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Hi MrP, how are you doing? Thanks for your last corrections of my paper, which I sent some days ago. I’m finishing another paper, and I have quite a few doubts. There are a couple of long paragraphs. Hope this is not a problem:

1) “Bett, as well as Annas, uses the term “modern” to designate what I refer to as “contemporary”. I also prefer the label “ethical skepticism” to “moral skepticism”.”

Is it ok to use the third person singular here (“uses”)?

2) “One of the views most commonly adopted by contemporary ethical skepticism is the one which denies that moral values or moral facts form part of the objective world. This position is usually designated “ontological ethical skepticism” or “skepticism about moral reality”, in opposition to epistemological versions of ethical skepticism, such as the view which denies that moral knowledge is possible and that which denies that moral beliefs are justified. Ontological ethical skepticism also implies skepticism about the truth of moral beliefs: as first-order moral assertions presuppose the existence of moral facts or properties and these do not exist in the objective world, then all such assertions are false. Now, in the late 80s a discussion took place between Julia Annas and Richard Bett regarding the question of whether this sort of ethical skepticism is in itself “local”, that is to say, whether it arises and is possible only if it is based upon a conception of the world immune to skeptical arguments. Annas claimed such skepticism is by nature local, which gave rise to Bett’s objection. Unfortunately, there has been no subsequent analysis of the cogency of Bett’s argument against Annas’ position, and hence no further examination of whether or not the latter’s thesis is correct. I believe that this assessment is still significant because it will allow us to identify the exact theoretical underpinnings of the view that morality has no objective validity, a view that, as has already been noted, is adopted by quite a few present-day ethical skeptics. The aim of the present paper is therefore to continue the discussion between Annas and Bett about the local character of contemporary ethical skepticism. This is why its title derives from that of an article by Bett, which in turn has its origin in Annas’ claim that this ethical skepticism “is essentially local”.”

3) “Next, I shall portray in broad outline the skeptical outlook regarding morality that is found in the second century Greek Pyrrhonist Sextus Empiricus, since this will help to see more clearly whether being local is essential to contemporary ethical skepticism. Finally, I shall attempt to show that Bett’s argumentation does not succeed in proving the falsehood of the thesis put forward by Annas”.

4) “But she is more precise and constantly presents science as the area immune to skeptical attack.”

5) “As indicated at the paper’s outset, Bett opposes the view that ethical skepticism’s being local is a sine qua non for holding that there are no objective moral values.”

6) “Now, to make his case against this view, Bett argues that there are two forms in which someone who is skeptical of morality and who has confidence in the possibility of objective descriptions of reality may lose this confidence.”

7) “In this section, I shall describe in rough outline the ethical skepticism adopted by ancient Pyrrhonism. The reason for offering this sketch is that taking into account the Pyrrhonist’s peculiar ethical outlook will make it possible in the next section to assess more easily whether or not Bett’s position has any real basis.”

8) “The fact that the positions in conflict seem to have the same weight –i.e. the fact that there is no more to be said pro than con any of them– determines that the disagreement between them is undecidable.”

I wrote “pro” and “con” in italics. I’ve seen them used in English, but I don’t remember whether they go in italics (I know that “the pros and cons” don’t).

9) “To see the Pyrrhonean attitude at work, we can think of a Pyrrhonist’s facing a given disagreement, say, the disagreement about whether or not abortion is morally wrong. He would examine the arguments for and against the immorality of abortion, trying to determine if one of the contending views grasps its real nature. One of the parties to the dispute will argue, for instance, that the fetus has a soul, which makes him/her a human being, and that the murder of a human being is something morally wrong. This party may also put forward an argument based upon religious beliefs: God has created the fetus and, hence, is the only one who can make decisions about his/her death. The contrary party will probably argue that it is absurd to claim that a three-month-old fetus is a person as much as any of us; that the notion of a creating god does not make sense for them; and that we must privilege the woman’s right to decide what to do with her body and life. The Pyrrhonist will weigh up these opposing arguments, and will first note that the different opinions about abortion that people held appear to be relative to factors similar to those mentioned in the so-called Tenth Mode of Aenesidemus. He will point out that such opinions seem to be dependent upon each party’s familial, cultural, and social background, as well as upon its religious, metaphysical, and scientific beliefs and theories, so that one will be able to say how abortion appears to be in relation to each of these factors, but not how it is in itself. But the Pyrrhonist’s inquiry will not stop here: he will attempt to determine whether any of the parties in conflict can justify its claims. For doing so, the Pyrrhonist will turn to three of the so-called Five Modes of Agrippa, according to which, in trying to justify any claim, one falls into either infinite regress or circular reasoning, or makes an unjustified assertion. That is to say, in attempting to prove the truth of an assertion, a person will have to prove the truth of the premises from which he infers the assertion, and so on ad infinitum. To avoid being thrown back ad infinitum, he will try to establish the truth of one of the links of the chain of proofs by having recourse to the first link whose truth he set out to establish, thus falling into circularity. Or he will argue that one of the links of the chain needs no proof to establish its truth because, for instance, it is self-evident. To this the Pyrrhonist will respond that the contrary party can proceed in exactly same way, thus being no reason for trusting one of them rather than the other. As a result, the Pyrrhonist will be unable to decide the disagreement over the morality or immorality of abortion, and will therefore suspend judgment over the matter. Of course, he would proceed in the same way as regards the disagreement over the existence or inexistence of anything good or bad by nature. There are two important points that we must bear in mind. First, the Pyrrhonist is not committed to the criteria of justification formulated in the three modes in question, but only uses them because such criteria are accepted by the dogmatists themselves as ruling their own reasoning. Second, the Pyrrhonist does not rule out the possibility of ever finding a claim that meets the dogmatists’ standards, since for all he knows there might be an assertion or set of assertions that could survive the assault of the Agrippan modes.”

I’m not sure whether the vocabulary I use here to talk about the dispute over abortion sounds like English or as Spanglish.

10) “We see that the Pyrrhonist’s stance is characterized by an extremely cautious agnosticism, which prevents him from making rash judgments about the nature and existence of anything. He does not hide his ignorance and acknowledges that at least so far his investigations have not had any positive results, but this lack of success does not lead him to believe that the search for justified beliefs is desperate.”

11) “More precisely, this kind of ethical skepticism is at the same time both a negative and a positive dogmatism. Negative insofar as the ethical skeptic denies the existence of objective moral values. Positive both in an ontological and epistemological sense, since he believes that there exists an external world whose real nature he is able to know. It is on the basis of this knowledge that he denies that the theories which affirm the existence of objective moral values have real grounds. That is to say, negative dogmatism in ethics is the consequence of a positive dogmatism which, leaving aside the different forms that it can take, claims to know what the kinds of things that really exist are.”

Should “negative” and “positive” go in inverted commas when I explain what I mean by them.

12) “The reason why at the end of section two I emphasized that the form of ethical skepticism we are dealing with asserts the existence of an objective world is that this assertion is possible only if one has some kind of epistemological access to this existing world. Indeed, if according to the non-local ethical skeptic Bett describes our ideas do not adequately represent anything outside us, we should ask how he can know that there exists a mind-independent world in the very first place.”

By the way, who is “Pier Luigi”? I apologize for this manifestation of ignorance.

Thank you in advance!

Sextus
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Comments  (Page 2) 
Hello Sextus

As it's quite a long paragraph, I've put some suggestions in square brackets. The sq. brackets replace the text in curly brackets. The paragraph breaks are merely for ease of reading, and aren't supposed to be suggestions. Let me know if these edits change your meaning:

9) “{To see} [To get an idea of] the Pyrrhonean attitude at work, {we can think of} [it may be helpful to imagine] {a Pyrrhonist’s facing} [how a P. would deal with] a given disagreement, [dash, rather than comma] say, the {disagreement about whether or not} [question of whether] abortion is morally wrong.

He would examine the arguments for and against {the immorality of abortion}[abortion, in terms of morality], trying to determine {if} [whether] one of the contending views {grasps}[had grasped] its real nature.

One of the parties to the dispute will argue, for instance, that the fetus has a soul, which makes him/her a human being, and that the murder of a human being is something morally wrong.

This party may also put forward an argument based upon religious beliefs: [since] God has created the fetus {and, hence, is the only one who} [, only God] can make decisions about his/her death.

The contrary party will probably argue that it is absurd to claim that a three-month-old fetus is a person {as much as any of us}; that the notion of a creating god does not make sense {for them}; and that we must privilege the woman’s right to decide what to do with her body and life.

The Pyrrhonist will weigh up these opposing arguments, and will first note that the different opinions about abortion that {people held} [these two parties hold] appear to be relative to factors similar to those mentioned in the so-called Tenth Mode of Aenesidemus.

He will point out that such opinions seem to be dependent upon each party’s familial, cultural, and social background, as well as upon its religious, metaphysical, and scientific beliefs and theories, so that one {will be able to}[may] say how abortion appears to be in relation to each of these factors, but not how it is in itself.

But the Pyrrhonist’s inquiry will not stop {here}[there]: he will attempt to determine whether any of the parties in conflict can justify its claims.

{For doing so}[To do so], the Pyrrhonist will turn to three of the so-called Five Modes of Agrippa, according to which, in trying to justify any claim, one falls into either infinite regress or circular reasoning, or makes an unjustified assertion.

That is to say, in attempting to prove the truth of an assertion, a person will have to prove the truth of the {premises}[?premise] from which he infers the assertion, and so on ad infinitum.

[Or, to] {To} avoid being thrown back ad infinitum, he will try to establish the truth of one of the links of the chain of proofs by having recourse to the first link whose truth he set out to establish, thus falling into circularity.

Or he will argue that one of the links of the chain needs no proof to establish its truth because, for instance, it is self-evident. To this the Pyrrhonist will respond that the contrary party can proceed in exactly same {way, thus being} [way; that there moreover there is] no reason {for trusting} [to trust] one of them rather than the other.

As a result, the Pyrrhonist will be unable to {decide the disagreement over}[resolve the question of] the morality or immorality of abortion, and will therefore suspend judgment over the matter.

Of course, he would proceed in the same way {as regards}[with regard to] the disagreement over the existence or inexistence of anything good or bad by nature.

There are two important points that we must bear in mind. First, the Pyrrhonist is not committed to the criteria of justification formulated in the three modes in question, but only uses them because such criteria are accepted by the dogmatists themselves as {ruling their own reasoning} [the basis of their own reasoning].

Second, the Pyrrhonist does not rule out the possibility of ever finding a claim that meets the dogmatists’ standards, since for all he knows there {might} [may] be an assertion or set of assertions that could survive the assault of the Agrippan modes.”

I’m not sure whether the vocabulary I use here to talk about the dispute over abortion sounds like English or as Spanglish.
– No, it sounds like English! (Pity. I would have liked to see some 'Spanglish'.]

12) '...in the very first place.' > 'in the first place'.

See you,
MrP
PS: almost forgot...Pier Luigi. Not an obscure continental scholar, but an international football referee better known in England than most of his tribe have any right to be, for his unusual appearance and sometimes mystifying decisions.
Many thanks for your suggestions, which certainly improve my paragraph on the dispute over abortion. I have some other doubts. Hope it’s not a “pain in the ***” (I suppose so. will edit this). There is no rush, of course.

1) “I shall begin by briefly presenting Annas’ interpretation of the local character of contemporary ethical skepticism and Bett’s argument against it.”

2) “However, the existence of disagreement is perfectly compatible with one of the conflicting views being correct.”

3) “The reason for inserting this description is that, by contrasting the Pyrrhonist’s ethical outlook with that of the contemporary skeptic, it will be easier to assess in the next section whether Bett’s position has any real basis.”

You suggested “a contemporary skeptic”. But I’m talking about the “contemporary skeptic” in general. So perhaps “the” must be used instead?

4) “He does not hide his ignorance and acknowledges that so far his investigations have not had any positive results, but this lack of success does not lead him to believe that the search for justified beliefs is doomed to failure.”

You suggested “futile” and then thought of “doomed to failure”, which I think may work.

5) “It is on the basis of this knowledge that he denies that the theories which affirm the existence of objective moral values have any foundation.”

6) “In Bett’s opinion, he could thus continue to be skeptical of morality, without it being necessary for him to believe that science or any other view of the world accounts for what reality is like in its real nature. This is so because, as the notion of reality has now the same sense and coherence as before, he can continue to adhere to the form of ethical skepticism according to which moral values are not part of reality.”

7) “The distinctive character of ancient skepticism is that the Pyrrhonist does not assert that...”

Or rather “is the fact that the Pyrrhonist…”?

8) “This can be seen more clearly by comparing the ancient and contemporary skeptics’ attitudes.”

9) “However, the Pyrrhonist does not have that sort of confidence: he is as agnostic in the other areas as he is in ethics.”

I wonder if “sort” is ok. It seems to me that you have a tendency to prefer “kind” to “sort”.

10) “Hence, one needs more than conflicting ethical realistic views to deny the objectivity of morality; what one needs is a supposedly correct conception of the world which shows that none of those contending views has any real basis simply because moral values are not a part of reality.”

11) “If the allegedly non-local ethical skeptic portrayed by Bett does not have confidence in any conception of the world, one should ask how he can know that all our representations of the world fail to describe and explain it. Indeed, it then seems that, to know that there is no correspondence whatsoever between any of our ideas and the objective world, contradictorily Bett’s non-local skeptic must have some kind of epistemological access to the true nature of this very thing our ideas fail to represent adequately. Furthermore, if according to the non-local ethical skeptic described by Bett our ideas do not adequately represent anything outside us, one should ask how he can know that there exists a mind-independent world in the ery first place. For it would make no sense to claim, for instance, that we know this because we know that our ideas are caused by something which exists independently of us, given that concepts such as “mind-independent existence”, “objective world” and “cause” are also ideas of ours which might correspond to nothing. Hence, to be completely sure that there exists a mind-independent world, one must have confidence in the objective validity of at least some of one’s conceptual categories.”

Sorry, I know this is a long paragraph.

12) “Even an undecidable disagreement does not allow by itself to affirm the non-existence of objective moral values, since it only represents the impossibility of determining which of the positions in conflict, if any, is correct. Hence, in order to be able to explain “what it is that morality is lacking”, one does need to possess “something else” which is capable of apprehending the existence of reality and its nature, and on the basis of which one asserts that morality lacks objectivity.”

13) “Taking Mackie’s ethical skepticism as the starting point of her argumentation, Annas claims that the denial of the existence of objective moral values is based on the idea that their existence would come into conflict with the certain knowledge one possesses in other areas.”

14) “This is why if scientific knowledge were a target of skeptical attack, the contrast with morality would disappear and ethical skepticism would lose its grounds.”

Should I rather say something like this: “were targeted by skepticism”?

15) “That is to say, in attempting to prove the truth of an assertion, one of the parties will have to prove the truth of the premise from which they infer the assertion, and so on ad infinitum.”

I changed a little bit this. As a party may refer to a group of people I used “they”.

16) “To this the Pyrrhonist will respond that the contrary party can proceed in exactly same way, and hence that there is no reason to prefer one of them rather than the other.”

I also changed this one, perhaps now it’s better.

17) “The impossibility of giving his assent to any of the positions which are parties to these various disputes, on account of their apparent equipollence, leads the Pyrrhonist to the adoption of suspension of judgment over the matters at issue. Hence, the mere fact of the diversity of points of view, opinions, or theories does not suffice to suspend judgment, but it is also necessary that none of them appear to have more weight than the others.”

Thank you in advance,

Ah, thanks for the info about the referee, I didn't imagine you were a football fan!

Sextus
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Yes, I'm afraid the software edits '***' automatically. The $ is rather whimsical, though.

You don't have much choice about football over here. They catch you when you're 6 years old, and then you're theirs for life.

Will ponder Betts, Mackie, and Annas (who suddenly sound like three midfielders) and re-post.

See you,
MrP
.
Hi MrP. How're you doing?

At risk of being too demanding, I wanna ask you whether you found any big mistakes in the sentences (I'm planning to send the paper at the beginning of next week).

Thanks,

Sextus
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Oops, sorry, for some reason I thought I'd posted already. Short-term memory playing up again.

Will post shortly...
Here goes:

1) Fine.

2) “However, the existence of disagreement is perfectly compatible with one of the conflicting views being correct.”
Yes; or perhaps 'However, the fact that a disagreement exists does not necessarily mean that neither of the conflicting views is correct.'

3) Yes, fine: 'the' is better here.

4) Perhaps add comma after 'results'.

'Doomed to failure' is ok, but it is a set phrase, and has a slight melodramatic quality. You might say '...is bound to fail'.

5) Fine.

6) Perhaps:
'In Bett’s opinion, he could thus continue to be skeptical of morality, without it being necessary for him to believe that science or any other view of the world accounted for what reality is like in its real nature.'

This sentence I don't quite follow: 'This is so because, as the notion of reality has now the same sense and coherence as before, he can continue to adhere to the form of ethical skepticism according to which moral values are not part of reality.'

7) Perhaps 'resides in the fact that...'

8) 'seen...by' is awkward; perhaps '...if we compare...'

9) Yes; for some reason 'sort' is less usual in this context than 'kind'. Perhaps a slightly lower register.

10) “Hence, one needs more than a conflict of ethical realistic views if one wishes to deny the objectivity of morality; what one needs is a supposedly correct conception of the world which shows that none of those contending views has any real basis simply because moral values are not a part of reality.”

13) Fine.

14) 'Why if' is awkward; maybe “This is why the contrast with morality would disappear and ethical skepticism would lose its ?grounds [basis?], were scientific knowledge to become a target of skeptical attack.”

15) Fine.

16) “To this the Pyrrhonist will respond that the contrary [or 'opposite'] party can proceed in exactly the same way, and hence that there is no reason to prefer one party to the other.”

Will come back for 11, 12, 17!

See you,
MrP
12) “Even an undecidable disagreement is unable by itself to affirm the non-existence of objective moral values, since it only represents the impossibility of determining which of the positions in conflict, if any, is correct. Hence, in order to be able to explain “what it is that morality lacks”, one does indeed need to possess “something else” which is capable of apprehending the existence of reality and its nature, and on the basis of which one can assert that morality lacks objectivity.”
(I may have a 2nd attempt at this one.)

17) “The impossibility of giving his assent to any of the positions which are party to these various disputes, on account of their apparent equipollence, leads the Pyrrhonist to the adoption of suspension of judgment over the matters in question. Hence the mere fact that there is diversity of points of view, opinions, or theories is not in itself sufficient to cause suspension of judgment: it is also necessary that no one of them appears to have more weight than the others.”
(Not sure if I've changed the meaning here.)

Only #11 to go!

MrP
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Hello MrP. Many thanks for your corrections/suggestions. I know that 11 is forthcoming, but I’ve thought I could make a few remarks about three paragraphs you’ve already reviewed.

4) “He does not hide his ignorance and acknowledges that so far his investigations have not had any positive results, but this lack of success does not lead him to believe that the search for justified beliefs will inevitably fail.”

Instead of “bound to fail”, I’ve thought of “will inevitably fail”, since “bound to” does not mean that it’s completely certain, but almost certain. Right?

6) “In Bett’s opinion, he could thus continue to be skeptical of morality, without it being necessary for him to believe that science or any other view of the world accounted for what reality is like in its real nature.”

I don’t get in the slightest why one should say “accounted”. Is it the subjunctive or something else?

By the way, “reside in” is the same as “lie in”. I’ve seen it used in a couple of articles, but the McMillan and the Collins do not present this meaning.

17) “The impossibility of giving his assent to any of the positions which are parties to these various disputes, on account of their apparent equipollence, leads the Pyrrhonist to the adoption of suspension of judgment over the matters in question. Hence, the mere fact that there is diversity of points of view, opinions, or theories is not in itself sufficient to induce suspension of judgment: it is also necessary that none of them appears to have more weight than the others.”

I’ve changed several things, taking into account your suggestions. But there are a couple of things I’m not sure about: a) you suggested the singular “party”, but I’m talking about “positions”. Or perhaps that’s the way one uses it, b) doesn’t “necessary” go with subjunctive? If it does, shouldn’t I use “appear”?

Cheers,

Sextus
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