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Philosophy E166: Ethical Theory

Philosophy E166: Ethical Theory. Week Four: Hobbes on Relativism and Determinism. The Grade Game. You and a partner each independently choose either an A-grade or a B-grade. If both of you choose an ‘A’, each gets a ‘D’. If both of you choose a ‘B’, each gets a ‘B’.

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Philosophy E166: Ethical Theory

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  1. Philosophy E166: Ethical Theory Week Four: Hobbes on Relativism and Determinism

  2. The Grade Game • You and a partner each independently choose either an A-grade or a B-grade. • If both of you choose an ‘A’, each gets a ‘D’. • If both of you choose a ‘B’, each gets a ‘B’. • If one chooses ‘A’ and the other ‘B’, the former gets an ‘A’, the latter gets an ‘F’.

  3. How will a self-interestedrational being behave in ordinary conditions? If each is competitive and tries to get as much as possible of the resource (both choose an ‘A’), a fight will break out in which both will suffer and neither will win outright because they have equal power. So both get a ‘D’. If each is cooperative and takes a modest amount of the resource (both choose a ‘B’), there’s enough for both. So both get a ‘B’. If one tries to take all the resource and is not challenged (one chooses an ‘A’, the other a ‘B’), then the former gets what she wants and the latter is left without anything. So the former gets an ‘A’, the latter an ‘F’

  4. The Paradox of Self Interest • Notice that whatever your partner does, it’s in your self-interest to choose an ‘A’: • Suppose she chooses an ‘A’. Then choosing a ‘B’ gets you an ‘F’, but choosing an ‘A’ gets you a ‘D’. So it is better to choose an ‘A’. • Suppose she chooses a ‘B’. Then choosing a ‘B’ gets you an ‘B’ but choosing an ‘A’ gets you an ‘A’. So it is better to choose an ‘A’. • However, if the net result is that you both choose ‘A’s, you both get ‘D’s. • Moreover, there is a better joint solution: your both getting B’s.

  5. A. W. Tucker’s Original Handout for His 1950 Talk on the Prisoner’s Dilemma • strategy B “dominates” strategy A when B is better than A for a player X no matter what X’s opponent does • a pair of moves or strategies is “in equilibrium” in a prisoner’s dilemma when they are best responses for both players – when neither has an incentive to change – when neither can benefit by changing while the other keeps the same strategy

  6. Rawls’s Prisoner’s Dilemma Example(Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy, p. 74)

  7. As in Grade Game, a Better Outcome Available than the Stable Equilibrium

  8. Relevance to Hobbes • The relevance to Hobbes is straightforward • There is a stable equilibrium among members of the state of nature – the state of war • It’s better for each member to choose war no matter what the other does • Suppose your opponent chooses peace; then it’s better for you to choose war over peace, since then you win. • Suppose your opponent chooses war; then it’s better for you to choose war over peace, since then you don’t lose. • But there’s a more efficient outcome: mutual peace.

  9. Rawls Illustrates This with a PD-Situation Involving States

  10. The Problem for Nation-States

  11. The Problem of Trust • Suppose you confront the paradox by entering into an agreement with the other party • You judge that ongoing war is worse than ongoing peace • Notice that you cannot know that your opponent is thinking the same way – but can only know that your opponent has an interest in peace • But an interest is not enough, since even after you have entered into an agreement, there is still the problem of compliance – both sides have an interest in failing to comply • Before, defecting consisted in failing to enter into agreement; now it consists not in failing to comply with the agreement • Failing to comply will dominate in the absence of trust

  12. Where Trust Matters • If the two parties are persons not states, and the two person are relatives, then there might be an inclination on both sides to comply • But even then, the fact that there is a Hobbesian state of war means that there are other incentives that go against complying in the first place • There must be not only inclinations to comply but strong enough inclinations against non-compliance (e.g., guilt, shame) to stabilize

  13. In the Ordinary Situation, an Enforcer • What Hobbes argues is that in the ordinary situation, you need more than an agreement and you need more than mere inclinations of trust • You need enforcement • That is the role of the Sovereign • The Sovereign is brought in as enforcer • Hobbes says that each alienates all his/her rights to the Sovereign • Thus, the payoffs change considerably, since defection now means self-destruction

  14. The 1st and 2nd Laws of Nature Again • Remember that the laws of nature are supposed to be the route out of this state of war to peace. • The Fundamental Law is worded in this way: • “that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war.” (Leviathan, ch. 14, p. 190.) • The second law, derived from the first, is this: • “that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself.” • These are meant as laws of rationality or prudence about how to respond to the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” of the state of nature

  15. The Remaining Laws of Nature • The third law of nature instructs us to keep promises and fulfill contracts. • The remaining laws are intended as instructions from one’s prudence of what is required to keep the peace • Hobbes sets them out in Chapter XV and Rawls lists them at the end of Hobbes III (pp. 71f.)

  16. This is Hobbes’s Conception of Morality • One might ask if this is morality • It is a conception of stability and mutual self-preservation • Hobbes’s conception of what morality is • If that is correct, then morality is compatible with psychological egoism, where nobody is interested in anything beyond his or her own self-centered interests

  17. Why Rawls Thinks Hobbes’s Account of Justice Show He’s Not an Egoist • The two possible interpretations of Hobbes’s account of justice is particular and morality in general: • Interpretation One: That we can generate a system of morality – in fact, our system of morality – even if psychological egoism is true. • Interpretation Two: Psychological egoism is true, and it is enough of a basis to generate moality. • Rawls holds Interpretation One. • My view is that Hobbes’s words support Two.

  18. Recapitulation • So far we have looked at three of the accusations against Hobbes, each of which was seen to be a “threat to ethics”: • Materialism • Atheism • Egoism

  19. The Perceived Threat & Hobbes’s True Position

  20. What of Relativism? • Hobbes was accused during his time of being a relativist – of not embracing universal moral values. • Christians and atheists have sometimes agreed that ethics depends on religion • On this view, if there’s an absence of religious faith, then ethics is impossible. • We might also think that if we lose religion, then we lose any chance of morality being objective. • Sartre accepted the dependency but because of his atheism rejected the objectivity of ethics • Hence, those who considered Hobbes an atheist might have thought that he couldn’t offer an account of objective moral values

  21. The Relativity of Good • Hobbes certainly embraces a relativism of good and evil • “But whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite or desire, that is it which he for his part calleth good; and the object of his hate and aversion, evil; and of his contempt, vile and inconsiderable. For these words of good, evil, and contemptible are ever used with relation to the person that useth them: there being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves; but from the person of the man, where there is no Commonwealth; or, in a Commonwealth, from the person that representeth it; or from an arbitrator or judge, whom men disagreeing shall by consent set up and make his sentence the rule thereof.” Leviathan, Chapter VI, pp. 120f. • Christians would reject this – God is good absolutely – and could take this as evidence of atheism in Hobbes.

  22. The Science of Moral Philosophy Includes Differences among Humans • A similar idea in the penultimate paragraph of Chap. 15 • “For moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of what is good and evil in the conversation and society of mankind. Good and evil are names that signify our appetites and aversions, which in different tempers, customs, and doctrines of men are different: and diverse men differ not only in their judgement on the senses of what is pleasant and unpleasant to the taste, smell, hearing, touch, and sight; but also of what is conformable or disagreeable to reason in the actions of common life. Nay, the same man, in diverse times, differs from himself; and one time praiseth, that is, calleth good, what another time he dispraiseth, and calleth evil…

  23. Differences Resolved in the Science According to Laws of Nature • But a different tone in the last half of the paragraph: • “… from whence arise disputes, controversies, and at last war. And therefore so long as a man is in the condition of mere nature, which is a condition of war, private appetite is the measure of good and evil: and consequently all men agree on this, that peace is good, and therefore also the way or means of peace, which (as I have shown before) are justice, gratitude, modesty, equity, mercy, and the rest of the laws of nature, are good; that is to say, moral virtues; and their contrary vices, evil. Now the science of virtue and vice is moral philosophy; and therefore the true doctrine of the laws of nature is the true moral philosophy.”

  24. Hobbes’s Message: Moral Philosophy Has Two Parts • The message seems to be that moral philosophy has two parts. • First, it includes an account of the diversity of customs, doctrines, etc. about good and evil. • will look different in different times and at different places • at least a kind of qualified relativism being proposed here • Second, it also includes an account of the laws of nature, which are known through the dictates of reason. • Despite the differences in temper, customs, etc. across individuals and societies, these laws will provide something uniform that all people can appeal to to ensure peace and a reliable means to social cooperation. • So there’s a kind of universality as well. • Hence, the science of moral philosophy is a science that gives attention to both the diversity and universality of human values.

  25. Did Not Silence Hobbes’s Critics • One might have thought that these considerations would silence the critics, but they didn’t. Why not? • Answer: because of other appearances of relativism in Hobbes’s views

  26. The Natural Law and the Positive Civil Law • E.g., consider this passage from Chapter 26 on civil law (p. 314): • “The law of nature and the civil law contain each other and are of equal extent. For the laws of nature, which consist in equity, justice, gratitude, and other moral virtues on these depending, in the condition of mere nature (as I have said before in the end of the fifteenth Chapter), are not properly laws, but qualities that dispose men to peace and to obedience. When a Commonwealth is once settled, then are they actually laws, and not before; as being then the commands of the Commonwealth; and therefore also civil laws: for it is the sovereign power that obliges men to obey them. For the differences of private men, to declare what is equity, what is justice, and is moral virtue, and to make them binding, there is need of the ordinances of sovereign power, and punishments to be ordained for such as shall break them; which ordinances are therefore part of the civil law. The law of nature therefore is a part of the civil law in all Commonwealths of the world. Reciprocally also, the civil law is a part of the dictates of nature. For justice, that is to say, performance of covenant, and giving to every man his own, is a dictate of the law of nature. But every subject in a Commonwealth hath covenanted to obey the civil law…”

  27. Relativism of Positive Law (Where Law = Morality) • Here is one instance of an apparent relativist position. • The proposal is that there is an interconnection between the civil law and the laws of nature – a reciprocal relation. • It’s in virtue of the law of nature that the sovereign can assume power, but the sovereign is also supposed to conform his (or its) behavior to the law of nature. • But what if the law of nature and the law of the commonwealth (i.e., the law of the sovereign) end up pulling apart? What’s to stop this from happening? • It seems that the civil laws can be based on the whims of the sovereign (i.e., that he doesn’t have to be restrained by the laws of nature, but can do whatever he wants). • And since it’s these positive laws that enshrine a society’s system of morality (what’s good and bad, right and wrong), it seems that morality could be based on the preferences of the sovereign

  28. Does Divine Justice Help? • We might wonder: can religion come to the rescue for Hobbes here? • Can the laws of God provide an independent standard to judge the laws of the sovereign? • See Hobbes on the authority of Scripture in Chapter XXXIII of Leviathan. • Perhaps the authority could come from divine revelation. • But there will be differences of opinion of how to interpret any apparent revelation. • So it will be up to the sovereign to decide which opinion will win out. • Hence, there’s no independent objective standard for religion to play in evaluating the laws of nature.

  29. Was Hobbes’s Determinism a Threat to Ethics? • Finally, we turn to Hobbes’s determinism • Everybody saw it as a threat to ethics – not just Bramhall • Cudworth writes at length against Hobbes’s determinism • Hobbes thought that determinism is compatible with morality

  30. Definitions • Instead of “compatibilism” I will sometimes use the phrase “metaphysical compatibilism” both (1) to indicate opposition to “metaphysical libertarianism” and (2) to distinguish this use of the term “compatibilism” from the other ways that I have been using it throughout the first several weeks. • A “metaphysical compatibilist” is somebody who thinks that belief in the existence of free will is not logically incompatible with belief in the truth of universal determinism. • In opposition to metaphysical compatibilismare two forms of incompatibilism – • metaphysical libertarianism, the view that free will exists and because of that universal determinism is false, and • hard determinism, the view that universal determinism is true and because of that free will does not exist.

  31. Were Martin Luther and John Calvin Compatibilists? • Sometimes said that Hobbes’s compatibilism was not that original, since Calvin and Luther, among others, had much the same view. • I see no evidence at all of compatibilism in Luther, much less Hobbes’s version of it.

  32. The Theological Views of Luther and Calvin • Both Luther and Calvin were theological determinists – they believed that God was all-powerful and because of that everything was determined in advance. • they believed that Christians do not choose their own salvation – that it is determined in advance whether or not a given person will be saved from damnation. • The collection of such persons was known as “the Elect” – those “elected” by God by God’s grace to receive salvation. • This determinism was based on the idea that because human nature was fallen no human beings had it within them to accept God’s gift of salvation on their own. • Each person was seen as being enslaved to Satan without the intervention of God.

  33. Luther’s Riders Metaphor • “In a word, if we be under the god of this world, without the operation and Spirit of God, we are led captives by him at his will, as Paul saith…. So that, we cannot will anything but that which he wills…. Thus the human will is, as it were, a beast between the two. If God sit thereon, it wills and goes where God will…. If Satan sit thereon, it wills and goes as Satan will. Nor is it in the power of its own will to choose, to which rider it will run, nor which it will seek; but the riders themselves contend, which shall have and hold it.” (Bondage of the Will, Atherton translation, sec. 25.)

  34. “Natural Freedom” in Luther? • Some writers claim to find evidence in Luther of a belief in what they call “natural freedom.” • An example might be the freedom to choose between brushing your teeth first and flossing your teeth first. • What is at stake isn’t damnation but something of no particular interest to God or Satan. • I don’t find it, but I remain open to finding it. • If such a belief in “natural freedom” can be found in Luther’s writings, that fact alone would not by itself decide between labeling him as a libertarian and labeling him as a compatibilist. • If we think, additionally, that the will for Luther is only compelled to act when it is compelled to act by God or Satan on matters of moral importance, that would seem to be a reason to regard Luther not as a compatibilist at all but rather as a metaphysical libertarian.

  35. Hobbes’s Originality • Thus, I don’t find an exact precedent for Hobbes’s compatibilism in Luther’s views. • Circumstances under which Hobbes set out his views give some reason for thinking that they could be wholly original. • For one thing, Hobbes was perhaps alone in the England of his day in embracing materialism; Hobbes’s religious views were entirely unorthodox, as was what I described as his embrace of a kind of psychological egoism. • Given the degree to which his determinism and his views about human freedom were connected to these other unorthodox views, it would thus not be too surprising that his conclusions about freedom and determinism would also be iconoclastic.

  36. Hobbes’s Case for Compatibilism • (1) Why he thought that determinism was true • (2) What his account was of what I will call “negative liberty” • (3) What his account was of the ability to choose, or what I will call “positive liberty” • (4) Why he thought that the two forms of liberty were compatible with determinism • (5) Why he thought that liberty and necessity, conceived this way, were compatible with morality

  37. Why Hobbes Thought that Determinism Is True • Hobbes believed that human actions are determined and the human will is determined because everything is determined. • But this is not obvious – libertarians like Bramhall reject this belief. • So what is Hobbes’s argument for it? It is: • (a) nothing can begin without a cause, and • (b) all causes necessitate.

  38. The Argument that Nothing Can Begin Without a Cause “[The point] that a man cannot imagine anything to begin without a cause, can [in] no other way be made known but by trying how he can imagine it. But if he try, he shall find as much reason, if there be no cause of the thing, to conceive it should begin at one time as at another, that is, he has equal reason to think it should begin at all times; which is impossible, and therefore he must think there was some special cause why it began then rather than sooner or later; or else that it began never, but was eternal.” --At §33 (at p. 39) of Of Liberty and Necessity.

  39. The Argument that Causes Necessitate • “[L]et us in this place suppose any event never so casual, as, for example, the throwing ambs-ace [i.e., of two ones] upon a pair of dice, and see if it must not have been necessary before it was thrown. For seeing it was thrown, it had a beginning, and consequently a sufficient cause to produce it, consisting partly in the dice, partly in outward things, as the posture of the parts of the hand, the measure of force applied by the caster, the posture of the parts of the table, and the like. In sum, there was nothing wanting which was necessarily required to the producing of that particular cast, and consequently the cast was necessarily thrown. For if it had not been thrown, there had wanted somewhat requisite to the throwing of it, and so the cause had not been sufficient.”--At §34 of Of Liberty and Necessity

  40. Hobbes’s Fallacious Argument • “The same also may be proved in this manner. Let the case be put, for example, of the weather. It is necessary that tomorrow it shall rain or not rain. If therefore it be not necessary it shall rain, it is necessary it shall not rain; otherwise there is no necessity that the proposition, it shall rain or not rain, should be true.” --Later in §33 of Of Liberty and Necessity.

  41. Formalization of Hobbes’s Fallacious Argument  (It will rain or it will not rain) Therefore,  it will rain or  it will not rain. (“” means “it is necessarily true that”)

  42. Missing Premise Needed  (it will rain or it will not rain) Therefore,  it will rain or  it will not rain. • Obviously, the argument requires a missing premise (where “→” means “if … then …” or “only if” or “implies”):  (it will rain or it will not rain) →  it will rain or  it will not rain

  43. Why the Missing Premise is False  (it will rain or it will not rain) → ( it will rain or  it will not rain) • But this is not supportable, if it is supposed to be an instance of a more general statement form (“p” is a placeholder for a sentence):  (p or not-p) → (p or  not-p) • For consider the case where I substitute “I exist” for “p”:  (I exist or I don’t exist) → ( I exist or  I don’t exist) • Since it is obviously not true that  I don’t exist, since I do exist, then it follows that my existence is necessary. But it obviously is not necessary – I am a contingent being.

  44. Hobbes’s Account of Liberty • Bramhall considers liberty in the case of the will • to be “liberty from necessitation,” • not “liberty from compulsion” (See Bramhall’s discourse, §19, p. 8; and Hobbes’s reply in Of Liberty and Necessity, §19, pp. 30-31). • Hobbes replies that: • there is no “liberty from necessitation” but • there is “liberty from compulsion”

  45. A Definition of “Liberty” in Of Liberty and Necessity, §29 • “I conceive liberty to be rightly defined in this manner: Liberty is the absence of all the impediments to action that are not contained in the nature and intrinsical quality of the agent.”

  46. A Definition of “Liberty” in Chapter XIV of Leviathan • “By liberty is understood, according to the proper signification of the word, the absence of external impediments; which impediments may oft take away part of a man's power to do what he would, but cannot hinder him from using the power left him according as his judgement and reason shall dictate to him.”

  47. A Definition of “Liberty” in Chapter XXI of Leviathan • “Liberty, or freedom, signifieth properly the absence of opposition (by opposition, I mean external impediments of motion); and may be applied no less to irrational and inanimate creatures than to rational.”

  48. Chapter XXI of Leviathan: “Liberty” Applicable to Water and Nonhumans • “For whatsoever is so tied, or environed, as it cannot move but within a certain space, which space is determined by the opposition of some external body, we say it hath not liberty to go further. And so of all living creatures, whilst they are imprisoned, or restrained with walls or chains; and of the water whilst it is kept in by banks or vessels that otherwise would spread itself into a larger space; we use to say they are not at liberty to move in such manner as without those external impediments they would.”

  49. Chapter XXI of Leviathan: Internal Distinguished from External Impediments • “But when the impediment of motion is in the constitution of the thing itself, we use not to say it wants the liberty, but the power, to move; as when a stone lieth still, or a man is fastened to his bed by sickness.” • What he means in §29 of Of Liberty and Necessity when he writes of impediments “not contained in the nature and intrinsical quality of the agent.”

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