The Metaphysics of Morality: Part 2, The Somatic Marker Hypothesis and Ethics as What You Care About | 11/20/2018 | Staff
In Part 1 I used the axioms of Euclidean geometry to illustrate how ethical reasoning works. Before we can make ethical and moral decisions we need to have some grounding values. These grounding, foundational values are metaphysical in nature in that they are taken as ethical givens, values assumed to be axiomatic.

The point I made in Part 1 is that rationality itself cannot produce these ethical givens, these axiomatic valuations. Reason is a computational process that can only get off the ground by taking these values as inputs.

Example - Axiom - Worth - Dignity - Many

For example, consider the axiom of inviolable human worth and dignity. Many of us take human dignity as an unassailable, ethical given. However, there are many who reject this axiom. For example, the animal rights activist and ethicist Peter Singer argues that human dignity is form of speciesism, privileging the pain and suffering of human beings over the pain and suffering of non-human animals. Many atheists have also argued that human dignity, given how it is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is a concept that should be discarded.

The point here is that a moral axiom many of us assume--human dignity--is both disputed and rejected by many. And the people rejecting it are not (generally) moral nihilists. They simply assume and work with a different set of moral axioms and reach a different set of ethical conclusions.

Work - Values - Givens

Regardless, the metaphysical work--assuming some values as inviolable givens--is necessary.

Let me, in this post, give another example of what I'm describing.

Book - Error - Antonio - Damasio - Marker

In his book Descartes Error the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio describes what he calls the "somatic marker hypothesis." In his work and research Damasio has observed that certain people with damage in the frontal cortex have difficulty making decisions. Specifically, when facing a choice or a decision these patients can make long lists of pros and cons but can...
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