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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  
Hello Sextus

Sorry, have only just seen your post - will address when next on line!

MrP
Hello Sextus

Here's part 1:

1) Yes, that's fine.

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.] Is this last clause a 2nd view, or part of the view that denies that moral knowledge is possible?

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.] Perhaps: '...beliefs: since first-order moral assertions presuppose the existence of moral facts or properties, and since 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 ] Perhaps: '..Bett about 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.] I don't fully understand the use of 'local' here; but presumably your readers already know the territory.

Annas claimed such skepticism] Perhaps '...had claimed that...'

...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] Is that Bett's assessment of Annas' position?

because it will allow us to identify the exact theoretical underpinnings of the view that morality has no objective validity, a view that, ] Maybe a dash after 'validity' would help here.

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”.] Perhaps 'For this reason, I have taken the title from an article by Bett,...'

3) “Next, I shall portray in broad outline the skeptical outlook regarding morality that is found in the second century Greek Pyrrhonist Sextus Empiricus, ] Perhaps 'found in the works of the second century...'

since this will help to see more clearly whether being local is essential to contemporary ethical skepticism.] '...help us to see...'; or 'since this will make it possible to discern more clearly whether...'

Finally, I shall attempt to show that Bett’s argumentation does not succeed in proving the falsehood of the thesis put forward by Annas”. ] Maybe: '...to show that Bett does not succeed in proving Annas' thesis false'; '...succeed in proving the falsehood of Annas' thesis'.

4) “But she is more precise and constantly presents science as the area immune to skeptical attack.” ] Not quite sure; does 'she' mean 'the one area', or 'an area'?

5) Fine.

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.” ] Perhaps 'in making his case'. 'Forms' I'm not sure about; 'ways'?

7) Would it change your meaning to rephrase it as: 'In this section, I shall briefly describe the ethical skepticism adopted by ancient Pyrrhonism. This will make it easier to assess whether Bett's position has any real basis in [?].'?

8) I probably wouldn't italicise, as it's a colloquial phrase. Maybe: ''The fact that the conflicting positions seem to have the same weight – i.e. the fact that there is no more to be said 'pro or con' any of them – demonstrates that the conflict is undecidable.'

Part 2 to follow later!

MrP
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2) a) “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.] Is this last clause a 2nd view, or part of the view that denies that moral knowledge is possible?”

The last clause is a 2nd view.

b) “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.] I don't fully understand the use of 'local' here; but presumably your readers already know the territory.”

Perhaps I could say it like this: “Now, in the late 80s a discussion took place between Julia Annas and Richard Bett about whether this sort of ethical skepticism is in itself “local”, that is to say, whether it does not spread to cover all areas but arises and is possible only if it is based upon a conception of the world immune to skeptical arguments.” Is it clearer now?

c) ”...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] Is that Bett's assessment of Annas' position?”

No, it would be my assessment, so perhaps I could say: “I believe that the assessment of this debate…”

d) ”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”.] Perhaps 'For this reason, I have taken the title from an article by Bett,...'”

The problem is that it is not exactly the same title. Bett’s is “Is Modern Moral Scepticism Essentially Loca?”, and mine is “Is Contemporary Ethical Scepticism not Essentially Local?” The crucial difference is the “not” (I oppose his view).

4) ““But she is more precise and constantly presents science as the area immune to skeptical attack.” ] Not quite sure; does 'she' mean 'the one area', or 'an area'?”

No, “she” refers to Julia Annas. But yesterday I realized that “precise” is not correct in English (or so it seems to me now). What I wanna do is the following: I first state her thesis, saying that there is a contrast between morality and another conception of the world, and then I want to say that she is more specific and presents science… Well, I think I should then use “more specific”?

7) “Would it change your meaning to rephrase it as: 'In this section, I shall briefly describe the ethical skepticism adopted by ancient Pyrrhonism. This will make it easier to assess whether Bett's position has any real basis in [?].'?”
What about: “In this section, I shall briefly describe the ethical skepticism adopted by ancient Pyrrhonism. The reason for offering this sketch is that, by contrasting the Pyrrhonist’s ethical outlook with that of contemporary skeptic, it will be easier to assess in the next section whether Bett’s position has any real basis.”?

8) “I probably wouldn't italicise, as it's a colloquial phrase. Maybe: ''The fact that the conflicting positions seem to have the same weight – i.e. the fact that there is no more to be said 'pro or con' any of them – demonstrates that the conflict is undecidable.'”

I don’t get to use “more” with “pro or con”, it seems that I do need “pro than con”. Or perhaps: “there is no more to be said in for than against”. But it’s the same thing in the end.

Sextus
Hello Sextus

Probably easiest to deal with the secondaries first:

2) a) In that case, I'd say: 'such as the view which denies that moral knowledge is possible, or that which denies that moral beliefs are justified.'

b) I must admit, I have a little trouble here. Are you able to put it into words for a simpleton, so I can ponder the meaning before returning to your text?

c) I find myself pulled towards this kind of continuation: '...thesis is correct. Nonetheless, I believe that an analysis of this debate is still relevant, because...' Does that get close to your meaning?

d) What about: 'For this reason, I have based its title on an article by Bett,...'”

4) Sorry, I meant: does Annas mean 'the (one) area', or 'an area'? i.e. does she think that science is the only area immune to etc? (Yes, 'more specific' would be better.)

7) Yes, that should work: 'of the contemporary skeptic'. Perhaps 'the reason for inserting this description...' ('Sketch' isn't much used in this context; though 'sketchy' is.)

8) Using pro/con is difficult, outside set phrases. What about: 'The fact that the conflicting positions seem to have the same weight – i.e. the fact that there is no more to be said 'for' than 'against' any of them...etc.'

Will return to continue from 9 on.

Thanks for your note on 'between you and I', by the way. It's surprisingly common over here. It's usually uttered in a tone of voice that denotes 'consciousness of extreme grammatical punctiliousness'; so it has its amusing side.

MrP
PS:

Am still pondering #9...

MrP
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Hello MrP. I hope you don't mind that I continue with the secondaries:

2) b) “I must admit, I have a little trouble here. Are you able to put it into words for a simpleton, so I can ponder the meaning before returning to your text?”

The thing is as follows: if I’m a global sceptic, then I’m sceptical about all areas: science, religion, morality, etc. But if I’m a local sceptic, I’m sceptical only about one or more areas, but not all. Then the discussion is question is whether the guys who deny the existence of objective moral values do so because they are local, that is to say, because they’re not sceptics about all areas. The relevance of this is that it seems that to be able to make the negative assertion that morality lacks objective validity, one must contrast morality with an another area that cannot be called into question: for instance, an ethical sceptic would say that because moral facts and properties are at odds with common sense, then they cannot exist. So I thought to rewrite the sentence in question as follows:

“Now, in the late 80s a discussion took place between Julia Annas and Richard Bett about whether this sort of ethical skepticism is intrinsically “local”, that is to say, whether it does not call into question all beliefs, but arises from a contrast between morality and some other area immune to skeptical arguments.”

d) “What about: 'For this reason, I have based its title on an article by Bett,...'”

I don’t know if “based on” gets the fact. In any case, I should say “I have based its title on that of an article by Bett”, since I add a “not” is order to continue the discussion. The thing is like this: Annas first claimed in a paper that “modern moral scepticism is essentially local”, then Bett wrote an article with the title “Is modern moral skepticism essentially local?”, and finally I want to challenge Bett’s view and this is why I’m writing “Is modern moral scepticism not essentially local?”.

4) “Sorry, I meant: does Annas mean 'the (one) area', or 'an area'? i.e. does she think that science is the only area immune to etc?”

I will cite a little more of the paragraph, so as to make it clearer:

“Annas’ view is, then, that the local character of contemporary ethical skepticism consists in a contrast between morality and another conception of the world which has the capacity of describing it as it is in itself. But she is more specific and constantly presents science as the area immune to skeptical attack. However, this is only apparent, since in closing her discussion of the local character of contemporary ethical skepticism, she points out that…”

So it seems that she thinks that science is “the one are”, but actually she doesn’t. Hence, do you think I should use “the ‘one’ area”?

7) “In this section, I shall briefly describe the ethical skepticism adopted by ancient Pyrrhonism. The reason for inserting this description is that, by contrasting the Pyrrhonist’s ethical outlook with that of contemporary skeptic, it will be easier to assess in the next section whether Bett’s position has any real basis.”

Is it clear that I’m gonna contrast the two forms of scepticism in the next section? It is in theory, since at the beginning of the paragraph I say that in the present section I’m gonna expound the Pyrrhonean stance.

Sextus
Hello Sextus

In that case, so will I!

2) b) Now all is clear. What about this (I don't know if I've worked too much of my own need for an explanation into it, though, so say if you'd like me to try again):

“Now, in the late 80s a discussion took place between Julia Annas and Richard Bett about whether this kind of ethical skepticism is intrinsically “local” – that is to say, whether it arises from a contrast between morality and some other set of values that cannot be undermined by skepticism, unlike 'global' scepticism, which calls into question all beliefs.”

d) Perhaps: 'For this reason, 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”.'

4) Yes, I think 'the one area', in that case.

7) Yes, I think so. '...by contrasting the Pyrrhonist’s ethical outlook with that of a contemporary skeptic'.

(I'm not quite sure from what you've put so far whether the contemporary skeptic is Bett himself. But it might in any case make the constrast clearer if you put 'a contemporary skeptic such as XYZ'.)

MrP
10) “...acknowledges that so far at least 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 futile.”

11) Yes, I think so. Do these slight changes keep your meaning?

“More precisely, this kind of ethical skepticism is at the same time both a negative and a positive dogmatism. It is "negative" insofar as the ethical skeptic denies the existence of objective moral values. It is "positive" both in an ontological and an 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 a basis in fact. 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.”

Will come back for 9 and 12!

MrP
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