Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Chris Eberle Responds to Andy Koppelman, A Second Time

Here is Chris's first response to Andy Koppelman.

Here is Andy's reply.

Now, Chris responds again:

The claim that human beings have inherent dignity by virtue of their being loved by God does not commit me to deducing a normative conclusion from exclusively factual premises.  Certainly not to deducing any conclusion about moral 'obligation' solely from factual premises.  After all, the claim that each human being has inherent dignity is a claim about excellence or goodness, not obligation, and so cannot violate the no ought from is dictum (which I accept in some formulation).

Nevertheless, the claim that the inherent dignity of each human being is grounded on the property of being loved by God does involve some claim about the supervenience of the moral on the non-moral, viz., that all moral/normative properties are grounded on some sufficient non-moral features.  (They are not deduced from, they are metaphysically grounded on, non-moral properties.)  So, for example, a person who has the virtue of courage has that virtue *by virtue* of her having some other features that are distinct from the virtue itself -- a set of dispositions or habits that enable her reliably to respond to danger in such and such specified ways.  Possession of those habits or dispitions grounds the virtue -- a person's possession of those features is what makes it the case that she has the virtue of courage.  People don't just have the virtue of courage, full stop.  They have that virtue *by virtue* of something else.

Similarly for inherent dignity -- if human beings have inherent dignity, then they have it by virtue of some property they share -- some property distinct from inherent dignity itself.  Of course, you might deny that all human beings have inherent dignity -- there's a long a venerable tradition of doing so.  And then you'll not be interested in Michael's position -- he *assumes* that people have inherent worth and then asks -- by virtue of what do they have that most wonderful property?  He gives a theistic answer to that question.  Perhaps that is wrong.  Fair enough.  Then we'll want to know what does make it the case that human beings have inherent dignity -- what plausible secular account if there for that property?  Presumably secularists, and even those who affirm the dictum that we can't derive an ought from an is, will want to say something about what it is about human beings by virtue of which they have inherent worth -- even if they are satisfied by the claim that inherent worth supervenes on membership in the human species.

So, in short, Andrew's appeal to the claim that we can't derive an ought from an is, or a good from an is, doesn't settle the question to which Perry provides his theistic answer since the issue has nothing to do with  inferences or deductions in the first place.


Perry, Michael | Permalink

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