The argument from queerness suggested by Mackie is one of his main arguments against moral realism. The following I would like to discuss is the details of this argument and the critique of it. In advanced, I would like to define the meaning of “moral realism”. There are two tendencies of moral realism. One is naturalism, the other non-naturalism. Naturalistic moral realism states that moral facts exist like natural facts, either in relation or identical to. The non-naturalistic moral realism holds that moral facts exist unlike natural facts or any sensible things in the world, but some metaphysical entities.
The argument from queerness Mackie’s argument from queerness mainly focuses on arguing against non-naturalistic moral realists, which consists of two parts, one metaphysical, the other epistemological. The former states that “If there were objective values, then they would be entities or qualities or relations of a very strange sort, utterly different from anything else in the universe. ”The second part is that in order to know this kind of strange properties, we need “some special faculty of moral perception or intuition, utterly different from our ordinary ways of knowing everything else. Which Mackie thinks it is impossible. For details, Mackie says that if a moral property exists, it must be able to be explained its features and we have to provide a way to know it. For example, if moral properties exist, what do they be made of? Can we taste them, touch them, or see them? It seems that these moral properties are so strange (/queer) and if we cannot observe them by our normal sense faculty, what other sense faculty can be used to know them? Some intuitionists will claim that we can know it by “faculty of moral intuition”. That is, moral judgment is simply made by intuition.
Mackie does not agree with this and says that it is implausible, “…the suggestion that moral judgments are made or moral problems solved by just sitting down and having an ethical intuition is a travesty of actual moral thinking”. Since when we actually think about morality, such as making a normative conclusion about an action, the process is quite complicated. For example, it requires premises or forms of argument or both. Intuitionists cannot explain how we know the related normativity, or whether the premises or forms of argument are true or valid. In addition, for arguing against the naturalistic moral ealists, Mackie provides the third argument from queerness by asking that what the relationship between moral facts and natural facts is. For example, if we saw a person cause pain to another person just for fun, we would have said that it is wrong. This wrongness must supervene upon the cruelty of an action. That is, “This is wrong because this action is cruel. ” However, “what in the world is signified by this ‘because’? And how do we know the relation that it signifies…? ” The relationship of the wrongness and the cruel acts is unclear, in other words, queer. Critique There are several objections arguing against Mackie’s argument.
Due to the word limit, I cannot go through all of them. However, I would try to pick out some critiques of Mackie I think it is relatively interesting. As I mentioned above, Mackie’s argument mainly attacks non-naturalistic moral realism. Moreover, he is mainly attack some Platonist moral realists. He said, “Plato’s Forms give a dramatic picture of what objective values would have to be. The Form of the Good is such that knowledge of it provides the knower with both a direction and an overriding motive” We can see that this argument does not just apply to moral realism, but some domains of science, for example, mathematics, or simply logic.
It is because if that kind of science is objective true, it must be a reason for why it can be claimed so. Why is “P implies P” objectively true? We also cannot neither imagine such entity telling “P implies P” is true nor know it by normal sense faculty. However, we will not think that it is not objectively true. I think that it’s because in fact, it is a priori. We know it is true not because there is a metaphysical entity, but reasoning. In the same way, even though we accept there is no such queer moral entity, it may not be a barrier for us to know the objectivity of moral values if moral values are kinds of things that a priori.
I think it is the fallacy of inappropriate presumption because it seems that Mackie has not well explained that why he thinks moral values are not a priori. Therefore, the metaphysical part of the argument from queerness is not relevant to the problem of objective value, if Mackie cannot prove that moral values are not a priori. Now it’s time to consider the epistemological part. The question is, by what we can “know” the objectivity of moral values? The word “knows” maybe misleading. The question can be asked in this form: What is the reason for us to believe in the objectivity of moral values?
That reason is possible to be provided not by saying that I observe a moral entity like Plato’s Form of Good but the other way. It is possible for us to just sit down and think about problems of ethics, like Mackie does, and give reasons for believing or not believing in the objectivity of moral values. In fact, many philosophers are actually doing this and some of them indeed provide some reasons for believing in the objective moral values. I am not going to discuss whether those reasons are good; I am just saying that it is possible that we just have not made a conclusion yet but not we cannot made it.
There are several possible reasons for this. Maybe it is because our moral faculty (either by intuition or reasoning or whatever) is not good enough. It is like someone is not good at studying logic or mathematics. Finally, I would like to discuss the third argument from queerness, that is, that relationship between the moral value and the action. We can pick out any hypothetical imperative. For example, if one wants not to be thirsty, he ought to drink water. Then if he really drinks water, he will achieve his goal, which is, not being thirsty.
However, feeling thirsty is not a sufficient reason for him to drink water. It is because he thinks that not being thirsty is good. There may be several reasons making him think of this, for example, it will hurt his body, get pain, be exhausted . etc. Therefore, he may think that drinking water is good. The linkage of the goodness and the action is quite obvious, that he want to achieve the good (not being thirsty), so he drinks water. I think hypothetical imperative also replies Mackie’s disagreement with the intuitionists.
Let us read this again: “If one wants not to be thirsty, he ought to drink water. ” It contains both cause (drinking water) and effect (not being thirsty). Both can be observed scientifically. It means that we can test whether it is true or not. The problem is that Mackie makes his argument too strong. Perhaps his argument can refute a part of the objective values, but not the whole. Christine Korsgaard has tried to respond to Mackie by saying: “Of course there are entities that meet these criteria. It’s true that they are queer sorts of entities, and that knowing them isn’t like anything else.
But that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist…For it is the most familiar fact of human life that the world contains entities that can tell us what to do and make us do it. They are people, and the other animals. ” Although I admit that I don’t quite understand what she means, but I can interpret in some sense that is compatible with my argument. That is, it is human being to think that what the objective value is by reasoning, to tell us what to do by saying that, make us do it by saying that with reasons.
To conclude, I think the argument from queerness is not wholly true. Mackie has not explained more about why he thinks that moral values are something that a posteriori. Also, the fact that he mainly focus on Platonist moral realism makes him ignore many of moral realists holding the view of non-platonic moral realism, which I think is the majority. At last but not least, he makes his argument too strong. It includes all imperatives that parts of them may refute his argument, that is, hypothetical imperatives.