My take on this discussion is that I asked a pair of rather simple questions – for evidence that an ontological moral law really exists, and more importantly how it could be objectively known by us mere humans – and he basically drowned the discussion in obfuscations and digressions. But obviously, the only other person who's as biased as I am about this conversation is Randall. So, I'm posting the discussion here for your dissemination. The original post can be found here. It's all rather long, so if you're going to read it all you might want to whip up a sandwich first.
My comments are in standard font, and his are in italics.
You can't be serious. Scientific understanding of neurology and cognition have been quite frankly the only tools that have allowed us to discard antiquated philosophies of perception. Philosophy alone is inept at illuminating reality without a methodology by which to identify and discard erroneous propositions.
Okay, please provide a unified description from tree to my perceptual experience of seeing a tree. More specifically, what's going on between photons hitting the rods and cones of the eye leading to neural signals and my sense experience of seeing a tree?
I'm not a neuroscientist, so I'm not sure why you'd expect me to be able to detail such complex cognitive processes. But appealing to the mystery of these processes makes for a pretty weak case in arguing that science isn't integral to philosophical theories of mind. Do you think Aristotle would have bothered to formulate a theory of direct realism had he known what a photon is?
Well then you should read up in the philosophy of mind.I think you can do better than that. I might as well say that you should bone up on your neurology and cognitive science, like perhaps the book Philosophy in the Flesh.
What I pointed out is that objecting to moral perception or rationalFortunately for me, that wasn't my objection.
intuition because we lack a satisfactory account of how we perceive
morally or rationally is illegitimate unless you also want to reject
sense perception because we lack a satisfactory account of how we sense
Rather, my objection is that the internal coherency of your rational intuition is insufficient to make inferences about the objective nature of reality.
Given your background in philosophy, I presume you're familiar with the isolation objection to coherentism. This simply says that a belief can be internally logically consistent yet still not actually reflect reality. I think that is the problem your arguments face.
A reader of my blog brought a great article to my attention from the site Less Wrong that I think highlights the point I am trying to make, more eloquently than I'm capable of doing. A relevant quote:
Before you can question your intuitions, you have to realize that what your mind's eye is looking at is an intuition—some cognitive algorithm, as seen from the inside—rather than a direct perception of the Way Things Really Are.
People cling to their intuitions, I think, not so much because they believe their cognitive algorithms are perfectly reliable, but because they can't see their intuitions as the way their cognitive algorithms happen to look from the inside.This is what I'm talking about when I say that science often reveals reality to be counter-intuitive. What philosopher, for example, could have ever used rational intuition to infer the bizarre behavior of subatomic particles, or the relativity of simultaneity? I think you're making a fundamental error by getting caught up in the internal coherency of your beliefs while putting too much stock in your "rational intuitions". Reality has no obligation to conform to the necessarily limited cognitive models of reality our brains construct. Without some "direct perception of the Way Things Really Are", as the article says, it's fallacious to assume that your rational intuition alone can allow you make reliable inferences about the objective nature of reality.
That is why you can't use rational intuition and logical inference to establish the existence of an objective moral law. Reality just doesn't work that way.
In any case, I think for my part this discussion has run its course, though I'd be happy to hear any closing thoughts you might have.
Oh! Here's the article: