Non-Cognitivism, and Charles Stevenson

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Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 03:46 am
@kennethamy,
Ah now, that's not so silly as it sounds, I assure you. Crack open a dictionary. Examine etymology. There you will find the birth-metaphor of words that have since changed their meaning. ---If you don't understand, that's fine. There are those who do. I think you overestimate the strangeness of what I'm saying. I certainly have my influences. I didn't make it all up myself, although I wish I could claim that. Do you know Joyce? It's a wide wide world. Lots of new teeth coming in.
Finnegans Wake - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 04:35 am
@kennethamy,
The question I have about this will always be, what is the basis for coming to a decision about ethically vexing questions. Let's consider some scenarios.

A large totalitarian country invades a smaller neighbouring country and sets about systematically destroying their ethnic cultural heritage through 're-education' and flooding the country with their own ethnic groups. As the decades pass, the large country develops very cogent arguments to the effect that the smaller country really always was a part of the larger country, and the ethnic heritage which is by now practically extinguished was a deviant development that had kept the original population in feudal thrall; therefore they, and the world, are better off without it.

Meanwhile the original ethnic minority is represented by an exiled, charismatic and articulate politico-religious leader who speaks eloquently on behalf of the original culture and pleads for a degree of autonomy on their behalf.

According to Stephenson, then, the ethics of the situation should really be decided on the basis of whether the totalitarian government, or the exiled leader, is able to present the most persuasive argument for their case. There is no intrinsic evil in the invasion of one country by another, or the destruction of their culture; the whole question revolves around whether, and how, the rest of the world can be persuaded to view the matter, presuming it is the 'rest of world' that are to decide the merits of the argument.

There are many other cases that could be contemplated - for example, in the case of the deciding an equitable basis for sharing the burden of dealing with a global ecological problem among a large number of countries with unequal resources; for the allocation of health-care resources to very large populations of aging citizens in an economy with a relatively small number of productive workers. Many ethical challenges of this type loom in the years ahead.

Putting aside the consideration of the merits of these particular hypothetical cases, how does Stephenson propose that we arrive at principles by which such situations be adjuticated?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 08:07 am
@Quinn phil,
Quinn;113150 wrote:
No. I am not. I never even implied that.


Well, you suggested that when you suggested that Stevenson's views about ethical reasoning could be applied to all reasoning. Since, Stevenson's views about ethical reasoning depends on the notion that truth and falsity are inapplicable in ethical reasoning.

---------- Post added 12-21-2009 at 09:16 AM ----------

jeeprs;113189 wrote:
The question I have about this will always be, what is the basis for coming to a decision about ethically vexing questions. Let's consider some scenarios.

A large totalitarian country invades a smaller neighbouring country and sets about systematically destroying their ethnic cultural heritage through 're-education' and flooding the country with their own ethnic groups. As the decades pass, the large country develops very cogent arguments to the effect that the smaller country really always was a part of the larger country, and the ethnic heritage which is by now practically extinguished was a deviant development that had kept the original population in feudal thrall; therefore they, and the world, are better off without it.

Meanwhile the original ethnic minority is represented by an exiled, charismatic and articulate politico-religious leader who speaks eloquently on behalf of the original culture and pleads for a degree of autonomy on their behalf.

According to Stephenson, then, the ethics of the situation should really be decided on the basis of whether the totalitarian government, or the exiled leader, is able to present the most persuasive argument for their case. There is no intrinsic evil in the invasion of one country by another, or the destruction of their culture; the whole question revolves around whether, and how, the rest of the world can be persuaded to view the matter, presuming it is the 'rest of world' that are to decide the merits of the argument.

There are many other cases that could be contemplated - for example, in the case of the deciding an equitable basis for sharing the burden of dealing with a global ecological problem among a large number of countries with unequal resources; for the allocation of health-care resources to very large populations of aging citizens in an economy with a relatively small number of productive workers. Many ethical challenges of this type loom in the years ahead.

Putting aside the consideration of the merits of these particular hypothetical cases, how does Stephenson propose that we arrive at principles by which such situations be adjuticated?


But Stevenson (not Stephenson) begins with a non-cognitive view of ethics (sometimes called "emotive"). It is that non-cognitivism that you are challenging. Of course, without that non-cognitive basis of ethics, Stevenson's persuasive theory makes no sense. For Stevenson, ethical disagreement is a matter of a clash of attitudes, and not true or false as in science. The two principles in your story have different attitudes about autonomy for the territory. One prefers it; the other does not. They no more disagree than the person who likes Paris disagrees with the Person who prefers Rome.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 08:43 am
@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


I am not convinced.

What is the conclusion that ethical propositions do not hold truth (or falisity) based upon? We must take into consideration that there is, often, just as much intersubjectivity in regards to moral propositions as there are for scientific propositions. We must keep in mind that we can reach objective truths, without objective methods. And in fact, we reach objective truths with subjective methods (a priori) all the time. And as far as persuasion is concerned, it is a part of not only moral endeavors, but also scientific (and of course, philosophical).

How we perceive the physical world is roughly the same, which is why we are able to agree upon most scientific truths. And I argue, that how we perceive most moral acts, is roughly the same. What I'm about to claim has no evidence, but I think it is true.

Suppose we select a random group of 50 rational, semi-educated people. We give them two propositions:

1.) It is wrong to molest and murder 12-year-old girls.
2.) Water is composed of H2O.

I claim that there will be just as much consensus for both. That is, I believe most people will claim both of these propositions are true.

What about ethical propositions makes us believe they cannot hold the same sort of truth a scientific proposition can? Surely it must have nothing to do with consensus, and it must have nothing to do with the ability to, under normal conditions, physically observe (as many scientific truths we cannot observe without instrumentation - like H and O molecules). And it also must have nothing to do with persuasion, as persuasion is not exclusive to moral endeavors. So, just what is it?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 09:29 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113252 wrote:
I am not convinced.

What is the conclusion that ethical propositions do not hold truth (or falisity) based upon? We must take into consideration that there is, often, just as much intersubjectivity in regards to moral propositions as there are for scientific propositions. We must keep in mind that we can reach objective truths, without objective methods. And in fact, we reach objective truths with subjective methods (a priori) all the time. And as far as persuasion is concerned, it is a part of not only moral endeavors, but also scientific (and of course, philosophical).

How we perceive the physical world is roughly the same, which is why we are able to agree upon most scientific truths. And I argue, that how we perceive most moral acts, is roughly the same. What I'm about to claim has no evidence, but I think it is true.

Suppose we select a random group of 50 rational, semi-educated people. We give them two propositions:

1.) It is wrong to molest and murder 12-year-old girls.
2.) Water is composed of H2O.

I claim that there will be just as much consensus for both. That is, I believe most people will claim both of these propositions are true.

What about ethical propositions makes us believe they cannot hold the same sort of truth a scientific proposition can? Surely it must have nothing to do with consensus, and it must have nothing to do with the ability to, under normal conditions, physically observe (as many scientific truths we cannot observe without instrumentation - like H and O molecules). And it also must have nothing to do with persuasion, as persuasion is not exclusive to moral endeavors. So, just what is it?


Your objection goes to the issue of ethical realism. If ethical sentences are true or false, then they have to be true or false of something: ethical facts. The sentence, "the cat is on the mat", is true because there is some fact (state of affairs) such that, the cat is on the mat. Not because there is a "consensus" that there is a cat on the mat. The consensus may be a reason for thinking there is such a fact, but it is not what makes the sentence, "the cat is on the mat" true. It is the cat being on the mat that makes it true that the cat is on the mat. But is there a fact or a state of affairs such that it is wrong to molest and murder little girls which would make the sentence true? A consensus (to the extent that there is one) is not proof that there is such a fact or a state of affairs. For, there are other good explanations of the consensus than that there is such a fact or state of affairs. And, what reason have we to believe that "right" and "wrong" are real properties? We do not seem to have a faculty for observing right and wrong in the way that we have a faculty for observing that the cat is on the mat (or not on the mat).

So the question of truth and falsity (and cognitivism) in ethics is the issue. And that depend on the question of ethical (moral) realism.


Moral realism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 10:06 am
@kennethamy,
What is the proof that ethical propositions do not respresent facts or state of affairs? What makes one believe that when we express moral propositions, we are not using rationality?

kennethamy wrote:
Not because there is a "consensus" that there is a cat on the mat. The consensus may be a reason for thinking there is such a fact, but it is not what makes the sentence, "the cat is on the mat" true.


I brought up consensus because sometimes moral relativists dismiss the blatantly obvious intersubjectivity for moral propositions. Everything is clearly not relative, and we agree on much. You are correct, though, consensus is not what makes something true or false. I never meant to imply this.

Quote:
We do not seem to have a faculty for observing right and wrong in the way that we have a faculty for observing that the cat is on the mat (or not on the mat).


What do you mean by this? Do you mean that we can theoretically observe cats on mats, but we cannot theoretically observe that it is wrong to molest young women? Well, this is true. But what does that tell us? There are many scientific and otherwise objective truths which we cannot actively, if at all, observe. And don't you think there are some properties you cannot observe or even understand? Perhaps a mathematical equation has various properties that a non-mathematician can't comprehend. Do you think this is possible?

And "the cat is on the mat" is not always a posteriori knowledge. We can have a priori knowledge that the cat is on the mat, too (Isn't it true that "the cat is on the mat" is true if a cat is on a mat in some possible world?). I only bring this up because I want you to clarify what the point was to bring up "the cat on the mat".

Quote:

And, what reason have we to believe that "right" and "wrong" are real properties?


First, I'd like to know what you mean by "real" here. Do you mean tangible? Well, not all properties are tangible. I am not sure what reason we have to believe that "right" and "wrong" are not properties. Why do you believe that "right" and "wrong" cannot be properties of states of affairs?
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 11:05 am
@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


Well, most arguments about ethics are persuasive, more so than in other areas because people are more adamant about their moral beliefs. And I don't know if there are moral rules that can be set in stone and said to be truth. He's right as far as that goes.

Quote:
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?


I see it more like this:

A. I think I'll go to Paris this summer, I'll love it.
B. I know you, you would like Rome better

This is an intelligent disagreement. B is saying that he knows A's nature, what he wants out of a visit to a city, and that he knows which city matches up better to that desire.

In the same way, if we know what people want out of a society, then we could create moral rules that achieve that.

It's just extremely difficult, because people and societies vary and change over time. But I do think there is a rational basis for it, even if it's a bit nebulous.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 01:27 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113273 wrote:
What is the proof that ethical propositions do not respresent facts or state of affairs? What makes one believe that when we express moral propositions, we are not using rationality?



I brought up consensus because sometimes moral relativists dismiss the blatantly obvious intersubjectivity for moral propositions. Everything is clearly not relative, and we agree on much. You are correct, though, consensus is not what makes something true or false. I never meant to imply this.



What do you mean by this? Do you mean that we can theoretically observe cats on mats, but we cannot theoretically observe that it is wrong to molest young women? Well, this is true. But what does that tell us? There are many scientific and otherwise objective truths which we cannot actively, if at all, observe. And don't you think there are some properties you cannot observe or even understand? Perhaps a mathematical equation has various properties that a non-mathematician can't comprehend. Do you think this is possible?

And "the cat is on the mat" is not always a posteriori knowledge. We can have a priori knowledge that the cat is on the mat, too (Isn't it true that "the cat is on the mat" is true if a cat is on a mat in some possible world?). I only bring this up because I want you to clarify what the point was to bring up "the cat on the mat".



First, I'd like to know what you mean by "real" here. Do you mean tangible? Well, not all properties are tangible. I am not sure what reason we have to believe that "right" and "wrong" are not properties. Why do you believe that "right" and "wrong" cannot be properties of states of affairs?


Stevenson is talking about empirical knowledge. Knowledge based on sense-observation, either directly or indirectly (inferentially). There is much theoretical knowledge in science. That is why we talk about "theoretical science". Our knowledge of unobservables like electrons, or strings, or other scientific exotica, is based on what we can and do observe, and the unobservable is posited to explain the observable. But in that way, unobservables (theoretical entities) are tied to what is observable. What Stevenson (and empiricist) is saying is that ethical properties have no such liason with the observable.

That it is logically possible for the cat to be on the mat is not empirical knowledge, of course. But when I assert that it is logically possible for the cat to be on the mat, I am not asserting that there is a cat on the mat. Let's not confuse the possible with the actual.

"Real" in philosophy (as in, "that oasis is real (not a mirage)" always means independent of mind. Real is what would exist whether you were around or not. Whether you existed or not. It doesn't mean "tangible". Electrons are real, but electrons are not tangible.

Some have held that there is non-empirical knowledge of ethical properties, of course. They have postulated a faculty like ethical intuition to explain how we can know about such properties. But, there is always the question, what is the evidence for such a faculty?

Last: I am not espousing ethical non-cognitivism here. I am only expounding it. There is a big difference. And there are variations on ethical non-cognitivism too. Stevenson's is not the only one. But it is one of the best known, and one of the best argued for. I brought it up because of Stevenson's notion of the role reason plays in moral argument (or rather, does not play in moral argument). A book written sometime after Stevenson''s was Stephen Toulmin's, The Place of Reason in Ethics, that takes a very different view.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 04:30 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113252 wrote:


Suppose we select a random group of 50 rational, semi-educated people. We give them two propositions:

1.) It is wrong to molest and murder 12-year-old girls.
2.) Water is composed of H2O.

I claim that there will be just as much consensus for both. That is, I believe most people will claim both of these propositions are true.

What about ethical propositions makes us believe they cannot hold the same sort of truth a scientific proposition can?


Who checks the random group for rationality and semi-education? Those are loaded words, loaded with your personal taste in ethics. Of course I agree that only a sociopath would argue with (1) and either a fool or a cutting edge scientist would argue with (2). But those are also loaded words. Objective science persuades us by means of the technology it makes possible. Ethics persuade us perhaps with the societies they make possible. But I don't see how taste can be removed from the equation. IIt also seems that our moral taste is largely conditioned. Haven't soldiers raped and murdered in enemy countries and gotten away with it? So circumstance is a big factor. War-man is not like peace-man. I think it's because our society is rife with ethical (political) disagreements that makes some doubt the objectivity of ethics. Questions of war and welfare are directly related to ethics. Should income be redistributed? Is there an objective answer to this? Age of consent laws? Legalization of marijuana? A person will find arguments to defend what side appeals to them. Pro-life versus pro-choice. Right-to-die movement. Is it better to die young after a great life or old after a mediocre life? I don't see objective answers to these issues.
 
mickalos
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 04:47 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113273 wrote:
What is the proof that ethical propositions do not respresent facts or state of affairs? What makes one believe that when we express moral propositions, we are not using rationality?

'If rape is wrong' is to represent a fact or a state of affairs, rape would have to have the property of wrongness; a real, metaphysical property. This would be a very strange sort of property, indeed. You can't simply reduce wrongness to factual statements such as 'is cruel', because of the is-ought problem, how do we go from what is to what we ought to do? It is certainly not an entailment, but nor is it entirely unconnected. What would it be for the supposedly real property of wrongness to be uninstantiated? i.e. How would the world be different if rape were not wrong? Assuming they do exist, how do we come to know moral facts?

These questions might demonstrate to you that moral objectivity runs so contrary to what we know about epistemology and metaphysics that it cannot be true. For example, we want to say that we know that there aren't strange platonic forms floating about in the world. I've certainly never perceived them. In this case you can simply say that wrongness is never instantiated, and all first order moral statements are false. However, you might want to go further, and say that the questions raised demonstrate that the idea of a real property of wrongness is utterly incomprehensible. Moral statements are not simply false, they have no descriptive meaning whatsoever. Thus they are neither true or false in their description of the world, they are meaningless.



Quote:
I brought up consensus because sometimes moral relativists dismiss the blatantly obvious intersubjectivity for moral propositions. Everything is clearly not relative, and we agree on much. You are correct, though, consensus is not what makes something true or false. I never meant to imply this.
The lack of consensus, especially among different societies, does seem to show that if there were moral facts, we cannot know what they are, or even know of them, which supports moral scepticism. If we have no evidence for these properties, we might say that we are justified in saying that they do not exist. It supports non-cognitivism if you adopt verificationist principles.

Quote:
What do you mean by this? Do you mean that we can theoretically observe cats on mats, but we cannot theoretically observe that it is wrong to molest young women? Well, this is true. But what does that tell us? There are many scientific and otherwise objective truths which we cannot actively, if at all, observe. And don't you think there are some properties you cannot observe or even understand? Perhaps a mathematical equation has various properties that a non-mathematician can't comprehend. Do you think this is possible?
If you believe that there are these unknowable properties (how you could possibly be justified in such a belief is beyond me), then we would still not be able to say that molesting a young woman is wrong, which is what people who are arguing for objectivity want to say. We would merely be able to say that we don't know whether or not we ought to molest a young woman, which I think is incorrect.

Quote:
And "the cat is on the mat" is not always a posteriori knowledge. We can have a priori knowledge that the cat is on the mat, too (Isn't it true that "the cat is on the mat" is true if a cat is on a mat in some possible world?). I only bring this up because I want you to clarify what the point was to bring up "the cat on the mat".
If "the cat is on the mat" is true in some possible world (that is not the actual world), then it is possible, not true. An unactualized possibility, you might say.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 05:40 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113246 wrote:
Well, you suggested that when you suggested that Stevenson's views about ethical reasoning could be applied to all reasoning. Since, Stevenson's views about ethical reasoning depends on the notion that truth and falsity are inapplicable in ethical reasoning.

---------- Post added 12-21-2009 at 09:16 AM ----------



But Stevenson (not Stephenson) begins with a non-cognitive view of ethics (sometimes called "emotive"). It is that non-cognitivism that you are challenging. Of course, without that non-cognitive basis of ethics, Stevenson's persuasive theory makes no sense. For Stevenson, ethical disagreement is a matter of a clash of attitudes, and not true or false as in science. The two principles in your story have different attitudes about autonomy for the territory. One prefers it; the other does not. They no more disagree than the person who likes Paris disagrees with the Person who prefers Rome.


The question remains then if there is no basis for ethical judgement in fact, that what is the criteria for deciding the right course of action in regards to an ethical decision? Are there any criteria? Or are the criteria simply what society decides to be suitable? So that, for example, if a large enough group of people began to argue persuasively for the decriminalisation of cannibalism or incest, we would have to agree with them.

What the argument is saying it that there is no truth, only facts, of which we may or may not provide an accurate account. So regarding cannibalism or incest, there is no factual basis for declaring these immoral. It is simply a matter of consensus.

Do I understand him right?
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 05:49 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113336 wrote:
Who checks the random group for rationality and semi-education? Those are loaded words, loaded with your personal taste in ethics. Of course I agree that only a sociopath would argue with (1) and either a fool or a cutting edge scientist would argue with (2). But those are also loaded words. Objective science persuades us by means of the technology it makes possible. Ethics persuade us perhaps with the societies they make possible. But I don't see how taste can be removed from the equation. IIt also seems that our moral taste is largely conditioned. Haven't soldiers raped and murdered in enemy countries and gotten away with it? So circumstance is a big factor. War-man is not like peace-man. I think it's because our society is rife with ethical (political) disagreements that makes some doubt the objectivity of ethics. Questions of war and welfare are directly related to ethics. Should income be redistributed? Is there an objective answer to this? Age of consent laws? Legalization of marijuana? A person will find arguments to defend what side appeals to them. Pro-life versus pro-choice. Right-to-die movement. Is it better to die young after a great life or old after a mediocre life? I don't see objective answers to these issues.


My point was that (I believe) you will find the same consensus between most moral propositions as you will find for most scientific propositions. But, as noted, consensus isn't key; it doesn't determine whether moral propositions hold truth.

mickalos wrote:
'If rape is wrong' is to represent a fact or a state of affairs, rape would have to have the property of wrongness; a real, metaphysical property. This would be a very strange sort of property, indeed. You can't simply reduce wrongness to factual statements such as 'is cruel', because of the is-ought problem, how do we go from what is to what we ought to do? It is certainly not an entailment, but nor is it entirely unconnected. What would it be for the supposedly real property of wrongness to be uninstantiated? i.e. How would the world be different if rape were not wrong? Assuming they do exist, how do we come to know moral facts?


I think we can reference moral facts in much the same way we would reference most other facts. I am sure you agree that "Quito is the capital of Ecuador" is a fact. Here we have two names, "Quito" and "Ecuador", and an abstract notion "capital". I could point to Quito and say "This is the capital", in much the same way I could point to an 8-year-old getting raped and say, "This is wrong". Are you say that events themselves cannot have properties, or do you only think that moral events cannot have properties?

Quote:
These questions might demonstrate to you that moral objectivity runs so contrary to what we know about epistemology and metaphysics that it cannot be true.


I think this is an overstatement. I don't think any of this shows that it cannot be true, but that it's harder to demonstrably prove true.

Quote:
Moral statements are not simply false, they have no descriptive meaning whatsoever. Thus they are neither true or false in their description of the world, they are meaningless.


I argue they do have descriptive meaning. "Right" and "wrong" can, and do, describe acts. "Right" and "Wrong" may be referring to many things, many things which do have physical manifestations. And do you think it is an arbitrary process that one uses to come to believe something is wrong or right?

Quote:
The lack of consensus, especially among different societies, does seem to show that if there were moral facts, we cannot know what they are, or even know of them, which supports moral scepticism.


Neither consensus nor lack of consensus demonstrate that we can or cannot know something. But there is much consensus, and I think you know there is. I do not know why you say there is not.

Quote:
If we have no evidence for these properties, we might say that we are justified in saying that they do not exist. It supports non-cognitivism if you adopt verificationist principles.


A justification that they exist could be consensus. This does not mean that it is true they exist, but that there may be justification for them existing. The verificationist principle states that all ethical and aesthetic propositions are meaningless; that is, they say nothing about the world. You think this is true? It just seems that "meaningless" is too harsh of a word. Even if we agree that moral and aesthetic propositions are different, or less conclusive, does that necessitate they are meaningless?

Quote:
If "the cat is on the mat" is true in some possible world (that is not the actual world), then it is possible, not true. An unactualized possibility, you might say.


A possible proposition is a proposition which is true in at least one possible world. That is what I meant. I did not mean true in the actual world, so you would be correct.

In the end, I think I agree with your position, and I think I disagree with mine. But, I am still unsure. I await your responses in a hope I can be persuaded.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 06:24 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113305 wrote:
"Real" in philosophy (as in, "that oasis is real (not a mirage)" always means independent of mind. Real is what would exist whether you were around or not. Whether you existed or not. It doesn't mean "tangible". Electrons are real, but electrons are not tangible.


This view is contestable. Nothing 'independent of mind' can be demonstrated, because to demonstate or consider the reality of an object is to think about it. Whether it exists independently of your thinking about it is contestable. At best it is a pragmatic assumption. This does not mean that if you are not thinking about it, it doesn't exist - it does not come into, or go out of, existence, depending on whether you think of it or not. But any judgement about its existence is a judgement about its perceived existence. Likewise to insist on the existence of a reality independent of perception is to insist that there is a perspective which is independent of all perspectives, when in fact there is no such perspective.

Te example given was an electron. The existence of 'sub-atomic particles' is also contestable. For example, Richard Feynmann suggested that there is 'only one electron in the universe'. The fact that under some circumstances electrons can be understood as a wave function, and under others, as a particle, indicates that the way in which they exist, if in fact they do exist, is completely different to the way in which ordinary objects of perception exist.

So the attempts by positivists to correlate the foundations of knowledge with what is 'really there' is just a type of absolutism which insists that one class of judgements is superior to judgements of other kinds.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 08:32 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113353 wrote:
I could point to Quito and say "This is the capital", in much the same way I could point to an 8-year-old getting raped and say, "This is wrong".


What does the word "wrong" mean here? How does one verify this property if not by personal taste/ethics, or consensus?

At the same time "Quito"-as-capital is based on consensus and nothing else, as far as I can see." So in a way, I agree with this statement of yours I quoted.

It's terrible (in my eyes), this theoretical abuse of children, but some see it as right somehow. There's so much consensus on this that it's a deceptive example.

Perhaps we should consider homosexuality between consenting adults. What does it mean when someone says this is wrong? What does it mean in a culture where the majority describes it this way?

It seems that individuality is related to the ability to go against moral consensus, both in "right" and "wrong" ways according to taste.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 09:23 pm
@kennethamy,
What I'm really trying to explore is thus:

First, what exactly is the method we use to come to a moral proposition? And, then, after detailing this - Why do we assume that this method is inferior to the scientific method in terms of discovering truth? We cannot assume that the scientific method is an objective method simply because it discovers objective truths, any more than we can assume the method we use to come to moral propositions is a subjective method simply because it discovers subjective truths. And, as noted, even with subjective methods, we can come to objective truths.

So, I know most of you are convinced that morality is not mind-independent; that is, morality is purely subjective. But, I ask, is it possible that moral propositions are objective, that they do express something not dependent on the mind?

Reconstructo wrote:
What does the word "wrong" mean here? How does one verify this property if not by personal taste/ethics, or consensus?


Well, if we say Quito is the capital, and we say a property of Quito is that it is a capital, just what are we doing? Are we applying a verifiable property? The city will be the city, no matter what we call it, will it not? The city is surely objective, but what we dub it, doesn't seem to be. So, if "Quito is a capital" is a fact, why can't something like, "Rape is wrong", be a fact? I am not saying it is - I am asking what is the difference between these two propositions. I suppose the only difference is that "capital" is referencing something physical (the city), and some may say "wrong" is not. But I don't see how that justifies that "Quito is a capital" is a fact any more than "Rape is wrong" is.

What am I missing here?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 09:28 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113393 wrote:
But I don't see how that justifies that "Quito is a capital" is a fact any more than "Rape is wrong" is.

What am I missing here?


You make a good point: "wrong" and "capital" are both abstractions.

I don't think that what humans call "wrong" is random, and a person could poll how the word is used, find patterns.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 09:42 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113394 wrote:
You make a good point: "wrong" and "capital" are both abstractions.

I don't think that what humans call "wrong" is random, and a person could poll how the word is used, find patterns.


"The game tennis exists" is a fact, right? And tennis is also an abstract notion. A tennis player, on the other hand, would be a concrete notion.

But how do we point to tennis? How do we point to game? I can point to a tennis match, and call it a game, but what does that do me? If all I need do to make "The game tennis exists" a fact is point to a tennis match and say, "This is the game tennis", why can't I do the same with moral propositions? Why can't I point to a state of affairs, like someone raping someone, and say, "This is wrong", and come home with a fact?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 09:49 pm
@kennethamy,
It's a fact that you said "this is wrong." But what is a fact, really? It's also based on consensus/belief. It's information that corresponds with our image of the world. So in way, I can completely agree with you. If a person or group experiences the property of wrongness in an action, that wrongness is just as real as tennis or chess. The way i see it, all language is symbolic like that. You've got words that refer to objects and object words that comes from object-words used metaphorically until the object-metaphor is forgotten. "wrong" seems like one of those words use vagueness adds to its convenience. So much depends on context, the emotion of one's voice, and what it is directed at. The etymology doesn't give us an original metaphor. Maybe it's something ultra-vague and basic like the word "no." Seems like some words are associated by the baby with mom's gestures and actions. "wrong" is something that doesn't work with parents/teachers/cops/quiz shows?

Main Entry: 1wrong
Pronunciation: \ˈrȯŋ\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English wrang, from *wrang, adjective, wrong
Date: before 12th century
1 a : an injurious, unfair, or unjust act : action or conduct inflicting harm without due provocation or just cause b : a violation or invasion of the legal rights of another; especially : tort
2 : something wrong, immoral, or unethical; especially : principles, practices, or conduct contrary to justice, goodness, equity, or law
3 : the state, position, or fact of being or doing wrong: as a : the state of being mistaken or incorrect b : the state of being guilty
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 09:58 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113399 wrote:
"The game tennis exists" is a fact, right? And tennis is also an abstract notion. A tennis player, on the other hand, would be a concrete notion.

But how do we point to tennis? How do we point to game? I can point to a tennis match, and call it a game, but what does that do me? If all I need do to make "The game tennis exists" a fact is point to a tennis match and say, "This is the game tennis", why can't I do the same with moral propositions? Why can't I point to a state of affairs, like someone raping someone, and say, "This is wrong", and come home with a fact?


A tennis match is not the tennis game. You cannot point to the tennis game since it is an abstract object.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 10:00 pm
@Emil,
Emil;113404 wrote:
A tennis match is not the tennis game. You cannot point to the tennis game since it is an abstract object.


That is what I thought. So, then, my question is, how do we verify, "The game tennis exists" is a fact?
 
 

 
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