History of Philosophy Book Club Message Board › Moralistic Fallacy

Moralistic Fallacy

A former member
Post #: 59
The moralistic fallacy moves from statements about how things ought to be to statements about how things are; it assumes that the world is as it should be. This, sadly, is a fallacy; sometimes things aren’t as they ought to be.

Have you ever crossed a one-way street without looking in both directions? If you have, reasoning that people shouldn’t be driving the wrong way up a one way street so there’s no risk of being run over from that direction, then you’ve committed the moralistic fallacy. Sometimes things aren’t as they ought to be. Sometimes people drive in directions that they shouldn’t. The rules of the road don’t necessarily describe actual driving practices.

An appropriate fallacy given the latest philosopher under study. Also harkens back to David Hume.
Alex R.
user 13714540
Group Organizer
Baltimore, MD
Post #: 11
This fallacy is addressed extensively in Albert Ellis' psychology (REBT and then in CBT). He says that by demanding mentally (via self-talk) that ourselves, others and the world be the way they "ought" to be, we create mental disturbance. By talking through things rationally with ourselves, we can learn to alleviate these disturbances. He thinks it's quite natural that we at least occasionally commit this moralistic fallacy, but that we can work against it:

The Three Basic Musts that lead to disturbance:
I must do well and win the approval of others for my performances or else I am no good.
o The first belief often leads to anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt.

Other people must treat me considerately, fairly and kindly, and in exactly the way I want them to treat me. If they don't, they are no good and they deserve to be condemned and punished.
o The second belief often leads to rage, passive-aggression and acts of violence.

I must get what I want, when I want it; and I must not get what I don't want. It's terrible if I don't get what I want, and I can't stand it. (the world must be easy or it’s awful)
o The third belief often leads to self-pity and procrastination. It is the demanding nature of the beliefs that causes the problem.

His rational solution (self-talk) includes:

Unconditional self-acceptance:
o I am a fallible human being; I have my good points and my bad points.
o There is no reason why I must not have flaws.
o Despite my good points and my bad points, I am no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.

Unconditional other-acceptance:
o Other people will treat me unfairly from time to time.
o There is no reason why they must treat me fairly.
o The people who treat me unfairly are no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.

Unconditional life-acceptance:
o Life doesn't always work out the way that I'd like it to.
o There is no reason why life must go the way I want it to

I have mentioned this before in group, and it's helped me a lot. It seems to fit with the philosophy and rationality that we study- though not perfectly because REBT is talking about utility, and not perfect theory.
A former member
Post #: 63
Very good points.

Nietzsche, I think, would not disagree with this fallacy. We cannot say how things are from the premise of how they ought to be. This is also because for Nietzsche what ought to be varies widely based on culture.

Nietzsche and Hume tells us that the idea of what we take as morally right and wrong is strongly linked to the passions. It is not a purely rational output. So if the passions motivate our ethical actions (not to say that reason does not add things along the way), then when someone or the world does not work the way we would like, it is natural for us to be at odds with ourselves. To adopt the unconditional acceptance of 'life' and 'others' is to admit stoicism in some sense in my view. We cannot say that the logic embodies in the fallacy is wrong (the fallacy is definitely true), but neither can we say that our emotional response is wrong. In this sense mental angst is natural.

I think that best that person can do is to not allow resentiment to build as Nietzsche tell us.

For example, the self talk that

1) Other people will treat me unfairly from time to time.
2) There is no reason why they must treat me fairly.

are both true and I think helpful.

I do agree that 3) is viable but only in the sense of not allowing resentiment to build.

I think Nietzsche would disagree with the part of 3) that says 'no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being'. He would disagree in a sense because we all have different characters and some characters are better than others. Some people are worthy of being condemned (in the sense of being taken as wrong) because how we differentiate right and wrong is dependent on character. Character is embodied in the person. Right and wrong have to do with individual wills which is reflected in character.

I think Nietzsche would say that the best way to resolve this problem within us is to say,... 'let it go, there is nothing you can do in the end. You are one of the strong. Take heart in that.'

I have a tendency to agree with him.
Alex R.
user 13714540
Group Organizer
Baltimore, MD
Post #: 12
I wouldn't do the 'i am one of the strong, unlike others' thing myself- personally, I think that's something that turns me off on Nietzsche- the drive for superiority over others. I like not having to rate myself or others at all- only our actions.
A former member
Post #: 64
I understand.

Nietzsche would say that human beings often do have feelings of superiority. We simply hide it. And such feelings are often times, in his view, not wrong.

Here is an example. Consider Hitler's behavior. When you dislike what he did in massacring Jews, you simply just do not like dislike his actions. You dislike his character, his will. I think that if many of us are truthful with ourselves, we can detect that part of us does feel superior to Hitler. Eg. We do not simply say that we hate Hitler's actions. We also dislike him.

It is the Judeo-Christian view point that are culture has that often make us see action apart from will.

The point Nietzsche is making is that there is no schism between ourselves and our actions. He thinks that this is specious. We are will. And will is us. Will is reflected in character and not all characters are the same. Some characters, in his view, are simply better than others.
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