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.
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.