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Are there moral hinges?

Professor Rom Harré

2nd November 2009

University of Herfordshire


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Abstract
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About the Reporter

 

Professor Harré is Distinguished Professor in the Psychology Department of Georgetown University (Washington DC) and Director of the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics. Distinguished philosopher and psychologist, Prof. Harré has written on a wide variety of subjects including: philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of science, philosophy of psychology, epistemology, ontology, sociology, anthropology, psychology. His recent publications include Pavlov's Dogs and Schrodinger's Cat: Scenes from the living laboratory (OUP, 2009); Key Thinkers in Psychology (Sage, 2006); (with M. Tissaw) Wittgenstein and Psychology (Ashgate, 2005).

the Speaker

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Professor Harré is Distinguished Professor in the Psychology Department of Georgetown University (Washington DC) and Director of the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics. Distinguished philosopher and psychologist, Prof. Harré has written on a wide variety of subjects including: philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of science, philosophy of psychology, epistemology, ontology, sociology, anthropology, psychology. His recent publications include Pavlov's Dogs and Schrodinger's Cat: Scenes from the living laboratory (OUP, 2009); Key Thinkers in Psychology (Sage, 2006); (with M. Tissaw) Wittgenstein and Psychology (Ashgate, 2005).

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Report

In On Certainty, Wittgenstein uses examples of what he calls ‘hinges’ for working through epistemological issues that arise in resolving the grammatical errors G. E. Moore perpetrated in his uses of ‘know’, ‘believe’, ‘certain’, etc. Nearly all his examples are concerned with life in the material world of time, space and things. Wittgenstein’s later writings certainly display an overall and pervasive atmosphere of normativity, but are any of the implicit norms of hingepractices moral? ‘Hinges’, like ‘concepts’, do not appear in propria persona anywhere but are realised in practices, and expressed in doppelganger propositions. This scheme fits into a progression in Wittgenstein’s thought of means for ensuring the orderliness of discourses: from logic, through grammar, to hinges.

Some hinge-practices are regulative, but some are constitutive of forms of life – and doppelganger hinge-propositions as expressions of norms fall into parallel types. Moral hinges are realised in hinge-practices that are moral, and are expressed in hinge– propositions that are empirical. Moral practices are person preserving, person enhancing, and permit autonomous choice of actions. Whether a hinge-practice is moral is shown by how that practice is contested. What should we make of Hume’s Principle that an ‘ought’ cannot be deduced from an ‘is’ if the practice the axiological character of which we are considering has an empirical proposition as a doppelganger? Does not that make the root hinge a misbegotten being that is both normative and factual? Or perhaps the seemingly empirical doppelganger is covertly evaluative after all? However, the relation between hinge-practice and hingeproposition is not deductive. If the practice is normative and the proposition is contingent and they are derived from a common hinge then Hume’s Principle is outflanked. Professor Harré’s project is to explore the possibility that certain empirical hypotheses are the propositional doppelgangers of moral practices. His examples serve to test the hypothesis that there are hinges that escape Hume’s critical aphorism.

About the Reporter


j-preston

 

Professor  John Preston is qualified in artificial intelligence, as well as philosophy, and his main research interests are in the philosophy of science, of mind, of cognitive science, and in epistemology.

He is the author of Feyerabend: Philosophy, Science and Society, and editor of Thought and Language and Views into the Chinese Room.

Ongoing research:
Wittgenstein, Natural Science, and the Great Philosopher-Physicists (ongoing book project).

Ludwig Wittgenstein - A Chronology of his Life and Work (ongoing book project associated with : www.wittgensteinchronology.com and Facebook page 'Wittgenstein Day-by-Day').

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