The Normative Moral Codes Workshop : - A new thought-experiment aimed at investigating normative morality

University essay from Umeå universitet/Institutionen för idé- och samhällsstudier

Abstract: The normative moral code is considered to be such that it applies universally to all or at least to all who can understand and govern their behavior by it. All or almost all common folk think of and use their own moral codes as them being normative in that for example there simply seem to them to exist “oughts” that apply to all and that there simply, straightforwardly are “things” that are right and wrong, good and bad. Gert Bernard and Gert Joshua have written an article on the topic of defining morality, with the title of “The Definition of Morality”. The authors suggest that the terms ‘normative morality’ refer to a code of conduct that, given some specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons. The authors take this formulation as entailing true and important definitional features of what normative morality is, although the authors think of this basic definition, conception as not being complete and that some additional feature hence is lacking but that any such candidate addendum to the definitional basic schema that they surveyed within the article seemed to be controversial, contested. Normative morality seems apt to investigate by creating thought-experiments wherein the participants are for example, envisioned choosing to endorse, put forward or act in accordance with a moral code. Within this large investigative project into normative morality with the help of thought-experiments it seemed to me that there was an under-representation of thought-experiments exhibiting some worthwhile and relevant features and I felt that it was a warranted project to create a thought-experiment which concurrently exhibited these features. Such an experiment could be thought of as an unusual “puzzle-piece” which could be valuable in contributing to furthering the completion of the “puzzle”, i.e. what normative morality is and its moral code. These three features were: i) a high degree of aptness for investigating a major part of or the complete normative moral code and ii) a high degree of freedom pertaining to the participants, e.g. their actions, thoughts etc., as well as iii) a high degree of confidence or warrant concerning what the participants would do, think, feel etc. within the thought-experiment. A thought-experiment, the Normative Moral Codes Workshop (NMCW) was hence created, which was aimed at investigating normative morality and its code and which exhibited these features. It is a thought-experiment mimicking an actual empirical study wherein the participants are given the task to together put forward the moral code for them, that would apply to them and that would cover a major or complete part of what they consider their moral codes to entail. The participants employed within my run of the NMCW thought-experiment were all currently living adult persons who I knew well. The core or main aim of this essay was to investigate whether it would or would not be the case that most or all participants within my run of the thought-experiment the NMCW would decide to put forward the code together with the chosen formulation of the thesis being, that it would not be the case that most or all participants would put forward the code within my run of the NMCW thought-experiment. Part of the core aim was also to elucidate why the thesis was supported or not supported as well as how strong the support was for the outcome of the experiment, i.e. the outcome of a code being put forward or not. The essay also has some minor aims which radiate out from the core aim (see below). As the thought-experimenter, I then reported on the events that I envisioned as happening within my run the NMCW thought-experiment as my selected participants grappled with the task and their decision to put or not put forward the code together that would apply to them. The finding was that the thesis was supported and that the support was robust in that I could identify several reasons the participants had against putting forward the code and I found very little in terms of reasons among the participants for putting forward the code. The essay also had some minor aims to selectively discuss a few further relevant and interesting issues radiating out from the core aim. These minor aims revolved around discussing some selected salient features of the NMCW including how they could relate to the outcome. One such selected salient feature was the feature of the employed participant sample of my run of the NMCW. I for example, discussed the potential extension of it not being the case that most or all participants would decide to put forward the code, if the participant sample would have been modified but still employed currently living5adults and I ended up being of the opinion that pertaining to most potential samples a similar outcome as the one envisioned within my run of the NMCW would be expected. I also wanted to discuss some further selected salient features of the NMCW within the context of addressing whether the NMCW, given its features ought to be considered an unsound, inapt experiment for investigating normative morality, given Gert’s and Gert’s conception of normative morality, since if this was the case the outcome of the experiment ought to be disregarded, given no weight. Although, I did find potential targets for criticism of the NMCW experimental design I did not find any reasons strong enough to disqualify the NMCW experiment as an experiment inapt, unsound for investigating normative morality, given the features of normative morality entailed within the suggested basic definition provided by Gert and Gert. Finally, I also aimed to selectively discuss some aspects of what it could mean pertaining to the conception of normative morality, according to Gert and Gert, that the thesis was supported. For example, given one interpretation the outcome could be taken to provide support for the non-existence of a normative moral code, but given another be taken to mean that addenda has to be identified and added to the basic conception of normative morality and that such addenda would be such that they would disqualify the NMCW (and its outcome) as a sound and apt thought-experiment to be employed in investigating normative morality. I also attempted to briefly illustrate how the NMCW thought-experiment could be used as a substratum facilitating the identification and clarification of such potential addenda to the basic conception of normative morality, suggested by Gert and Gert, and I also suggest some potential candidate features of the NMCW that further potential specifications added to the basic conception of morality ought to be able to disqualify, exclude as acceptable features of experiments aimed at investigating normative morality. In this way, an unusual, under-represented kind of thought-experiment, “puzzle-piece” when it comes to the large investigative project of employing experiments in order to acquire further insight into normative morality, i.e. “the puzzle”, can regardless of whether it seems to fit or does not seem to fit the “puzzle”, still be employed in such a way as to potentially provide further insight into “the puzzle”. This since even when a “puzzle-piece” does not seem to fit the “puzzle”, “seeing” and understanding how and why could provide us with information about the “puzzle”.

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