other words, a certain degree of liberty IS necessary to procur one's bio-economic goals, so to say my entitlement right is valuable and important (which we do even by going to work), but X does not have such a right, or his entitlement right is not important, IS inconsistent and irrational: Gewirth says it's contradictory.

    To violate or remove that basic right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness --via murder, false imprisonment, abduction, totalitarianism, etc---- is not a trivial matter; human agents, certainly college students, DO value their entitlement to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. IF you are alive, you value it: it's not really a matter of debate, but one could probably verify it via consensus as well (tho' the right is objective and not strictly a matter of consensus). The great suffering that followed the murders were not trivial either (according to Barefoot Bum those feelings of remorse, tragedy, loss are merely subjective, and individual-specific, one could feel happy, and it's just as correct a response as the remorse).


    The punishment problem remains however for secular ethics: even if we grant Cho acted highly unethical and violated the victims' basic entitlement rights, what are the effects of that violation, especially now that he is dead?? Had he lived obviously he would be on trial and headed for execution (presuming he was fit for trial, and his sinister plot and video suggest he was not deranged). To say that he will be held in contempt by some of the human race is not sufficient, really. I think that is what a rational theist understands. Cho's act, for a theist (or platonist) violates an objective moral law (not completely unrelated to an entitlement right, perhaps---the Bible seems to suggest "rights" in part). How does that work? I am not sure, if it works at all: . But that objective moral law requires a certain punishment--perhaps ultimate---(and many secular ethicists would agree to that punishment on a human scale); so regardless of opinion on Cho (or say a rigged jury), the objectivist/platonist holds him guilty and in a sense he pays with the only thing he really has--his soul. Yes, quaint--about as quaint as Dante's Inferno (and spiritual punishment of course present in many if not most religions).

  3. Deacon: Do you mean to ask: Is it physically possible that people would, for the most part approve (or not violently disapprove) of slavery? Well, yes, we know it's possible: That's a fair description of almost everyone's attitudes towards slavery up until a few hundred years ago.

    There's a subtle bit of objectivism in your comment, though. Majority opinion does not establish objective morality. If, however, a majority approves of some practice, it would be unsurprising that we would see that practice to be legal.

    Am I personally OK with that? Well, as a scientist, what's true is true, regardless of my feelings in the matter. As for my personal subjective opinion, of course I disapprove of slavery.

  4. Perezoso:

    As many writers have suggested, objective, normative ethics may be established via atheist, or, perhaps secularist grounds.

    It's logically possible to do so, in that there's nothing analytic about objective morality having to do with theism. Whether that's actually the case is another matter.

    The objective, ethical propositions would still be describing brain states.

    It's unclear what you mean here by "objective". I use "objective" to mean "outside the mind". The issue is whether ethical statements that don't explicitly or implicitly name brain states are truth-apt, in the same sense that "the earth is round" is true regardless of whether everyone believes it or disbelieves it. Is the phrase, "killing people for fun is wrong" true even if everyone were to disbelieve it?

    Regardless if a person might think it's ok to deprive someone of their liberty because it gives pleasure, they would not want that done to themself... to say my entitlement right is valuable and important (which we do even by going to work), but X does not have such a right... IS inconsistent and irrational.

    This is simply not the case. Such a person is merely attaching an ethical judgment to the objective distinction of himself vs. everyone else. One might disapprove of this view, but it is not inconsistent: It is an fact that you are not me.

    Furthermore, Hooker shows that an agent is not obliged to value even his own agency; he's entitled to treat his own agency as a value-neutral fact.

    We don't have to find that someone did something objectively ethically wrong to justify coercing him or punishing him. It is sufficient that we disapprove and wish to remove the source of disapproval.

    We westerners want to draw up objective standards of law, but that's a horse of a different color, merely a description of the objective acts we happen to disapprove of, as a form of communication.

  5. I use "objective" to mean "outside the mind". The issue is whether ethical statements that don't explicitly or implicitly name brain states are truth-apt, in the same sense that "the earth is round" is true regardless of whether everyone believes it or disbelieves it. Is the phrase, "killing people for fun is wrong" true even if everyone were to disbelieve it?

    Yes, I think it is. Indeed I think western democracy depends on that being objectively true (tho' it could be cognitively objective in some sense) in the sense that empirical statements are true---. Let's just say it is not a matter of consensus; for if it is, then we cannot on any grounds object to the germans voting in Hitler and fascism, except on the level of something like, "ah don't for the color of the drapes (or fascism), at least today, but tomorrow I might change my mind."

    I don't think Gewirth is so easily dismissed either: there are very few people who would NOT object to being deprived of liberty to work, commute, and obtain bio-economic necessaries. "Humans require food" is about equal, ontologically speaking, to "the earth is a sphere" is it not? I would say so. Were you prevented from eating or obtaining food (some Humean out for kicks decides to tape your mouth shut with some super duct-tape), you would be greatly offended; you would file charges. Few people would not. That is because our "right" in a democracy is premised on an entitlement to bio-economic resources; certainly we value the liberty to obtain resources if we greatly protest (and indeed call the cops) when those liberties are infringed upon. Without that liberty (say under communism or fascism) we are at risk or even put in extreme pain and discomfort (say, starvation). SO I do not think Gewirth has to grant that point: that an agent requires a certain amount of liberty to obtain his necessaries, and thus values that liberty IS a fact--indeed that's his objection to Hume. At some level one might say he requires the liberty but does not value it: nonetheless, if that liberty were interfered with he would be very upset--that certainly seems to indicate valuing, as when say a thief steals something and a person seeks the item back or recompense, etc. When X, a rational agent, perceives other agents' liberty interfered with he must grant that he himself would object to that, and that that deprivation is, in essense, factually "injust".

  6. Peresozo: I've already objected to your equating ethical belief with taste. They are similar, but distinct.

    It is, of course, the case that if (meta-)ethical objectivism is indeed false, then we (even a dissenting German) do not have any objective grounds to object to Hitler's behavior. But that's just an observation, not an argument. Subjectivism is, surprisingly enough, not objectivism.

    I don't see how democracy depends on ethical objectivism, in fact, it depends on meta-ethical subjectivism. Counting up votes is a poor way of determining objective truth, and our scientific institutions do not use democratic methods to determine scientific truth.

    Gewirth's argument does not at all depend on how some, all or many of us feel about liberty or agency. It's a logical argument, which attempts to establish logical necessity. The argument from popularity is a fallacious argument for logical necessity.

    It is certainly a fact that even though ethical regard for liberty is not logically necessary, ethical approval of liberty is popular in today's society; I myself strongly approve of liberty and agency. It is a consequence of MESR that a popular ethical belief will tend to make itself felt in social and legal structures by virtue of its popularity.

    There is thus no need to establish the truth of a popular position. Truth-discourse is really only ever useful to convince people to abandon a popular position in favor of a true position.

    There are some ethical beliefs that supervene on objective physical truth. People approve of eating because we need to eat. It is still the case, though, that we need go only to our approval of eating food—not to the physical necessity of eating—to justify any secondary, derivative ethical beliefs.

    When people used to generally approve of slavery, slavery was legal and widespread, because of its popularity. Now that people disapprove of chattel slavery, it is illegal and—in the West—virtually unknown, because of its unpopularity.

  7. Sorry, but I'm not following your response. I'm not in any way claiming that majority opinion establishes moral principles, or even necessarily makes for good positive law. What I'm trying to understand is whether your subjectivism has any real weight in the real world. My students, for example, frequently adopt a similar position in the abstract context of classroom discussions. But in the real world, when they're confronted with what they take to be real acts of injustice, they shed their subjectivism pretty quickly. But I suppose you'd say--wouldn't you?--that there's no such critter as a "real act of injustice," but only acts to which mental states register violent disapproval. Which means that if I gouge the eyes out of a 9 year old kid, it's not an injustice unless there's a critical mass of disapproving brain states. THAT's the situation I'm asking if you can live with. "What's true is true" makes no sense to me in this context.

    (By the way, in re to your footnote #4, that talks about Abrahamic theism--although I don't know what this means: given your total denial of any objective ethical measure, it seems to me that any sort of Hebrew Bible "atrocity" should be either acceptable (provided it doesn't give rise to lots of agitated mental disapproval) or at least neutrality.

  8. Gewirth's argument does not at all depend on how some, all or many of us feel about liberty or agency.

    I have said that numerous times. That rationalist aspect, rather than hedonic utiltarianism, is why it is interesting and indeed powerful. It really comes down to the identity function, and relevance of similarities. Few people would deny that rational humans value their own liberty to attain economic goods. That can be established, even if one quibbles a bit about endorsement, etc. You may not recognize another normal agents' rights, but that does not imply he doesn't have them. It's not a matter of a duty to be compassionate; it's matter of recognizing the similarity of human-agency (tho' I modify Gewirth's position by saying that agency should be valued (and recognized as objective) as it applies to obtaining primary bio-economic goods, and not to all acts (high finance, working for the mafia, etc.).

    It's a logical argument, which attempts to establish logical necessity. The argument from popularity is a fallacious argument for logical necessity.

    Yes, I have said that numerous times as well. Where did I suggest Gewirth was advocating utilitarianism? No where, sir. And Hooker himself grants the logical force of Gewirth's point on relevant similarities (human-agents must recognize that other normal human-agents value their own freedom to pursue economic goods, and thus have a right to that freedom, as they themselves claim, more or less. No? If not, might as well be Ted Kazcynski)

    "Counting up votes is a poor way of determining objective truth: and our scientific institutions do not use democratic methods to determine scientific truth.

    Yes, and yet that is what your position--on meta-ethical subjectivism--leads to: consensus, ie mob democracy. That is what Gewirth's argument is trying to avoid. Contracturalist such as Rawls or Hobbes also attempt to avoid the problems of consensus.

  9. Deacon:

    I might not be understanding your objection.

    This statement seems to be the crux of the biscuit: [I]f I gouge the eyes out of a 9 year old kid, it's not an injustice unless there's a critical mass of disapproving brain states.

    I maintain that there's no objective injustice at all, under any circumstances, regardless of who or how many approve or disapprove. As it happens, I personally disapprove: If you were to actually gouge out a kid's eyes, I would approve of oppressing you by locking you up in prison.

    I'm not sure what specifically you mean by your assertion that your students "shed their subjectivism pretty quickly" when they're "confronted with what they take to be real acts of injustice." If you mean they shed ethical subjectivism, that subjective ethical beliefs establish objective ethical truth, then I wouldn't be surprised: Ethical subjectivism (as opposed to meta-ethical subjectivism, a distinction I take some pains to establish) seems to me trivially flawed.

    Regarding my ethical actions (praising, blaming, approving, disapproving, oppressing, etc.) I act directly on my opinions, not on any facts I infer from those opinions. Of course, there's a feedback process: Because I do in fact live in a society, I have to take into account other people's opinions, because their ethical actions towards me will be based on those opinions. Since my feelings about the ethics of gouging out kids' eyeballs is pretty much in sync with my neighbors' opinions, I can confidently take certain actions. Where my opinions are out of sync, though, I must be more circumspect and restrained.

    As to Abrahamic theism, I strongly subjectively disapprove of the acts of genocide, human sacrifice, murder, colonialism, theft, deception, duplicity, treason, betrayal, and mopery on the high seas depicted in a very literal, matter-of-fact, non-metaphorical manner in the Old Testament and the Koran. I suspect that a large number of people share this disapproval, at least in the abstract. It is this shared opinion (an empirical truth about opinions) which I'm trading on to name these actions "atrocities".

  10. It really comes down to the identity function, and relevance of similarities.

    But deciding to attach ethical importance to identity and consider various similarities to be ethically relevant is not a matter of logical necessity, it is a subjective opinion. A subjective opinion that you and I happen to share, true, but it would entail neither a logical contradiction nor a denial of fact to take the contrary position.

    I of course maintain that consensus is not itself a problem and there is no need of a solution.

  11. Do you as a human claim a right to pursue bio-economic goals? I would say that you do, even by the mere fact of getting in your car and going to work. Gewirth argues that his rights are based on what agents must themselves acknowledge, not on observable facts (but I do think they are facts about human action). SO in that sense it is not utilitarian or empirical: AG says its dialectically necessary, but yet still yields a contradiction, at least in the sense that you cannot endorse your own rights as an agent and deny them to someone with the same features of agency (with same human needing bio-economic resources as relevant similarity, really, as well as agency).

    Tor you to deny X's entitlement right is a denial of the fact that he himself has the same features of agency that you do, and thus values his own rights the same, or nearly the same, as you; his actions like your own, assume that agency is a value, and indeed somewhat necessary condition of economic life. That's what you are overlooking: that is at least inconsistent and irrational, if not denial of fact (and not the same as saying no duty to be compassionate). You are saying that "there exists no duty to be compassionate" equals "there exists no duty to recognize his right claim to economic goods"; but they are not the same. But I grant there is an issue in Gewirth's "deduction" about identity, generalization, and "transference" if you will that remains problematic: Hooker however grants that the generalization (step 6) of what agent X claims based on having the property of agency (which I think is really a property of a human-agent needing economic resources) to all agents is valid. It seems to me if that generalization is somehow valid then the argument holds, regardless of Hooker's objections to step 7. (and it is logical in the sense that if any X is agent, and all agents value their agency (to obtain goods), then X values agency as well--tho' I dont think Gewirth would agree to putting it those empirical terms)

  12. Perezoso: You're still misunderstanding my position in important ways, and I'm at a loss how to explain more clearly.

    I do not believe that I have to establish any objective ethical truth to justify my actions. Ever. Because I do not believe it is possible to justify any such objective ethical truth. I act because I am psychologically (subjectively) motivated to act. Full stop.

    I don't think you're getting my point about utilitarianism. I'm not saying that you are a utilitarian; I'm saying that you appear to be holding act utilitarianism as the alternative to some ethical objectivism of logical necessity. Meta-ethical subjective relativism does not entail act utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism is a form of ethical objectivism, and is thus fundamentally incompatible with MESR.

    It's very difficult to show a contradiction in MESR, because MESR doesn't say very much; it's simply the recognition of what hasn't been epistemically justified, and is unlikely to be justified because of a lack of either an axiomatic or evidentiary foundation.

    Hooker's rebuttal of Gewirth just disproves Gewirth. It doesn't by itself disprove ethical objectivism, nor even ethical objectivism by virtue of logical necessity. It disproves only one particular argument.

    It is not any sort of contradiction for me to deny another an objective right: I deny that there is any such thing as an objective right, for others and for myself. There are only facts about what people, including myself, approve and disapprove of.

    It's very difficult to do philosophy by only commenting on others' blogs. I think you have something interesting to say, and I would strongly encourage you to start your own blog. Try Blogger or Wordpress. It's pretty easy, and if you need technical help, I'd be glad to do what I can. You'll be assured of at least one reader, and I'd be happy to give you a plug.

  13. Thanks for suggestion. I have a blog, however humble, and have been doing this for some time on many blogs when I have time away from work. However, If you don't care to have me post on your philosophy-related threads I won't.

    It's very difficult to show a contradiction in MESR, because MESR doesn't say very much; it's simply the recognition of what hasn't been epistemically justified, and is unlikely to be justified because of a lack of either an axiomatic or evidentiary foundation.

    The MESR echoes Hume's position on the fact/value distinction more or less, and Hume's argument that there are no moral facts: whatever values are, they are based on individual passions and desire for Hume. The utilitarians follow Hume, for the most part: increasing pleasure is the good. That is not objective ethics; it's not really ethics at all. Yet that is what any subjective, hedonic "value" system leads to: again, the Humean cannot really object to the fact that majorities voted in fascism in the 30s. Nor can he really object to economic "injustice" (say Bill Gates) or to war, or to many other perceived socio-economic flaws.

    Gewirth and other ethical rationalists attempt to counter that subjective amoral if not nihilist perspective. Additionally, I do not think that one can say "rights" are not facts of some sort. You have a right to vote, say. The word describes a certain condition, or state of affairs: the right means you are allowed to go to the booth and cast a vote. Are you saying that the word doesn't refer to anything? It does, really. The real problem is that right implies a certain freedom, and it's difficult to discuss "freedom" as an entity or object: Gewirth has that problem as well. But that doesn't mean "freedom" doesn't exist in some sense (and really a pure scientific materialist and determinist position might entail not believing in freedom whatsoever). People can make choices; they do act, and they do require certain conditions--known as "freedom" --- in order to attain their goals. So whether you agree to "a right is a fact" or not, some condition (unencumberedness, really) needs to be present for agents to attain their bio-economic goals. Without that freedom-condition (say some strange law prevented you from going to work) you would not be able to attain those goals. That condition is a fact, really; and I think that is "right" refers to. And certainly people do seem to endorce their own agency and freedom; informally, freedom and liberty are valued, everywhere. It is a property in some sense of economic life: one has to have liberty to attain one's goals. The extreme subjectivist in a sense suggests that "yes humans must eat (obtain necessaries, etc) to live, but they don't have a right to the objective freedom-conditions which will allow them to eat (obtain necessaries, etc.)." That seems very odd.

    I think Gewrith is saying that the freedom-condition (which the right names) is a presupposition of economic life, which applies to all agents, and it is confirmed subjectively by what the agent actually must grant about his own purposeful acts, "on pain of contradiction.": something like "if X and Y are both in the class of Z (human-agents), and one of Z's attributes is that Z requires and values freedom-conditions, then X and Y require and value freedom-conditions." So X cannot then deny to Y the same attributes he himself possesses. There is a valid and sound deduction out of Gewirth: but the question is really whether the sound premises are "necessary" in a sense (but don't we accept many arguments with merely sound but not necessarily true premises? yes)


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