I consulted my philosophically innocent person about another popular issue in philosophy recently. All right, so I suppose I consult her often enough that she probably doesn't count as philosophically innocent any more. She does have some wild intuitions, though, so she's very valuable from the perspective of shaking my complacency about what is or is not really intuitive.
In any event, the issue is that many philosophers have claimed that there is an interesting difference in our ability to imagine the truth of factual claims vs. moral claims. We're easily able to imagine things we know to be false; Nelson losing at Trafalgar, humans having been placed on earth by aliens rather than evolving, time travel, wizards with the ability to alter reality by the force of their wills. It is claimed that we have more difficulty imagining the truth of moral claims we hold to be false; imagining that Hitler was a good person (without changing any of his deeds, obviously), imagining that enslaving those of different skin color is morally right, imagining that suffering is good for its own sake.
My victim was inclined to deny the data. To some extent, that is what I am inclined to do. I am strongly inclined toward consequentialism, so if asked to imagine that some action normally viewed as reprehensible is good, I need only imagine that it increases overall happiness and I'm there. Of course, this won't get me to imagining that suffering is good for its own sake, but I wonder if I should say that claim is conceptually impossible, because badness and suffering are too closely linked, and so imagining it is difficult or impossible for the same reason other conceptual impossibilities are difficult or impossible to imagine.
This does leave two issues, though. My victim didn't think this much work is required; she thought it was unnecessary to specify, even vaguely, the worldly circumstances which would make a strange moral claim true; she thought you could just imagine it as easily as you imagine any other silly thing, with no more need to fill in the details than we have when we imagine time travel or magic. I'm not sure if I agree with that intuition.
Secondly, if I'm right and my victim is wrong, then it should be harder for a deontologist to imagine crazy moral claims being true than for a consequentialist to do so. I wonder if those who have made this claim have indeed been overwhelmingly deontologists.