• Echarmion
    502
    I think enotivism is just wrong as a matter of fact. Beyond the question whether a truth value for moral statements can be established, it seems obvious to me that people don't just express an emotion when they make moral statements.

    If we look, for example, at deeply religious people, there is a clear distinction between what they personally feel and what they think the will of the divine is.
  • khaled
    803
    With certain assumptions/rules yes. So if something like "Lying is wrong" is a starting assumtion then "Lying to your frined is wrong" is true. Is "Lying is wrong" true or false though? That depends on the person. You use some statements such as "lying is wrong" to prove the truth of falsity of other statements but whether or not you consider those starting assumtions to be true depends on the person. So if you're looking to assign a certain moral statement (or any statement for that matter) a truth value regardless of context or starting assumtions then I don't think you can do that.
  • Wittgenstein
    172

    I would divide emotivism into two further categories.
    1.Overt emotivism regards the utterance of moral statements as attitudes in a descriptive form.
    Hence the statement "killing is bad" is a description of the statement "l hate killing". So according to overt emotivist we can replace these two statements. This theory is really week in my opinion.
    2.Covert emotivism may be a little tricky since they tend to replace hate,despise, fear etc with bad , evil , immoral and so on in moral statements but they do not express attitudes as you have mentioned rightly.
    , it seems obvious to me that people don't just express an emotion when they make moral statements.
    Mind you, you can obviously disagree with the distinction but l think it's useful ( at least for me ) .
    Do you think covert emotivism is really common among public especially when they tend to defend some moral statements with ridiculous arguments. If it is common with public, academic are only good at hiding it and justifying the use of truth values.
  • Wittgenstein
    172

    With certain assumptions/rules yes. So if something like "Lying is wrong" is a starting assumtion then

    1. Yes, if we allow assumptions we can get far but we may end up confused when facing moral dilemma. Would you lie to a murderer knocking at your door inquiring about your family members ? Most people will lie in those circumstances because they weren't taking
    "lying is wrong " as a principal or a true statement but as an emotive statement which can neither be true or false.

    2. Do you think we can assign truth values to basic moral assumptions ?
  • khaled
    803
    Would you lie to a murderer knocking at your door inquiring about your family membersWittgenstein

    If "Lying is wrong" is the only moral assumption I'm making then it would bo wrong to lie to a murderer. To make it ok in that scenario you'd need something more detailed like: "Taking a course of action that can be reasonably inferred to incur a lot more suffering than other available options is wrong" for example would permit lying to said murderer. Also there is no reason to limit yourself to ONE of these moral assumptions but we as humans like it when someone makes as few assumptions as possible.

    Do you think we can assign truth values to basic moral assumptions ?Wittgenstein

    No. I don't think you can assign absolute truth values to anything. Moral assumptions (as well as other assumptions) are statements you proclaim to be true which allow for further reasoning but that leaves them open to someone coming along and saying "But actually I don't agree with the statement lying is wrong and I personally prefer the statement lying is right" and there is nothing you can do about that. There is no assumption you can assign a truth value to in such a way that makes it immune to someone coming along and disagreeing with it. It's just that as a society we tend to have many more shared assumptions than not, because people who don't share our assumptions end up dead or in jail
  • Terrapin Station
    11.7k
    We can assign truth values to statements about metaethics, for example.

    Including that this statement is true:

    "Normative ethical/moral stances have no truth value."
  • Terrapin Station
    11.7k


    If someone doesn't feel that x is morally right/permissible, etc., or that y is morally wrong/impermissible, etc., then I wouldn't say that "x is morally right..."/"y is morally wrong..." is a moral stance that they have.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.7k
    With certain assumptions/rules yes. So if something like "Lying is wrong" is a starting assumtion then "Lying to your frined is wrong" is true.khaled

    If someone were to say both "Lying is wrong" and "Lying to your friend is okay," then they're probably just not expressing their view very clearly or in enough detail or with enough qualifications. They're probably not saying something they'd agree is false (re "Lying to your fiend is okay") relative to "Lying is wrong" (assuming the idea of that really makes much sense in the first place) if they say both of those things.
  • Magnus Anderson
    335
    A moral statement such as "It is wrong to kill" in the majority of cases means "If you want to maximize your chances to attain certain goal G then you must not kill other people". Such a claim can either be true or false. So the answer to your question is yes, moral statements do have a truth value.

    In some cases, such a statement might simply mean "I don't want people to kill other people not because I want to attain some other goal but simply because I don't want that sort of stuff to happen". Such statements express a goal that is not subordinated to any other goal (an end in itself) as adopted by someone. Such statements, it is true, have no truth value.

    But most moral statements aren't of that sort.
  • Wittgenstein
    172

    That's really interesting and l agree with placing truth values on metaethic statements but I think that they belong to realm of logic and language . They are outside the domain of ethics in my opinion.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.7k
    That's really interesting and l agree with placing truth values on metaethic statements but I think that they belong to realm of logic and languageWittgenstein

    I'd say the realm of ontology, because it's talking about what ethics is/what its nature is, as an existent, so to speak.

    At any rate, I'm definitely an emotivist/noncognitivist--or subjectivist as I'd usually put it.
  • Wittgenstein
    172

    If "Lying is wrong" is the only moral assumption I'm making then it would bo wrong to lie to a murderer. To make it ok in that scenario you'd need something more detailed like: "Taking a course of action that can be reasonably inferred to incur a lot more suffering than other available options is wrong" for example would permit lying to said murderer.
    I think that response is classical Utilitarianism. That maxim can also have problems in certain cases like the following one. Should a judge sentence an innocent person to death to avoid mass rioting that can cause 100s of death ? Most people would not justify that. There is also another problem with maximizing happiness and reducing suffering because the consequences may not be achieved and yet the deeds may still be noble and good. Consider a firefighter who tries to save a baby but fails in the end. He hasn't reduced any suffering in the end but the act was clearly moral and good.

    No. I don't think you can assign absolute truth values to anything. Moral assumptions (as well as other assumptions) are statements you proclaim to be true which allow for further reasoning but that leaves them open to someone coming along and saying "But actually I don't agree with the statement lying is wrong and I personally prefer the statement lying is right" and there is nothing you can do about that. There is no assumption you can assign a truth value to in such a way that makes it immune to someone coming along and disagreeing with it.
    I want to clarify my point on what turns a statement into a proposition. Non cognitivism asserts that moral statements are incapable of having truth values, and that means assigning truth values i.e true or false is meaningless. Non--cognitivism doesn't imply that all moral statements have to be accepted as either true or false and it also doesn't imply that people cannot disagree with each other. It is an issue of logic and language and not that of ethics .
  • Brainglitch
    210
    People demonstrably can and do assign truth values to moral statements, just as we routinely assign truth values to claims ranging from "the cat is on the mat" to "water freezes at 0 degrees c" to "Jesus died for our sins."

    If there's a philosophically interesting issue it resides in how we justify our truth value assignments--which amounts to revealing what the difference between the "true" and "false" hinges on and amounts to in someone's judgment of the issue. God-given commandment? Historically and culturally situated norms? Personal conviction or preference or emotional "knowing"? Moral imperatives hovering out there in Kantland or tucked away on a shelf in Plato's cave? Queer entities or qualities or relations of a very strange sort, utterly different from anything else in the universe? Instrumental or pragmatic requirement?
  • Magnus Anderson
    335
    There is also another problem with maximizing happiness and reducing suffering because the consequences may not be achieved and yet the deeds may still be noble and good. Consider a firefighter who tries to save a baby but fails in the end. He hasn't reduced any suffering in the end but the act was clearly moral and good.Wittgenstein

    It's moral and good because people think it's better to try and fail than to not try at all. In other words, they think that if you make 10 mediocre attempts that you will be successful at least once (you'll save at least one baby) whereas if you try to make sure that every single attempt of yours is a successful one you will never make an attempt which means you'll fail 0 times and succeed 0 times (i.e. you'll save zero babies.) Although not apparent, moral decisions of this sort are still guided by projected consequences.
  • Echarmion
    502
    If someone doesn't feel that x is morally right/permissible, etc., or that y is morally wrong/impermissible, etc., then I wouldn't say that "x is morally right..."/"y is morally wrong..." is a moral stance that they have.Terrapin Station

    For a given definition of "feel", this may be accurate. It's not like you can somehow decouple your cognition from your feelings. But I think it would be wrong to dismiss the different role the justification plays for moral stances as opposed to emotions.

    An interesting parallel might be law. There is a school of thought which supposes that the application of legal rules is mostly governed by intuition, and the actual legal arguments are then formulated to support that intuition. But that doesn't make the legal arguments pointless, because knowing that you will need to support a stance, and what kind of support is considered adequate, will change your intuition.
  • tim wood
    2.9k
    No. I don't think you can assign absolute truth values to anything.khaled

    No? 2+2=4? Triangles have three sides and squares four?

    I think you're confusing truth with fact. Every fact is an historical fact (think about it). As such, the proposition that expresses the fact is reckoned true, if the fact recorded is reckoned true. Implicitly, then, there is recourse to some standard - the reckoning. With truths, the appeal is directly to reason, not history.

    The right question, imo, is to ask if there exists one - any - moral proposition that is true. E.g., "X is wrong; don't do X." A candidate: M, standing for: Murder is wrong; don't murder.

    If M is true, and I think it is, then it is fair to ask what makes it true. That answer will inform what other moral propositions might be true, and I think there are others.

    Or folks who care to, can try to explain how murder is not wrong.
  • khaled
    803
    If someone were to say both "Lying is wrong" and "Lying to your friend is okay," then they're probably just not expressing their view very clearly or in enough detail or with enough qualificationsTerrapin Station

    agreed
  • khaled
    803
    No? 2+2=4? Triangles have three sides and squares four?tim wood

    I meant anything non trivial. These statements are true by definition. This would be like saying "Lying is wrong therefore lying to your friend is wrong". Given the first assumptions "lying is wrong" the conclusion follows. In the case of math you need certain axioms such as (A=B and B=C => A=C) to prove many statements. One cannot "prove" that if A=B and B=C => A=C but every human ever has agreed with that statement so far so no one has had to

    If M is true, and I think it is, then it is fair to ask what makes it truetim wood

    The problem is, I think you can ask this "what makes it true" question forever.

    Murder is wrong
    Why
    Because it harms someone else which is bad
    Why
    Because harming other people is not repsecting their free will which is bad
    Why
    etc etc

    Eventually I believe you will have to try to find a statement the annoying why guy would agree with. I believe the best you can do when it comes to morality (or anything) is just find that axiom no one disagrees with.
  • khaled
    803
    I think that response is classical UtilitarianismWittgenstein

    Close but it’s closer to negative utilitarianism, I was just giving it as an example though. I know there are problems with it

    that means assigning truth values i.e true or false is meaninglessWittgenstein

    I don’t think it’s meaningless, I just don’t think you can assign a truth value to any statement without certain assumptions that are not proven. Moral statements can be true or false relative to starting assumptions
  • Terrapin Station
    11.7k
    For a given definition of "feel", this may be accurate.Echarmion

    But that's all we emotivists are referring to.

    But I think it would be wrong to dismiss the different role the justification plays for moral stances as opposed to emotions.Echarmion

    I'm not sure what this is saying.
  • tim wood
    2.9k
    The problem is, I think you can ask this "what makes it true" question forever.
    Murder is wrong
    Why
    Because it harms someone else which is bad
    Why
    Because harming other people is not respecting their free will which is bad
    Why
    etc etc
    khaled

    Are you prepared to let everything be hostage to the infant who just says why? And not only is there the endless "Why," but also all the kinds and forms of denial, evasion, and how-do-you-knows.

    Knowledge - everything - is potentially subject to radical doubt and denial. Opposing are reason and cultural norms. It's possible that in my ceremonial headdress I should wear three feathers to the left and two to the right. Sounds silly, but no doubt people have fought and been killed over equally silly-sounding and arbitrary strictures. But this could just stand as representative of cultural norms: important not to get too caught up in them.

    Reason, on the other hand, and to my way of thinking, in ethics/morality establishes a different, apodictic standard. Kant, if not the father of this kind of thinking, expressed it in its modern form that 250 years on is still the standard. But as you note, even reason requires some axioms and well-established presuppositions to support any theorems not themselves self-evident. Are you prepared to deny the possibility of such a system of thinking? If no reason, then how do you stand or even survive in the storms that would blow then?

    Reason can lead to a kind of certainty that facts cannot, notwithstanding that some folks get that backwards. In, "Murder is wrong," one finds an irrefutable proposition of reason.
  • khaled
    803
    Are you prepared to let everything be hostage to the infant who just says why?tim wood

    No. But where that infant begins and where a serious skeptic ends is completely subjective. And even if I personally am not prepared others might be and I have no grounds on which to criticize them other than pragmatic ones.
    Are you prepared to deny the possibility of such a system of thinking?tim wood

    No. That doesn't mean others aren't.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.7k


    Strong emotions, so strong that you can't imagine thinking otherwise, are not the same thing is reason. "Murder is wrong" isn't a result of reasoning. It's just a strong emotion.
  • tim wood
    2.9k
    "Murder is wrong" isn't a result of reasoning. It's just a strong emotion.Terrapin Station
    Not a result of reasoning? Let's start at square one. Terrapin: is murder wrong, yes or no?
  • tim wood
    2.9k
    But where that infant begins and where a serious skeptic ends is completely subjective.khaled

    Really? Completely subjective? And don't you rather mean where the infant ends...? Assuming a serious skeptic is not an infant, can you tell the difference between the two? And if the greatest thinkers whoever lived are indistinguishable from infants, then where are you an that scale?

    Maybe it's just a game to take a stance of anti-reason, to deny reason, but all that is, is a self-proclamation of being a fool.

    and I have no grounds on which to criticize them other than pragmatic ones.khaled

    Two points. Pragmatic grounds are either reasoned or they are not, and that aside, you still have reason. Or are you content for the bad people to come and murder you and yours. Oh! Wait! You can't call them bad people; you have no reason to!

    Please start making sense or at least stop with the nonsense.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.7k
    Not a result of reasoning? Let's start at square one. Terrapin: is murder wrong, yes or no?tim wood

    Sure, I feel that it is wrong. That's not a result of reasoning. It's an emotional disposition that I have.
  • khaled
    803
    And don't you rather mean where the infant ends...?tim wood

    yea, typo

    Assuming a serious skeptic is not an infant, can you tell the difference between the two?tim wood

    I can, others may disagree with me.

    Maybe it's just a game to take a stance of anti-reason, to deny reason, but all that is, is a self-proclamation of being a fool.tim wood

    Yup I agree. I'm saying there is no stopping the fool by calling him a fool. He doesn't think he is, he thinks we're the fools. I'm not taking that stance, I'm pointing out that taking the stance of reason cannot stop someone form taking a stance of anti reason

    Two points. Pragmatic grounds are either reasoned or they are not, and that aside, you still have reason.tim wood

    I don't get this. What's "reasoned pragmatic grounds" and "unreasoned pragmatic grounds"

    Oh! Wait! You can't call them bad people; you have no reason to!tim wood

    I can and would, it just doesn't actually stop them unless they themselves believe murder is wrong (which they probably don't).

    The only point I'm making is that reason is society bound which is why using it against those who don't want to use it will never work. Calling a fool a fool doesn't do anything. And there were times when the most intelligent people were called fools for the longest time. I, personally, am a fan of reason but if someone isn't there is nothing I can do to convince him. Calling him a fool won't work (if he truely is anti reason) but I still WILL. That's all I'm saying
  • ChatteringMonkey
    248
    Ethics or morality is neither subjective nor objective, but collective or intersubjective if you will. And as such they are a real feature of groups that has consequences. Eventhough you cannot verify them empirically like facts, you can test what the moral standards are in a certain group by gaging into the attitudes of people... Punching babies in the face on Times Square will get you into trouble.

    So yes you can assign truthvalues to statements in ethics, with the caveat that those statements are necessarily limited to a specific social context.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.7k
    Ethics or morality is neither subjective nor objective, but collective or intersubjective if you willChatteringMonkey

    How would an intersubjective value obtain?
  • ChatteringMonkey
    248


    Don't quite understand what you mean, sorry. Care to elaborate?
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