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Moralistic Fallacy

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(also known as: moral fallacy)

Description: The assumption that what ought to be is what is -- that the undesirable opposes nature.

This is the opposite of the naturalistic fallacy.

Logical Form:

X ought to be wrong.

Therefore, X is wrong.

Example #1:

Adultery, as well as philandering, is wrong.

Therefore, we have no biological tendency for multiple sex partners.

Explanation: While, morally speaking, adultery and philandering may be wrong, this has no bearing on the biological aspect of the desire or need.  In other words, what we shouldn’t do (according to moral norms), is not necessarily the same as what we are biologically influenced to do.

Example #2:

Being mean to others is wrong.

Therefore, it cannot possibly be part of our nature.

Explanation: While, morally speaking, being mean to others may be wrong, this has no bearing on the biological aspect of the desire or need.  Again, what we shouldn’t do (according to moral norms), is not necessarily the same as what we are biologically influenced to do.

Exception: An argument can certainly be made that an ought is the same as an is, but it just cannot be assumed.



Registered User Comments

Alex
Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 09:46:37 AM
Your first example is wrong. We do have a biological (and therefore natural) need to pair bond. Oxytocin bonding proves we are biologically monogamous.

Obviously the moralistic fallacy still exists, but the adultery example is poor.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 10:03:40 AM
Hi Alex, remember that fallacies are not about what is true or not; it is about the form of the argument. Example #1 is still fallacious, therefore correct (correct in the sense that is demonstrates the fallacy). It does not matter what conclusions are reached. Anything that fits the "X is morally wrong, therefore X is unnatural" is fallacious. The conclusions I use in my examples are mostly all wrong anyways, thus the problems with fallacies.

As for your statement "Oxytocin bonding proves we are biologically monogamous," speaking as a social psychologist, that statement is problematic. First, at most, ocytocin is evidence for biological monogamy, certainly not proof of. Second, when biologists use the term "monogamy," that doesn't exclude multiple sex partners. For example, from one study

The term “monogamy” does not imply lifelong exclusive mating with a single individual. In fact, many birds form pair bonds over a season, raise their offspring together, and then select another partner the following season. For biologists, monogamy implies selective (not exclusive) mating, a shared nesting area, and biparental care.

Reference:

Young, L. J. (2003). The Neural Basis of Pair Bonding in a Monogamous Species: A Model for Understanding the Biological Basis of Human Behavior. National Academies Press (US). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK97287/

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