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The Conceptual Confusion in Every School of Thought

In every human value-realization across the disciplinary spectrum of human endeavor,


far more disagreement is rooted in conceptual confusion, far less in inferential mistakes.
After all, most professionals in most disciplines have learned the calculus of triadic
inference (abductive, inductive and deductive), whether reasoning formally (equations &
arguments) or informally (hypotheses & common sense) about their specic endeavors
and thus generally avoid common fallacies and logical mishaps.
In my observations regarding political philosophy, legal philosophy (e.g. constitutional
interpretation), moral philosophy, normative philosophy (logic, aesthetics & ethics),
social philosophy, philosophy of art, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion,
philosophical theology, metaphysics and epistemology ...
it has seemed to me that most schools of thought are grounded in and most disciplinary
disagreements are rooted in --a conceptual confusion, which, however implicitly, variously over- or under-emphasizes
relevant approaches or simply misapplies concepts by wrongly substituting them as
variables in this or that axiological calculus.
We can clarify such conceptual confusion by properly
1) analyzing each concept's category: Are we employing a cluster, vague, fuzzy, plualistic
or classical concept? that has been negotiated (theoretic), remains non-negotiable
(semiotic), remains in negotiation (heuristic) or non-negotiated (dogmatic)?
2) analyzing each concept's characteristics:
Is it's application variously dis/ambiguated, subjective or objective, non/arbitrary,
reasonable or absurd, in/adequate, descriptive or referential?
3) analyzing each concept's mapping to realities, which may be static or dynamical,
ordered or chaotic, patterned or paradoxical, dis/continuous, a/symmetric, ir/regular,
probable or necessary, in/determinate, a discreet event or process.
4) analyzing each concept's existential implications, which holistically will include
descriptive, evaluative, normative and interpretive moments in every axiological
movement or human value-realization.
In philosophy of law, for example, there need not necessarily be an over against contest
between originalist, textual (descriptive), intentional (interpretive), dynamical (normative)
and pragmatic (evaluative) constitutional interpretations, as an holistic cumulative case
like preponderance can be fashioned via our common sense, common sensibilities and
common law.
In philosophy of science, we best avoid all radical rationalisms, empiricisms and
positivisms, as well as such skepticisms and ignosticisms, which, aspiring to take down
metaphysics, bring down the natural sciences, too.

In moral philosophy, we've seen the sterility and faced the absurdity of those systems
that are a prioristic, absolutistic, infallibilistic, physicalistic, biologistic, essentialistic,
rigoristic, legalistic, rationalistic, idealistic and overly deductive, hence divorced from
concrete, lived experiences. Such approaches should, instead, be also inductive,
fallibilist, casuist, probabilist, open to prudential judgment & pastoral discernment,
nonjuridical, realistic and existentialist, mindful of human nitude.
In philosophical theology, we avoid the extremes of ignosticism, gnosticism, deism,
encratism, rationalism, pietism, quietism and, instead, invoke equiplausibility principles,
normative justications and cumulative case preponderances, variously employing
predicates that are apophatic, kataphatic, analogical, equivocal or metaphorical,
maintaining logical consistency, internal coherence, external congruence,
interdisciplinary consilience, hypothetical consonance, while aspiring to successful
references when successful descriptions evade us. Interpretations best consider literal,
moral, mystical and anagogical approaches.
In philosophy of art, we can thus afrm mimetic, expressivist, pragmatic and objective
hermeneutics.
And so on and so forth. Holistic approaches to the application of concepts foster their
appropriate and prevent their inappropriate employment as variables in any given
disciplinary calculus. However logically valid a given calculus might be for this or that
system (political, legal, moral, ethical, scientic, cultural, philosophical, religious, etc), the
wrongful application of concepts within such formulations will inevitably lead to
unsound, often absurd, conclusions, empirically, rationally, morally, practically and
interrelationally.
I will leave it to the reader to discern how each term above (whether in philosophy of law,
science, art, religion and so on) relates to that fugue of epistemic virtue which considers
descriptive, evaluative, normative and interpretive moments to be all necessary, none
alone sufcient, for every human value-realization, as holistically, each such moment
remains methodologically autonomous (asking distinct questions of a reality), while all
must be taken together, being otherwise axiologically integral.
A Case in Point:
Is a Zygote a Person? Conceptual Confusion
We realize most human values by using concepts that don't meet the classical denition
of "singly necessary and jointly sufcient." We realize both the lesser and higher goods of
life, for example, when using cluster, vague, fuzzy and/or pluralistic concepts, in addition
to those that have been more classically dened.
Our concepts will ordinarily be more vs less clustered vs simple, vague vs precise, fuzzy
vs discreet, pluralistic vs singular, objective vs subjective, arbitrary vs nonarbitrary,
adequate vs inadequate, even reasonable or absurd ...

as they, more or less, robustly describe vs merely reference realities that present ...
in varying degrees of continuity and discontinuity, regularity and irregularity, pattern and
paradox, necessity and chance, symmetry and asymmetry, order and chaos, determinacy
and indeterminacy, event and process, static and dynamical.
However one conceives a moral ontology, because our epistemology remains ineluctably
fallibilist, epistemic virtue requires an holistic (contemplative) approach ...
which will include not just objective aspects, which are ...
empirical (descriptive) ...
logical, ethical and prudential (all normative), but also ...
subjective aspects, which include hedonic, aesthetic and moral dispositions (all
evaluative), as well as, importantly ...
intersubjective relational realities (interpretive).
Subjective aspects, then, not only need not rob our concepts of epistemic virtue, but,
instead, can enhance their modeling power of reality, as they draw on our collective ...
moral instincts, ethical intuitions, aesthetic sensibilities, hedonic inclinations, visceral
reactions, in other words ...
our common sensibilities ...
therebybetter reecting our legitimate ultimate concerns.
Our more informal objective aspects needn't rob our concepts of epistemic virtue, either,
but can also enhance our modeling power of reality, as they draw on our ...
abductive instincts, intuitions and inferences and ...
inductive experiences, in other words ...
our common sense ...
thereby protecting us from radical empiricisms, rationalisms and gnosticisms (all silly
formalisms), which devolve into paradoxes that cannot be
dissolved paradigmatically,
resolved dialectically or
exploited via creative tensions, but must otherwise simply be

evaded, practically, via reductio ad absurdum.


This is to recognize, for example, that whatever epistemic virtues one argues might
accrue to classically dening a zygote as a human person, such as, for example,
empirical objectivity, rational deduction, conceptual precision, ethical clarity and
prudential simplicity, such a denition remains ...
woefully decient vis a vis humanity's common sense and
seriously impoverished vis a vis humanity's common sensibilities.
This is all because complex human realities --- like cause, species, person, life and death
--- require the use of cluster, pluralistic, vague and fuzzy concepts --- not because our
moral ontology doesn't enjoy objective foundations (e.g. vis a vis a theory of truth), but --because our moral theorizing remains unavoidably fallibilist, probabilistic and
incomplete (e.g. vis a vis a theory of knowledge) but, nevertheless and happily, largely
adequate.
Any doubt about a zygote's personhood, by the way, contrary to rationalistic accounts, is
not a determinable empirical or factual doubt, which would preclude a moral probabilism
for such a matter as life or death, but is a theoretic or interpretive doubt (explanatory in
nature, metaphysically indeterminable), hence a doubt of law, which precisely warrants a
moral probabilism, including a right to dissent from an authoritative teaching (whether
intrinsically via compelling argument or extrinsically via reliance on experts).

cluster concept, pluralistic concept, vague concept, axiological epistemology, evaluative


dispositions, moral probabilism, personhood, ethical intuitions, moral instincts, aesthetic
sensibilities, hedonic inclinations, abductive inference, abductive instinct, human life,
human death, common sense, common sensibilities, right to dissent, modeling power,
epistemic virtue, mimetic, expressivist, pragmatic, objectivist, apophatic, kataphatic,
logical consistency, internal coherence, external congruence, interdisciplinary
consilience, hypothetical consonance, epistemic virtue, philosophy of science,
philosophy of law, philosophy of religion, social philosophy, philosophical theology,
moral philosophy, philosophy of art, metaphysics & epistemology, conceptual
categories, conceptual characteristics, conceptual mapping, conceptual, conceptual
implications