Non-Cognitivism, and Charles Stevenson

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mickalos
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 10:13 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113353 wrote:

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?

...

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.[I think this addresses similar questions to the above so I've put it here - Mickalos]


"Quito is the capital of Ecuador" is reducible to coherent empirical statements, e.g. Title 1, Article 2 of the Ecuadorian constitution states that Quito is the capital of Ecuador. I don't see any way the same can be done for "Rape is wrong". "Rape is wrong", after all, does not mean rape hurts, or rape is cruel, it means you ought not rape people. "There exists a moral fact such that people ought not rape each other"? I don't think this is particularly coherent, because I'm not sure what form this 'moral fact' is supposed to take. In what way can 'oughtness' exist in the world? I don't think there is any coherent way to answer that question other than saying that it can't exist.

On the other hand, when somebody says "People ought not rape each other," this does seem to be reducible to coherent expressions of emotions. For example, Rape: Boo! and people who rape others: boo! We try to say something about the world, and fail, but we do seem to express emotional attitudes to the idea of rape.


Quote:
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.


The incoherence of the idea of moral facts is the one that clinches it for me. If somebody could explain coherently what objective features of the world 'oughtness' is supposed to consist in I would happily agree that moral statements could be objectively true, however, I don't think that is possible. Even if they could give an adequate account of the 'oughtness' property, if there was no way of verifying it's existence, then I would be inclined to say that it is uninstantiated (although I would presumably be able to imagine a possible world where it is instantiated), and, therefore, that all first order moral statements are false.

Quote:
And do you think it is an arbitrary process that one uses to come to believe something is wrong or right?
To a large extent, yes. I don't think it is particularly different from whether or not you like pizza, or whether you think the cast of Gossip Girl is attractive, it's a matter of taste. Are "Pizza tastes good" or "The girl who plays Serena in Gossip Girl is hot" objectively true? No, they are matters of taste. Can you convince somebody that the Iraq war was wrong? Certainly. Can you convince people that pizza doesn't taste good? Perhaps, you might point out that it's really greasy. Can you convince somebody that Blake Lively is unattractive? You might point to that strange mole she has on her face.

Once we consider matters such as these from every angle it seems to me that it can only be subjective preferences and attitudes that determine our judgements on them. I think Hume expresses the position much better than I do: 'But after every circumstance, every relation is known, the understanding has no further room to operate, nor any object on which it could employ itself. The approbation or blame which then ensues, cannot be the work of the judgement, but of the heart; and is not a speculative proposition or affirmation, but an active feeling or sentiment.'


Quote:
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.
We might mostly agree that rape and pillage is wrong, but the vikings didn't. Slavery was accepted by most people for hundreds of years, as were laws based on race, property ownership, and gender. Moral beliefs have not been uniform over history.

Of course, nor have scientific beliefs. In fact, they've been more subject to change than moral beliefs. However, this is because more information has come to light on scientific matters over the years. You might argue that just as scientific knowledge has progressed, as has moral knowledge. Yet, what do we know about slavery and our fellow man that the Romans and Greeks didn't know? Nothing relevant, I would contend. My explanation on why we hold slavery to be wrong while Romans did not would be the same as my explanation for why we don't wear togas. Tastes and attitudes change over time.

Quote:

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?
I don't think consensus really implies anything in this case. Otherwise, surely it would imply that the consensus over slavery that existed in the past shows us that we are justified in believing that there used to be a moral fact to the effect that slavery was perfectly fine. Also, I'm not sure that moral facts would be the sorts of things that cause agreement, why should they? You are supposed to act morally regardless of your own beliefs, desires and attitudes. Another point to consider is, that when you ask somebody about why they take an ethical stance you are likely to be confronted with a cornucopia of different replies. Would this happen if there was a moral fact behind any consensus?

I don't accept a verifiability theory of descriptive meaning, but I do think a concept must be coherent in order to be meaningful, and I cannot envision a coherent concept of rightness and wrongness. I can get as far as 'a realm of moral facts that may be referred to', which seems to make sense, but if you were to ask me what on earth a moral fact is supposed to be I would have to accept that I have no idea of what such a thing might be or how it might exist. I wouldn't say ethical statements are meaningless (they express things about our attitudes), but I do not think they say anything about the world. In this sense, they are descriptively meaningless.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 10:40 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;113352 wrote:
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?


I don't know where everyone got this consensus business. Stevenson nowhere talks of consensus. And a fact is a truth. Stevenson is an emotivist. He holds that ethical sentences are neither true nor false, but that they express the attitudes of the speaker, and are attempts by the speaker to persuade others to share that same attitude. His "pattern of analysis" is: "X is right' = I prefer X. Do so as well.

It is worth repeating the Hume quote Mickalos kindly provided:

'But after every circumstance, every relation is known, the understanding has no further room to operate, nor any object on which it could employ itself. The approbation or blame which then ensues, cannot be the work of the judgement, but of the heart; and is not a speculative proposition or affirmation, but an active feeling or sentiment.'
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 11:19 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113406 wrote:
That is what I thought. So, then, my question is, how do we verify, "The game tennis exists" is a fact?


I don't know. But don't you think that there is a tennis game? It's hard to make sense of stuff without believing in abstract objects. As Norman Swartz wrote in Beyond Experience pp. 271-272.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 11:21 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113424 wrote:
I don't know where everyone got this consensus business. Stevenson nowhere talks of consensus. And a fact is a truth. Stevenson is an emotivist. He holds that ethical sentences are neither true nor false, but that they express the attitudes of the speaker, and are attempts by the speaker to persuade others to share that same attitude. His "pattern of analysis" is: "X is right' = I prefer X. Do so as well.


So then, I will ask again: what is the basis of ethical action, if ethical sentences are 'neither true nor false'. Does this mean that in the case of a vexing ethical judgement, the rightness or wrongness of a particular action, there is no actual standard by which the action can be judged? Or, does it just mean that talking about ethical judgements can't contain any factual information, but only 'efforts to persuade'? And is this is so, can there be a 'theory of ethics'?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 11:53 pm
@mickalos,
mickalos;113411 wrote:
"Quito is the capital of Ecuador" is reducible to coherent empirical statements, e.g. Title 1, Article 2 of the Ecuadorian constitution states that Quito is the capital of Ecuador. I don't see any way the same can be done for "Rape is wrong". "Rape is wrong", after all, does not mean rape hurts, or rape is cruel, it means you ought not rape people.

Rape is wrong means you ought not do it and Quito is the capital because it ought to be called so. That's the personal perspective, opinion.

Rape is also illegal, and not only "wrong." "Quito" is also the official name, for similar legal reasons.

During the US Civil War, the southern states had two popular names at the same time, depending on who you asked, both official.

---------- Post added 12-22-2009 at 12:56 AM ----------

kennethamy;113424 wrote:
He holds that ethical sentences are neither true nor false, but that they express the attitudes of the speaker, and are attempts by the speaker to persuade others to share that same attitude. His "pattern of analysis" is: "X is right' = I prefer X. Do so as well.

It's natural to start discussing consensus if/when ethical statements are neither true nor false. But then "true" and "false" are as complicated as "right" and "wrong."
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 11:57 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113439 wrote:
Rape is wrong means you ought not do it and Quito is the capital because it ought to be called so. That's the personal perspective, opinion.

.


Quito is the capital because it ought to be called so.

Just the converse is true. Quito ought to be called the capital because it is the capital.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 11:59 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.


A tennis match is also an abstract object.

---------- Post added 12-22-2009 at 12:59 AM ----------

kennethamy;113442 wrote:
Quito is the capital because it ought to be called so.

Just the converse is true. Quito ought to be called the capital because it is the capital.

One ought to call a city by its legal name, then? Yet it wouldn't be true that it was wrong for me to call it Boonoobia?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 12:03 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113443 wrote:
.

---------- Post added 12-22-2009 at 12:59 AM ----------


One ought to call a city by its legal name, then?


Of course. Naturally, that doesn't mean it ought to be called only by its legal name. New York City is also called "the big Apple", and Washington D.C. is also called, "the capital of the United States". And, The American Civil War is also called, "the war between the states". And Mark Twain is also called, "Sam Clemens".
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 12:13 am
@kennethamy,
Would it be wrong for me to call what others call Quito Noo-noo? Are names also ethical questions?

There are names we don't use for races, nationalities, sexual orientations, etc. because we ought not to. And because we ought not to certain laws get passed.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 12:24 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113447 wrote:
Would it be wrong for me to call what others call Quito Noo-noo? Are names also ethical questions?


Wrong? No. Incomprehensible and pointless? Yes. If I understand what you are asking, you are asking whether the statement that you ought to call Quito, "Quito" is an ethical statement. The answer is, no.The "ought" in that statement is not a moral "ought". Just as when I say, "Let's see, I think the restaurant we are looking for ought to be just up the street", I am not making a moral statement. That "ought" is not a moral "ought" either.

---------- Post added 12-22-2009 at 01:35 AM ----------

Reconstructo;113443 wrote:
A tennis match is also an abstract object.

---------- Post added 12-22-2009 at 12:59 AM ----------




No abstract objects have spatial or temporal properties
All tennis matches have spatial and temporal properties

No tennis matches are abstract objects.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 12:58 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;113451 wrote:
.The "ought" in that statement is not a moral "ought".
---------- Post added 12-22-2009 at 01:35 AM ----------


I'm not so sure.

kennethamy;113451 wrote:

No abstract objects have spatial or temporal properties
All tennis matches have spatial and temporal properties

No tennis matches are abstract objects.


What does a match look like? Not its associated objects, but the match itself....it's a relation we find between the objects

In philosophical terminology, abstraction is the thought process wherein ideas[1] are distanced from objects.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 07:03 am
@Emil,
Emil;113429 wrote:
I don't know. But don't you think that there is a tennis game? It's hard to make sense of stuff without believing in abstract objects. As Norman Swartz wrote in Beyond Experience pp. 271-272.


Yes, there are tennis games, and you can point to tennis games (as they have spatial and temporal relations). But, does my pointing to a tennis match, justify my saying "The game tennis exists" is a fact? But more than this, I'd like to know:

Why can't I point to a state of affairs, like someone raping someone, and say, "This is wrong", and come home also with a fact?

kennethamy wrote:
Just the converse is true. Quito ought to be called the capital because it is the capital.


How do we begin this is-ought game? What makes Quito the capital, so that I ought to call it the capital? I know, you're going to say that "capital" references those buildings, so that's why we ought to call it the capital. We ought to call a dog a dog, because a dog is a dog. But why can we not apply this to an ethical statement?
 
Emil
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 07:17 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113500 wrote:
Yes, there are tennis games, and you can point to tennis games (as they have spatial and temporal relations). But, does my pointing to a tennis match, justify my saying "The game tennis exists" is a fact? But more than this, I'd like to know:

Why can't I point to a state of affairs, like someone raping someone, and say, "This is wrong", and come home also with a fact?


Careful. Do not confuse tennis matches with a tennis game. You cannot point to the game but you can 'point' to matches. Matches are events but games are not. "game" sometimes means "match" but lets not use it that way.

I don't know if it justifies that there is a tennis game. Presumably non-realists think that it does not. I'm a tentative realist about abstract objects.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 08:01 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113500 wrote:


Why can't I point to a state of affairs, like someone raping someone, and say, "This is wrong", and come home also with a fact?



How do we begin this is-ought game? What makes Quito the capital, so that I ought to call it the capital? I know, you're going to say that "capital" references those buildings, so that's why we ought to call it the capital. We ought to call a dog a dog, because a dog is a dog. But why can we not apply this to an ethical statement?



1. Because of the kind of consideration Hume gives in the passage mickalos provided. A fact would be what makes a true statement true. The other consideration is one I have already given. There is no human faculty to recognize such a fact if there were one. There is no evidence for ethical intuition.


2. To say that I ought to call Quito the capital is only to say that it would be (as Kant might say) "prudent" to call it the capital. It would not be moral to call it the capital, but it would be beneficial to you to do so, since it would permit you to communicate with others. If, for instance, when you said, "I am going to the capital of Ecuador" you did not mean that you were going to Quito, people would not understand you. Or think you had made a mistake. The "ought" here is a prudential "ought", not a moral ought. When I say we ought to call Quito the capital, all I am saying is that if you want people to understand you, you will call Quito the capital. It is practical advice; not moral advice.

That makes it a fact that Quito is the capital is that it is designated the capital by the authoritative body. That is the de jure reason. The de facto reason is that it is internationally recognized as the capital.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 08:26 am
@kennethamy,
Emil wrote:

Careful. Do not confuse tennis matches with a tennis game. You cannot point to the game but you can 'point' to matches. Matches are events but games are not. "game" sometimes means "match" but lets not use it that way.


Sorry, I meant to type "tennis match" the first two times. I was trying to keep clear the distinction between match (concrete) and game (abstract). I completely agree: Game is the abstract, Match is the concrete. That is why I wanted to see how "The game tennis exists" is justified.

Quote:
I don't know if it justifies that there is a tennis game. Presumably non-realists think that it does not. I'm a tentative realist about abstract objects.


A tentative realist? What is that? You're an uncertain, or undeveloped, realist?

Reconstructo wrote:
What does a match look like? Not its associated objects, but the match itself....it's a relation we find between the objects


A tennis match has spatial and temporal properties, and a tennis game does not (as we are using game to designate the abstract and match to designate the concrete). You don't have to use this distinction, but make sure you use a distinction. Because it's very important you don't confuse the abstract with the concrete.

kenenthamy wrote:

1. Because of the kind of consideration Hume gives in the passage mickalos provided. A fact would be what makes a true statement true. The other consideration is one I have already given. There is no human faculty to recognize such a fact if there were one. There is no evidence for ethical intuition.


Is there no human faculty to recognize such a fact, or is there no fact to recognize?

What about ethical intutitionism do you find inconclusive? What makes you doubt that we can come to moral truths a priori, much like we do with mathematical truths?

Quote:

2. To say that I ought to call Quito the capital is only to say that it would be (as Kant might say) "prudent" to call it the capital. It would not be moral to call it the capital, but it would be beneficial to you to do so, since it would permit you to communicate with others. If, for instance, when you said, "I am going to the capital of Ecuador" you did not mean that you were going to Quito, people would not understand you. Or think you had made a mistake. The "ought" here is a prudential "ought", not a moral ought. When I say we ought to call Quito the capital, all I am saying is that if you want people to understand you, you will call Quito the capital. It is practical advice; not moral advice.


I understand. But it seems as though this prudential ought could be used also for moral propositions. Why do you think it could not be? It would lend to practicality when we communicate moral propositions.

Quote:

That makes it a fact that Quito is the capital is that it is designated the capital by the authoritative body. That is the de jure reason. The de facto reason is that it is internationally recognized as the capital.


And what makes it a fact that rape is wrong is that it is considered wrong by many authoritative bodies. That is the de jure reason. And the de facto reason is that rape is recognized by most to be wrong.

It just doesn't hold here? I seem to be missing a piece of the puzzle, or have convoluted the matter.
 
Emil
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 10:29 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113517 wrote:
Sorry, I meant to type "tennis match" the first two times. I was trying to keep clear the distinction between match (concrete) and game (abstract). I completely agree: Game is the abstract, Match is the concrete. That is why I wanted to see how "The game tennis exists" is justified.

A tentative realist? What is that? You're an uncertain, or undeveloped, realist?


Yes, something like that. I mean that I think that there is something horribly amiss about realism about abstract objects but I cannot think of a way to make sense of things without a realist thesis. Pretty much the same as Swartz wrote in the book I linked to. (Read the two pages.)
 
fast
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 01:09 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113517 wrote:
That is why I wanted to see how "The game tennis exists" is justified.
If the game tennis has properties (which I believe it does), then it exists, for things that have properties exist.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 01:20 pm
@fast,
fast;113569 wrote:
If the game tennis has properties (which I believe it does), then it exists, for things that have properties exist.


"Tennis" has properties? Abstract notions have properties? So, you think "capital" has properties? What are the properties of "capital"?

Wouldn't a tennis match have the properties, and a particular capital (like Quito) have the properties?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 02:42 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;113571 wrote:
"Tennis" has properties? Abstract notions have properties? So, you think "capital" has properties? What are the properties of "capital"?

Wouldn't a tennis match have the properties, and a particular capital (like Quito) have the properties?


The word "capital" has properties (it begins with a 'c') If you don't mean the word, "capital" (or what businessmen seek to expand their businesses) then I don't know what you mean by "capital".
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 22 Dec, 2009 02:48 pm
@kennethamy,
A match and a game are different. The game is more abstract. But a match too is abstract, however concrete its elements.

Is there an obvious line between the prudent and the moral? To be prudent is moral, in that prudence is evidence of sanity. To be moral is prudent, in that one avoids the punishment of the tribe.
 
 

 
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