Non-Cognitivism, and Charles Stevenson

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Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 08:38 pm
Charles Stevenson argued in his book, Ethics and Language, that arguments in ethics about right and wrong, or good and bad, were actually attempts to persuade others of a certain view of a matter, and were not, like arguments in science, aimed at truth. For there is no truth or falsity in ethics. Therefore, ethical reasoning is actually persuasive reasoning, and not cognitive reasoning, and a reason is a good reason in ethics to the extent that it is persuasive, and a bad reason in ethics is bad to the extent it fails to persuade. So that in ethics, argument has to be understood in a completely different way from argument elsewhere. And, of course, so must be the notion of rationality in ethics.

See: Charles Stevenson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Quinn phil
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 08:56 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113103 wrote:
Charles Stevenson argued in his book, Ethics and Language, that arguments in ethics about right and wrong, or good and bad, were actually attempts to persuade others of a certain view of a matter, and were not, like arguments in science, aimed at truth. For there is no truth or falsity in ethics. Therefore, ethical reasoning is actually persuasive reasoning, and not cognitive reasoning, and a reason is a good reason in ethics to the extent that it is persuasive, and a bad reason in ethics is bad to the extent it fails to persuade. So that in ethics, argument has to be understood in a completely different way from argument elsewhere. And, of course, the so must be the notion of rationality in ethics.

See: Charles Stevenson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


True. But, it's not only with ethics and (sometimes) language. I'd say that these statements can go for any philosophical field, besides maybe science. Everything is perspective, only because we don't, and can never know, the views of everyone on the planet. You can persuade someone into liking forms of art. You can persuade someone into religion, even. Personally, I don't look for truths. I look for compromise.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 09:02 pm
@Quinn phil,
Quinn;113110 wrote:
True. But, it's not only with ethics and (sometimes) language. I'd say that these statements can go for any philosophical field, besides maybe science. Everything is perspective, only because we don't, and can never know, the views of everyone on the planet. You can persuade someone into liking forms of art. You can persuade someone into religion, even. Personally, I don't look for truths. I look for compromise.


Yes, I suppose people believe that too. But that view amounts to cutting off the limb you are sitting on. Stevenson's view depends on non-cognitivism in ethics. No truth or falsity. Are you saying there is no truth or falsity in science too?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 09:18 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113103 wrote:
Charles Stevenson argued in his book, Ethics and Language, that arguments in ethics about right and wrong, or good and bad, were actually attempts to persuade others of a certain view of a matter, and were not, like arguments in science, aimed at truth. For there is no truth or falsity in ethics. Therefore, ethical reasoning is actually persuasive reasoning, and not cognitive reasoning, and a reason is a good reason in ethics to the extent that it is persuasive, and a bad reason in ethics is bad to the extent it fails to persuade. So that in ethics, argument has to be understood in a completely different way from argument elsewhere. And, of course, so must be the notion of rationality in ethics.

See: Charles Stevenson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



This ethical relativism was the sort of thing I especially meant by "truth is a white lie." I don't see any concrete foundation for ethics either. Values clash with values. One of the reasons politics is such a mess.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 09:24 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113118 wrote:
This ethical relativism was the sort of thing I especially meant by "truth is a white lie." I don't see any concrete foundation for ethics either. Values clash with values. One of the reasons politics is such a mess.


Why to you call this, "ethical relativism". Ethical relativists do not deny that ethical sentences are true or false.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 09:41 pm
@kennethamy,
I'm not attached to the term. Let's just say that I don't see any ground for an absolute ethics. It's a matter of persuasion. I'm quite aware that some folks have different of ethics than my own. I see the world sometimes thru their eyes (imaginatively), for poetic and practical reasons. What's right or wrong depends on who you ask. It's related to who you ask.

"any ethical theory should explain three things: that intelligent disagreement can occur over moral questions, that moral terms like good are "magnetic" in encouraging action, and that the scientific method is insufficient for verifying moral claims."


I agree with the above.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 09:56 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113130 wrote:
I'm not attached to the term. Let's just say that I don't see any ground for an absolute ethics. It's a matter of persuasion. I'm quite aware that some folks have different of ethics than my own. I see the world sometimes thru their eyes (imaginatively), for poetic and practical reasons. What's right or wrong depends on who you ask. It's related to who you ask.

"any ethical theory should explain three things: that intelligent disagreement can occur over moral questions, that moral terms like good are "magnetic" in encouraging action, and that the scientific method is insufficient for verifying moral claims."


I agree with the above.


But does the theory that ethics is all about persuasion allow for intelligent disagreement? Stevenson's view is that ethical disagreement is like the following "disagreement".

A. I am going to Paris this summer. I love Paris.
B. Well I am not, I am going to Rome this summer. I prefer Rome.

There is a kind of disagreement, but is it intelligent disagreement?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 10:10 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113133 wrote:
But does the theory that ethics is all about persuasion allow for intelligent disagreement?


Perhaps this question is just such an ethical question. It could be answered either way. Depends on what we mean by "intelligent." This is where bluff/instinct/value comes in. Is the concept of intelligence seperate from ethics? Some types of intelligence perhaps, but a person might think intelligence is an under-rated or over-rated virtue, according to their ethics.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 10:19 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113137 wrote:
Perhaps this question is just such an ethical question. It could be answered either way. Depends on what we mean by "intelligent." This is where bluff/instinct/value comes in. Is the concept of intelligence seperate from ethics? Some types of intelligence perhaps, but a person might think intelligence is an under-rated or over-rated virtue, according to their ethics.


I don't see how it is an ethical question. If you mean by "intelligent disagreement" rational disagreement, then Stevenson's answer is no. No more than the example I just offered. The question is whether either side could be rationally persuaded to accompany the other, because the other was right? As, for instance, someone can be rationally persuaded that Rome is to the south of Paris.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 10:38 pm
@kennethamy,
I suppose I take a pretty holistic view of humans. What they associate with the word "intelligent" is tied in to their value system. Fred likes Jims values and calls him intelligent, which some might view as an abuse of the word. I suppose "intelligent" can function as a word of praise. I also take a holistic view on words. So many types of people out there. If we are "networks of beliefs and desires," which I think is a good phrase if not the whole truth, then it all get's tangled up. For some people, their idea of human decency is intelligence. For others, it's all about the heart. For these heart-types, intelligence might as well mean wisdom or feeling. I think persuasion swallows everything. It's just that objective science is so persuasive that there's not much disagreement. But ethics, politics, this sort of philosophy we are doing now..all of these are tangled with ethics, and self-conception/self-ideal. Or such is my current view.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 10:42 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113140 wrote:
I suppose I take a pretty holistic view of humans. What they associate with the word "intelligent" is tied in to their value system. Fred likes Jims values and calls him intelligent, which some might view as an abuse of the word. I suppose "intelligent" can function as a word of praise. I also take a holistic view on words. So many types of people out there. If we are "networks of beliefs and desires," which I think is a good phrase if not the whole truth, then it all get's tangled up. For some people, their idea of human decency is intelligence. For others, it's all about the heart. For these heart-types, intelligence might as well mean wisdom or feeling. I think persuasion swallows everything. It's just that objective science is so persuasive that there's not much disagreement. But ethics, politics, this sort of philosophy we are doing now..all of these are tangled with ethics, and self-conception/self-ideal. Or such is my current view.


I imagine that objective science is so persuasive for a pretty good reason. Don't you? I expect that this sort of philosophy that I do is not all that tangled up. After all, you seemed to think that what I wrote about the term "exist" as denoting a meta-property (what did you say?) made sense. I think a lot of philosophy can be done so that it makes sense, and give sensible answers that can be supported by reason and by argument. Sounds like a plan to me.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 10:53 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113141 wrote:
I imagine that objective science is so persuasive for a pretty good reason. Don't you? I expect that this sort of philosophy that I do is not all that tangled up. After all, you seemed to think that what I wrote about the term "exist" as denoting a meta-property (what did you say?) made sense. I think a lot of philosophy can be done so that it makes sense, and give sensible answers that can be supported by reason and by argument. Sounds like a plan to me.



Oh yes, your brand of philosophy sticks near the rigor of objective science, and I respect that. It's not my favorite part of philosophy, but I respect it.. I came to philosophy from a literary background/obsession It's very much an aesthetic pursuit for me. My ethics are tangled up with it. Anxiety of influence and all that. I want to create, ultimately. Therefore the emphasis on metaphor and the creation of concept. I don't know if you've look at the thread "subversive absolute christianity" but that's the sort of thing that fascinates me. Much of what interests me could be put away in other genres, but much that influences me is called philosophy. Many Germans. And many of them are myth-makers, poets. Rigorousness is a virtue, yes, but not the only virtue.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 11:01 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113144 wrote:
Oh yes, your brand of philosophy sticks near the rigor of objective science, and I respect that. It's not my favorite part of philosophy, but I respect it.. I came to philosophy from a literary background/obsession It's very much an aesthetic pursuit for me. My ethics are tangled up with it. Anxiety of influence and all that. I want to create, ultimately. Therefore the emphasis on metaphor and the creation of concept. I don't know if you've look at the thread "subversive absolute christianity" but that's the sort of thing that fascinates me. Much of what interests me could be put away in other genres, but much that influences me is called philosophy. Many Germans. And many of them are myth-makers, poets. Rigorousness is a virtue, yes, but not the only virtue.


I thought that the point of philosophizing was to clarify and find out things. Not to entertain. How can philosophy be an aesthetic pursuit? What is it that you would be pursuing? Rigor is a virtue only because it is a necessary means in inquiry. I don't care about rigor in itself. Why should I? It is not as if I were in the pursuit of rigor, you know. If you want to create then why are you interested in philosophy? Why isn't writing short stories, or poetry occupying you?
 
Quinn phil
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 11:46 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113113 wrote:
Yes, I suppose people believe that too. But that view amounts to cutting off the limb you are sitting on. Stevenson's view depends on non-cognitivism in ethics. No truth or falsity. Are you saying there is no truth or falsity in science too?


No. I am not. I never even implied that.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 12:43 am
@kennethamy,
I don't know how much continental philosophy you have enjoyed, but there is plenty of opportunity for creativity in philosophy. Many concepts are invented by means of metaphor. Also a holistic view of "first science" is not one that's going to put everything in its own little box. I'm interested in connecting the dots. I hope this does not offend you. Whether you want to understand where other human beings are coming from is of course your choice. To me, this too is part of philosophy. Sure, we could chop it up into psychology/aesthetics/ ethics/epistemology/religion, but this is to chop up the living human being for whom all of these are a lived unity. I'm willing to explain my perspective but it's nothing I want to argue about. I want to hear other people's enthusiasms (however different than my own) more than their objections.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 12:59 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113103 wrote:
So that in ethics, argument has to be understood in a completely different way from argument elsewhere. And, of course, so must be the notion of rationality in ethics.


Looks interesting.
The wiki mentions a rough division into three methods of argumentation

logical
rational psychological
nonrational psychological

nonrational psychological seems to be the only one that is a completely different method of argumentation from argument elsewhere in philosophy. The other two "logical" and "rational psychological" seem pretty straightforward.

Does Stevenson argue that these three methods are equally weighted and equally legitimate? Is that what makes it completely different

kennethamy;113113 wrote:
Stevenson's view depends on non-cognitivism in ethics. No truth or falsity.


"Non-cognitive" is an interesting word. Seems to suggest a lack of thinking. Yet Stevenson is using it in a technical sense to describe ethics. Stevenson claims that the "sentences" of ethics cannot be assigned a truth value. But this does not imply that there is no thinking going on. The use of the word "Non-cognitive" could be classed as an example of the covert use of the nonrational psychological method of argumentation.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 01:07 am
@kennethamy,
HUME

Sounds good to me, if not the whole story.

In Freudian psychology, the ego ideal (or ideal ego) is "an image of the perfect self towards which the ego should aspire."[1]

To me, this is very important. The ego ideal image is variable. The pacifist and the serial killer are fueled by the same energy?
 
mickalos
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 02:26 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113146 wrote:
I thought that the point of philosophizing was to clarify and find out things. Not to entertain. How can philosophy be an aesthetic pursuit? What is it that you would be pursuing? Rigor is a virtue only because it is a necessary means in inquiry. I don't care about rigor in itself. Why should I? It is not as if I were in the pursuit of rigor, you know. If you want to create then why are you interested in philosophy? Why isn't writing short stories, or poetry occupying you?

I think good philosophers are more than capable of being rather literary. Quine's web metaphor is the obvious example, but this is primarily done in search of clarity rather than in writing an article that people want to read. On the other hand, Bernard Williams wrote what I believe is one of the finest philosophy articles ever written, called 'The Self and the Future'; it hardly creates serious difficulties with conventional beliefs about personal identity, as Quine's article does for anyliticity, nor is it particularly convincing. It certainly makes you think that there may be something more to personal identity than psychological continuity, but lots of articles do this with lots of philosophical problems, so it's no great achievement. The brilliance, or at least the thing that makes it such a wonderful article to read, lies not so much in the argument, but in the ingenuity and imagination of the thought example used to convey the argument. Presenting a situation that shows certain things to be the case, then offering an apparently different situation that shows opposing things to be the case, before allowing it to dawn on the reader that the appearance of a difference between the two situations is merely that, an appearance. Certainly one of the 'must read' philosophy articles.

The danger is, that when one becomes too concerned with how one says something, one loses sight of what one is trying to say. Indeed, you might find yourself spewing beautifully worded, meaningless nonsense, and if you lack the gift of being a good writer, simply nonsense. Not good philosophy. Of course, if you are too concerned with philosophical questions when attempting to write literature, your work risks sounding contrived, abrasive, and often even comical. It's one of the reasons I think Orwell's fiction is grossly overrated; the sound points he makes about socialism (or rather particular types of socialism) mask a lack of literary merit. Being too concerned with philosophy is certainly one of the many reasons why Ayn Rand writes terrible novels.

Of course, there's a difference between employing literary techniques and writing literature, just as there is a difference between exploring philosophical themes and writing philosophy. Great literature is usually subtle in meaning, great philosophy makes meaning explicit and clear. But back to ethics.

Quote:
Charles Stevenson argued in his book, Ethics and Language, that arguments in ethics about right and wrong, or good and bad, were actually attempts to persuade others of a certain view of a matter, and were not, like arguments in science, aimed at truth. For there is no truth or falsity in ethics. Therefore, ethical reasoning is actually persuasive reasoning, and not cognitive reasoning, and a reason is a good reason in ethics to the extent that it is persuasive, and a bad reason in ethics is bad to the extent it fails to persuade. So that in ethics, argument has to be understood in a completely different way from argument elsewhere. And, of course, so must be the notion of rationality in ethics.

See: Charles Stevenson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I think the best reason for not jumping to non-cognitivism is that we must recognise that when we make ethical statements like 'Stealing is wrong', as well as registering certain desires and emotions with our audience, we at least make an assumption of the objectivity of the statement. The question then becomes whether or not we can make sense of ethical objectivity. If we can, then we can think of rightness and wrongness as being uninstantiated properties, and ethical statements are simply false. Mackie, an error theorist, suggests thinking of them being some kind of platonic form with the ability to create overriding motivations for action. I'm not so sure that is right, after all, we still 'ought' to do something whether or not we have an overriding motivation to do it or not, so this seems to suggest that oughtness wouldn't create motivations at all. However, we might imagine a rather vague realm of moral facts that could be appealed to to test the truth of ethical statements. Perhaps this is meaningless, in which case ethical statements do lack descriptive meaning, but it's something to think about.

In any case, the problem of what we might call foreign relations still exists, even if we do realise that moral statements are all false, and that we merely have attitudes; it's certainly an attitude of mine that the rest of you should have the same attitudes to moral matters as I do. I suppose reason might be used to show you that a certain attitude you have which ought not be held is in conflict with other attitudes of yours, and should be dropped, and similarly that attitudes you ought to have, but do not, are entailed by your other attitudes, and thus should be taken up. Of course, if there is an attitude you ought to have that is totally disconnected from all of your attitudes, it becomes more tricky. The presentation of argument, or of your attitude, might be a factor that makes a difference. Perhaps the only way of 'convincing' somebody may be through a Scrooge-esque shock.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 02:46 am
@kennethamy,
The ten commandments are poetry. Plato's republic is poetry. VCR instruction manuals are poetry. Profanity is poetry. "Self is illusion" is poetry. "Philosophy is poetry" is poetry. Tautologies are poetry. Sure, this is to bend to current use of certain words, but that's how abstract concepts are made in the first place. Just as concept comes from conception, the fertilization of the egg. A dead metaphor. Dead metaphor rubbed together to make live metaphor. Taste varies. Its the risk one runs. But if a writer doesn't enjoy his/her own lines, he's in the wrong business. Poetry is child's play, sure, so what? And perhaps much of the serious business of philosophy is the child playing a game of grown-up. Soft science is generally made of poetry/trope. But to understand what I mean takes a leaning in, a sincere openness. And that statement is rich with metaphor. I can't write it off, that language is primarily made of metaphors and philosophy of language.

We've got laws and churches and traditions. It's no big deal if a foolosopher sees that ethics is made of air.
 
mickalos
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 03:40 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113179 wrote:
The ten commandments are poetry. Plato's republic is poetry. VCR instruction manuals are poetry. Profanity is poetry. "Self is illusion" is poetry. "Philosophy is poetry" is poetry. Tautologies are poetry. Sure, this is to bend to current use of certain words, but that's how abstract concepts are made in the first place. Just as concept comes from conception, the fertilization of the egg. A dead metaphor. Dead metaphor rubbed together to make live metaphor. Taste varies. Its the risk one runs. But if a writer doesn't enjoy his/her own lines, he's in the wrong business. Poetry is child's play, sure, so what? And perhaps much of the serious business of philosophy is the child playing a game of grown-up. Soft science is generally made of poetry/trope. But to understand what I mean takes a leaning in, a sincere openness. And that statement is rich with metaphor. I can't write it off, that language is primarily made of metaphors and philosophy of language.

We've got laws and churches and traditions. It's no big deal if a foolosopher sees that ethics is made of air.


I assure you, understanding what any of this means would take a great deal more than a leaning in, no matter how sincerely open a lean it might be. I think you've managed to strike an unhappy medium of writing nonsense in a comically contrived way. Really now, 'Dead metaphor rubbed together to make live metaphor'? Do try not to beat us over the head with your metaphors.
 
 

 
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