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Some (many?!) philosophers are realists, saying values are real (objective).

So there could be a question "Is it wrong to murder people for funsies?" because that is a widespread claim and strong evidence isn't usually provided.

Then there is this statement

It is not for philosophical discussions about skepticism itself.

Of course there is moral skepticism

"Moral skepticism" denotes a class of metaethical theories all members of which entail that no one has any moral knowledge. Many moral skeptics also make the stronger, modal, claim that moral knowledge is impossible. Moral skepticism is particularly opposed to moral realism: the view that there are knowable, mind-independent moral truths.

I think the aforementioned faq-statement doesn't apply to this. Some forms of skepticism have been called inconsistent and I think scientific skepticism implies an acceptance of the reality of the external world.

research-level science, particular claims

from the FAQ

If your question is not about a particular claim, or if it is about research-level science

I think there are particular claims in ethics (it's wrong to murder people) that are often made without giving evidence (because it is assumed that others agree).

Of course such discussions would have to happen on the assumption that moral truths can be known otherwise many answers would be sadly similar (relativist, nihilist, etc.) and also more appropriate for philosophy.SE.

  • Philosophical skepticism doesn't claim that no truth is knowable. Descartes whittled it down to "A thinking thing exists" in the 'Meditations'. That truth is knowable. Truths of logic are also knowable a priori. The things that aren't knowable in the absolute deductive trivial sense are scientific truths. For one, a theory can be disproved at any time. Secondly, the problem of induction seems to show that science itself is simply one big circular argument. – user2466 May 29 '11 at 13:53
  • I think there are different views subsumed under the same name. Nonetheless I will change my post (I implicitly assumed one view as well). – Ruben May 29 '11 at 13:58
  • What about this question shows there was no research effort, what makes it unclear or not useful? Why not just upvote the answer? – Ruben May 30 '11 at 23:06
  • Downvotes on meta mean "I disagree", different from the main site. – Mad Scientist May 31 '11 at 10:31
  • @Fabian Yes. But you're disagreeing with the question (is that even possible?). I tried to make clear why I think it's appropriate to consider, I'm not endorsing it. – Ruben May 31 '11 at 14:20
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I'd say that morality and ethics are clearly philosophical topics and are certainly off-topic here. The Philosophy.SE proposal is about to launch, that site is probably a far better place to ask these kinds of questions.

  • This is an interesting question. It's at least debatable that ethics is not a branch of philosophy. Sam Harris recently gave a talk at Oxford describing a very scientific approach to moral theory. Nonetheless, the type of question @Ruben describes does belong in the forthcoming philosophy.SE I feel. – user2466 May 29 '11 at 13:44
  • @boehj Interesting! Do you have anything like that 1:17h talk in written form? I'd really prefer that. @Fabian I disagreed in the question, because I think you misunderstood the question and clarified it. – Ruben May 29 '11 at 14:21
  • @Ruben Ethics based on objective principles or scientific facts are still philosphy, in my opinion. You might make a biological argument why killing people is wrong, but it still would not be appropriate for this site. – Mad Scientist May 29 '11 at 14:33
  • @Fabian There are other opinions on what ethics is (as boehj said). Nonetheless even if it is philosophy, why shouldn't particular widely-repeated claims about it not be analyzed here? It happens for physics, even though a research-level platform exists too skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/2335/… – Ruben May 29 '11 at 14:43
  • @Ruben Questions about morality lead to subjective and heated discussions, not to objective answers. One might be able to answer a specific moral question in a somewhat objective way, but a lot of people will disagree because they base their morality on some other source. – Mad Scientist May 29 '11 at 14:53
  • @Fabian So do questions about evolution. – Ruben May 29 '11 at 14:55
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    @Ruben But you can provide evidence for evolution, moral questions are not decided on the base of evidence. We decided at the start of this site that philosophical questions are off-topic. I see no reason to change this, especially now when the Philosophy.SE is about to start. – Mad Scientist May 29 '11 at 15:18
  • @Fabian No, according to some you can provide evidence for evolution. According to some (e.g. Sam Harris, maybe not you) you can provide evidence for truth in morality. When did you decide that philosophy is off-topic? In the FAQ only philosophical questions on skepticism are outlawed, searching meta reveals one once-upvoted answer saying so. Again, according to some ethics is not philosophy, it is after all concerned with the world and its workings. I think being consistent with the treatment of other branches of science means allowing questions about moral claims. – Ruben May 29 '11 at 15:33
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    @Ruben: No, I only have that talk in video format. He describes similar things in his books mind you. Whether or not ethics is a branch of philosophical inquiry is a philosophical question itself in a certain sense. I really do feel this belongs on the philosophy.SE. @Fabian hits it on the head when s/he says "One might be able to answer a specific moral question in a somewhat objective way, but a lot of people will disagree because they base their morality on some other source." – user2466 May 29 '11 at 22:31
  • @boehj I did watch it after all now. Thanks. If I wanted to discuss his claims, I'd do so on philosophy.SE (or, more likely, read others answers). My thinking is that he represents a mainstream line of thought on evolution, but (surprisingly to those who aren't in the loop on current meta-ethics, incl. me) also a mainstream line of thought on ethics. This realist approach is shared by for example the Brights movement, I believe. Maybe we should be just as forceful in rejecting morality on the basis of Moses' stone tablets as we are in rejecting explanations of bones by Intelligent Design. – Ruben May 29 '11 at 22:49
  • I realize, though, that this has become a discussion in the comments. I guess it won't fly for now. Maybe after the appropriate evidence has been reviewed on philosophy.SE, it will be convincingly shown that there can be evidence for moral claims. My feeling is that it would be wrong to limit skeptics to ontological science just because epistemological skepticism is less widespread than metaethical skepticism/relativism/nihilism in the user community. What the science says should matter more. – Ruben May 29 '11 at 23:00
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    @Ruben: I guess the key to what Harris is doing here is two-fold: a) he's using classical ethical arguments, slightly tweaked, i.e. 'the worst possible misery for everyone', with b) some sort of science as an extra piece to the argument. This is both good and bad. Good: Attacking the view that science has nothing to with morality. Bad?: Moving away from philosophy into some sort of 'applied philosophy'. I see this shift as analogous to moving from political philosophy to political science. Anyway, this is the sort of question that I think will thrive (hopefully) on the upcoming stack. – user2466 May 29 '11 at 23:47
  • @boehj I don't think it's necessarily bad – I'm glad that psychology is a science of it's own now. I don't buy Harris' worst misery assumption, it's just an appeal to common sense and worse, he cloaks several premises in it. He's a good speaker though. The question might not be given asylum there either – rather argumentative. – Ruben May 30 '11 at 0:00

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