• Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    I don't say that you can't reason once you've stated your preferences. I say that (effectively) foundational moral stances can't be reasoned (and oughts can't be reasoned period per what I explained above as comments about Adler's claim otherwise). I just don't write all of that out all the time because it's wordy, it's laborious to write it all out, and it seems to me like it should be obvious.

    So, for example, if we know that John thinks it's immoral to not let people freely live anywhere in the world that they'd like to live (or we could look at this from John's perspective just as well), then we could very well reason that John is probably going to think it's immoral to call ICE to raid his favorite restaurant, where he know a number of illegals are working (or from John's perspective, he could easily conclude this). But none of this makes the moral part something other than personal preferences. (And John could conclude otherwise--but it would be very odd for him to, we'd probably want further qualifications, etc.)
  • Magnus Anderson
    336
    I don't say that you can't reason once you've stated your preferences.Terrapin Station

    The point I am trying to make, which you seem to disagree with, is that most moral statements aren't mere expressions of one's personal preferences.

    For example, in most cases, when someone says "Lying is wrong" they are not merely stating that they do not like to lie. Rather, what they are saying is "If I lie I won't be able to attain my goals".

    In most cases, "Lying is wrong" is equivalent to "If I lie I won't attain my goals". (This means that moral statements do have truth value.)
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    In most cases, "Lying is wrong" is equivalent to "If I lie I won't attain my goals". (This means that moral statements do have a truth value.)Magnus Anderson

    I don't agree with that as an empirical matter (that most moral utterances are only going to amount to the conditions necessary for some goal--my side of the bet would be on most people really having reactions for or against certain behaviors on a gut level), but again, I wouldn't say that "If I do x, then y is/is not achievable" is a moral utterance in the first place. So you'd be saying that most apparently moral utterances aren't moral utterances at all.
  • tim wood
    3.4k
    Are you trying to learn there? Or is this you wanting to be a teacher and being offended that you're not accepted as such?Terrapin Station

    Congratulation! You have earned a spot on the mere-S troll list. You''re only the second enlistee. That means I hold that you have removed all doubt as to your being a troll, and you earn thereby the epithet all trolls deserve. Fuck off! I shall waste no more time on you, but I will, when and as seems appropriate to me, warn others of your troll-like qualities.
  • tim wood
    3.4k
    Whenever you ask someone a question such as "Is X Y?" you are asking for their opinion.Magnus Anderson

    Really? Always? Is two plus two four? Are those nice folks over there your parents? Do you live on planet earth? Your answers to these and all other questions are just your expressions of your opinion? Is there anything that you know?

    I observe that in this thread you have offered interpretations of a simple question that do not include just the simple question itself. Why is that?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Congratulation! You have earned a spot on the mere-S troll list. You''re only the second enlistee. That means I hold that you have removed all doubt as to your being a troll, and you earn thereby the epithet all trolls deserve. Fuck off! I shall waste no more time on you, but I will, when and as seems appropriate to me, warn others of your troll-like qualities.tim wood

    That certainly seems like you being here to learn.
  • thewonder
    412

    I would tend to be inclined towards non-cognitivism/emotivism, but don't necessarily agree with the distinction. Ethical arguments are colored by emotional appeals, but the attempt to parcel out an ethic can be concerned with abstract truths. I would reject that such truths exist, but do not think that the parties who put forth such an argument are necessarily making an emotional appeal.

    Ethics is an experiment in how to live well collectively. Whether or not an action can be considered to be right or wrong is particular to each and every given situation.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Really? Always? Is two plus two four? Are those nice folks over there your parents? Do you live on planet earth? Your answers to these and all other questions are just your expressions of your opinion? Is there anything that you know?tim wood

    First, there's a sense of "opinion" that refers to one's view on a factual matter. This is the sense in which you receive opinions--including second opinions, from physicians. This is also the sense in which we write sentences such as "Einstein does not share the opinion held by most of us that there is overwhelming evidence for quantum mechanics."
  • EricH
    72
    I have a question for you. Is murder wrong?tim wood

    Long post coming up, bear with me . . .

    This discussion began with a reference to an entry in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entitled "Moral Cognitivism vs. Non-Cognitivism". The OP asked for opinions on this article.

    I tried reading this and have to confess that I could not get through it - it was too dense and jargon laden for me. However, the summary at the top of the article is reasonably clear and I believe I get the gist of things.

    Basically the article is a survey of contemporary philosophical schools of thought regarding statements about morality. The author groups these schools of thought into two large categories - Moral Cognitivism vs. Moral Non-Cognitivism. There are also many sub-categories.

    Based on the opening summary, you seem to be on the side of Moral Cognitivism and in particular you seem to be a moral realist. Per the article, "... moral realists are cognitivists insofar as they think moral statements are apt for robust truth and falsity and that many of them are in fact true."
    I.e., I believe you would assert that the statement "Murder is wrong" is a true statement. Please correct me if I am mis-representing you.

    Terrapin, on the other hand, falls into the Non-cognitivist camp. Again, per the article, "non-cognitivists think that moral statements have no substantial truth conditions".

    So asking the question "Is murder wrong, yes or no?" cannot possibly be a starting point for discussion since this statement assumes that Moral Cognitivism is correct. To continue this thought, even if a person were to answer this "No" - that too is a statement that only a Moral Cognitivist would make - albeit one that you would disagree with. I.e., by asserting that "Murder is OK" a person is asserting a truth value about a moral statement and (at the risk of repeating myself) non-cognitivists think that moral statements have no substantial truth conditions.

    Putting it another way, the question "Is murder wrong, yes or no?" is *not* a simple question since there is a hidden assumption behind the question - namely that the question must be answered within the context of Moral Cognitivism.

    So it is pointless to continue asking Terrapin the same question over and over since Terrapin is of the opinion that the question itself is wrong. Now could Terrapin find a way to answer you more clearly and respectfully? Perhaps - I wish both of you would be more respectful to each other; the name calling is distracting and does not contribute to the discussion. I do disagree with you that Terrapin is a troll, he may be arrogant, he may be totally wrong, but I am not seeing any trolling.

    Oh - and I also disagree with Terrapin that you are a troll. :wink:

    Perhaps you have already done so - in which case I apologize for the implication - but I respectfully suggest that you read the full article from the OP. I do not follow all the discussions, but there seem to be some interesting objections to Non-Cognitivism in sections 4 & 5. I could be wrong (it happens on a regular basis) but if you want to poke holes in Terrapin's Non-cognitivist position? That seems like a more fruitful approach.
  • Wittgenstein
    207

    I wrote this earlier on but l think it addresses your statement here ,
    . I would reject that such truths exist, but do not think that the parties who put forth such an argument are necessarily making an emotional appeal.

    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.
  • thewonder
    412

    I am somewhat confused by your distinction.

    I do think that it is possible for someone to level an Ethical argument concerning abstract truths without, wittingly or not, substituting that something is not Ethically valid with that it is socially disagreeable. I don't agree with such reasoning as I don't think that there are abstract Ethical truths, and I think that whether or not something is socially disagreeable can be relevant.

    I also think that Emotivism partially assumes that an appeal to emotions invalidates an argument which I would also, to some degree, reject.
  • Wittgenstein
    207

    Non Cognivitism has many other positions which haven't been discussed here yet. I hope we can discuss them one by one as the article states that

    Since non-cognitivism is a species of irrealism about ethics, it should be unsurprising that many of its main motivations overlap with those for other versions of ethical irrealism
    It is possible that most non cognitivists support a hybrid theory with various ethical irealist ideas overlapping.

    Prescriptivists suggest that moral judgments are a species of prescriptive judgement and that moral sentences in the indicative mood are semantically more akin to imperatives than indicatives.

    Universal prescriptivism suggests that moral statements like " stealing is wrong " act as "do no steal" since the main aim of moral statements is that they should be followed. What differs moral prescriptions from other imperatives statements like " you should not litter here " is the universal character of the imperative. They act as a command to the agent,the one at whom it is directed and all similar cases in society too. There is another problem with imperative statements, while most philosophers find it difficult to strictly indicate what falls under following but they generally state " having intentions to carry out order " falls under it. I may have missed the specifics but this is the gist of it.

    Quasi Realism as the name suggests, is another branch of counter realism in ethics which seeks to explain why we treat ethical statements as being apt for truth values, especially in the society without basing their grounds on cognitivism. They reject that moral statements can have truth values attached to them on epistemic grounds. The positivist rejected moral language as being outside the domain of logic and scientific statements and hence meaningless as the article hints
    Hence they fail tests for meaningful discourse proposed by logical positivists.

    Expressivism is akin to emotivism as they have taken similar lines of reasoning however there is a fine distinction between them.
    In recent years, however, the term ‘expressivist’ has come to be used in a narrower way, to refer to views which attempt to construct a systematic semantics for moral sentences by pairing them with the states of mind that the sentences are said to express. Such expressivists hold that the meanings of all sentences containing moral terms are determined by the mental states that they serve to express.
    While the emotivist may fall under two broad different categories such as behaviourism or expressivism. It is also interesting to note that mental states are not always emotions. They can have imperatives, indicative moods and much more. This theory is different from the ones that l have mentioned above in the sense that it describes them all by placing mental states of the brain as a foundation to determine the meaning of ethical statements.

    I will write about the hybrid theories of non-cognitivism before moving on to ethical realism.
  • Echarmion
    991
    Shared in what sense? The show and tell sense? Do you mean literally having the same reason somehow?Terrapin Station

    I mean being able to re-create the relevant brain-states in their own mind with sufficient accuracy.
  • ChrisH
    151
    My beef with emotivism is that it claims that moral judgments are based solely on one's personal preferences.

    That's not true.
    Magnus Anderson

    You're right but I'm not sure that the claim of emotivism is that moral judgements are solely based on personal preferences (that they're sufficient) - if they were, all personal preferences would be moral preferences and of course they're not.

    My understanding of emotivism (and what I think is the case) is that it is the recognition that personal preferences are necessary components of all sincerely held moral stances. All (sincere) moral judgements are therefore, to some degree or other, expressions of emotional attitudes.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    I mean being able to re-create the relevant brain-states in their own mind with sufficient accuracy.Echarmion

    So something like a resemblance nominalism sense then.

    Okay so we're back to this, then:

    But there are also things that are reason-able, like "murder is wrong", because these kinds of brain-states, whatever we want to call them, contain in them a connection to other subjects.Echarmion

    If "Murder is wrong" isn't "reason-able" as you put it because of the connection to other subjects (in other words, you explained that that's not actually what you are referring to with the term "reason-able"), then what makes it reason-able?
  • Echarmion
    991
    If "Murder is wrong" isn't "reason-able" as you put it because of the connection to other subjects (in other words, you explained that that's not actually what you are referring to with the term "reason-able"), then what makes it reason-able?Terrapin Station

    It's reason-able because the statement is processed by a part of the brain that operates on a reason-ruleset, so to speak. A part that we use for things that concern interpersonal relations.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    It's reason-able because the statement is processed by a part of the brain that operates on a reason-ruleset, so to speak. A part that we use for things that concern interpersonal relations.Echarmion

    So any phenomena in that part of the brain, and/or any phenomena focused on interpersonal relations is reason-able? (I don't know if it's also reasonable without the hyphen in your view.)
  • EricH
    72


    Since non-cognitivism is a species of irrealism about ethics, it should be unsurprising that many of its main motivations overlap with those for other versions of ethical irrealism

    So non-cognitivism is a variation on a yet more generic framework? Dang, I missed that one - and that was the first sentence! :smile:

    I did a quick search and ran into a different article in the same online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entitled "Moral Anti-Realism". I tried plowing through this, but got bogged down in a ticket of jargon and terminologies. In fact, even the author (or authors) of this article humorously acknowledge the difficulty in defining/characterizing the different philosophical positions.

    Anyway - I appreciate your efforts to explain the various beasts in this menagerie of philosophical positions. I will try to absorb some of this, but it will be very slow going.
  • Echarmion
    991
    My understanding of emotivism (and what I think is the case) is that it is the recognition that personal preferences are necessary components of all sincerely held moral stances. All (sincere) moral judgements are therefore, to some degree or other, expressions of emotional attitudes.ChrisH

    The question that comes to mind here is, if moral stances are expressions of emotional attitudes to some degree then what else are they?

    So any phenomena in that part of the brain, and/or any phenomena focused on interpersonal relations is reason-able? (I don't know if it's also reasonable without the hyphen in your view.)Terrapin Station

    No, because that would include emotions and preferences. As for the hyphen, I use it to denote that I am using the two words reason and able literally, as in "accessible to reason".
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    It seems like you keep telling me info that's not what it is for "murder is wrong" to be reason-able then.

    I'm wanting you to describe how it can be reason-able.
  • tim wood
    3.4k
    I believe you would assert that the statement "Murder is wrong" is a true statement.EricH
    Yes. Anything else implies murder is not wrong. Any takers on that? That is, that can make the case? Mere unsupported claims and rants not appropriate for this forum.

    Maybe a consideration of the Kantian noumena might fit here. People who do not understand Kant assume he has made really a stupid mistake in arguing that the noumenon is unknowable. But Kant was solving problems concerning the grounds for certain kinds of knowledge. As noumenon, his chair is unknowable. But that only means that for science to make a claim of knowledge as science about his chair, it ought to able to give an account of that knowledge, and in terms of science, that's a big problem. But not for practical knowledge. Kant knew perfectly well his chair was a chair. Practical knowledge told him so.

    Murder occupies a place in the practical world. Science itself by itself would have a very hard time with murder (think about it). As such, practical - and legal - criteriology applies. And in applying, in its sphere, it applies absolutely. No law says other, less appropriate or inappropriate, criteria cannot be thought about, leading to inappropriate or even wrong conclusions. But such "thinking" in no way touches the correctness of the appropriate application.

    To say that murder is, in some sense, not in-itself wrong, especially based on "feeling" or "opinion" is like saying that murder is a liverwurst sandwich. Hey, just my opinion, and therefore and thereby I must be right! I have it written down right here in front of me!

    A signal problem with the theory is that it leaves us with two competing propositions: wrong and not-wrong. The not-wrong is just a pig in the parlor. Let it in and chaos ensues in the parlor. If murder is not wrong, then what in the name of right can be done with or about the murderer? Under this theory, he need only say that in his opinion he did nothing wrong. Now, maybe he'll be outnumbered by people of a different opinion - and a rope. But that's just murder by another name - i.e., lynching.

    As it happens, "murder" is a term of art. It's defined as wrong. That is, in the understanding of what murder is, one finds wrongness among the specs. Now, if a person wanted to scrutinize and analyze an occurrence of murder, say, with an ax, he might well look in vain through the gore for wrong. Of course in this latter case, wrong is not something to be found at a murder scene.

    Given the criteriological/practical standard of the wrongness of murder, can individuals still have feelings and opinions? Of course they can, and apparently will. Can they even make foolish arguments and claims, of course they can and apparently will. Does any of it alter the wrongness of murder? No. No more than alternative systems of arithmetic in which 2+2=5 affect the truth of 2+2=4 in standard arithmetic. Or non-Euclidean geometry render Euclidean geometry false.

    Now someone from the other side demonstrate how murder is not wrong. NOT in some alternate upside-down system, but in the world we live in.
  • ChrisH
    151
    The question that comes to mind here is, if moral stances are expressions of emotional attitudes to some degree then what else are they?Echarmion

    Whatever else the people making moral claims intend to convey. At the very least, moral judgements (in contrast to non-moral preferences) signify disapproval/approval for the actions of others.
  • Echarmion
    991
    It seems like you keep telling me info that's not what it is for "murder is wrong" to be reason-able then.

    I'm wanting you to describe how it can be reason-able.
    Terrapin Station

    I am not certain it's possible to describe how reason works. There are arguments to be made about whether murder should be wrong. Those arguments must be logically valid and proceed from acceptable premises.

    Whatever else the people making moral claims intend to convey. At the very least, moral judgements (in contrast to non-moral preferences) signify disapproval/approval for the actions of others.ChrisH

    And what if what people want to convey are certain "truths" about how interactions in a society should function? And moral stances are not just about the behaviour of others, you can evaluate (and change) your own actions based on your moral stance.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    I am not certain it's possible to describe how reason works. There are arguments to be made about whether murder should be wrong. Those arguments must be logically valid and proceed from acceptable premises.Echarmion

    Would you say they could proceed from (or not include) premises that are not moral stances?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Yes. Anything else implies murder is not wrong.tim wood

    X is wrong if and only if "x is wrong" is a true statement.

    That's what you're saying here, right?

    Is that because you're reading "x is wrong" as necessarily being a claim about (or a statement of) a fact?
  • tim wood
    3.4k
    F-off Terrapin. If you've an argument to make, I'll read it. - You obviously have either not read, or not understood, or both, my post.
  • thewonder
    412
    To say that murder is, in some sense, not in-itself wrong, especially based on "feeling" or "opinion" is like saying that murder is a liverwurst sandwich. Hey, just my opinion, and therefore and thereby I must be right! I have it written down right here in front of me!tim wood

    Whether or not murder is wrong is contingent upon the circumstances in which the murder was committed. Because murder so emphatically denies the other by virtue of that it terminates them, it can generally be said that "murder is wrong" because is most cases this would prove to be 'true'. I'm sure that there is a hypothetical case where a person may question as to whether or not a murder was, in point of fact, "wrong". Also, are we speaking of murder in particular or just simply killing?

    Edit: If we are just speaking of murder, being the unlawful and unwarranted killing of an other, then, you could conclude that "murder is wrong" because it would be, by definition, unwarranted. This ethic, however, stems from that there is an other. It exists because of a social relationship. There is nothing intrinsicly wrong with murder, or, rather, there exists no Ethical law which states that "murder is wrong". That it is wrong is something that is deduced because of a social relationship.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    F-off Terrapin. If you've an argument to make, I'll read it. - You obviously have either not read, or not understood, or both, my post.tim wood

    If that's not what you're saying, you could just say "No," and then you could clarify.
  • tim wood
    3.4k
    Murder not killing, murder being the species, killing the genus. And as murder, murder is murder. If you argue it's not actually murder, then in essence you're arguing that the initial determination was mistaken, and the killing was of a different kind not murder.

    Of course there are degrees of murder, with different consequences, but the point here being that degrees notwithstanding, they're all murder.

    The only reason I used murder as an example is because in my view, if murder is not wrong then nothing is wrong - maybe treason. Anyway, it could have been a generic x(p), viz., x has the property p, x being a substance, p any accident/adjective, but I think that would have been misleadingly abstract.

    As to particular arguments for the wrongness of murder based on this or that individual consideration or circumstance, I'd actually have to go over to Terrapin's side on that, at least so far as being agnostic as to the efficacy of the "proof." What I'm on about is the general necessity of the wrongness of murder as primordial condition, as starting point.

    There is something in physics called a phase-transition, the circumstance in the environment at which point things change, as for example when water freezes or boils. I am pretty sure that morality/ethics is metaphorically similar in that if one moral truth is allowed, then a whole slew of moral truths follow. Grant that murder is wrong, and you can ask why it is wrong. Then your "emphatic denial of the other" can come into play. And it may mean that to deny the other - maybe even not so emphatically - is also wrong. But life get complicated....
  • thewonder
    412
    To ascribe abstract laws to Ethics ignores the particulars of any given situation. Take Kieslowski's Dekalog 5, for example. A young drifter kills a taxi driver as sort of existential experiment. From that "murder is wrong" and that "all are equal before the law" one would conclude that Jacek should be given the death penalty. If we don't begin with an assessment of Ethical truths, then we can take into consideration that he is a misguided youth probably stuggling with Nihilism and that some form of rehabilitation is probably better suited to such a crime. The assumption that there are objective Ethical truths is, rather ironically, resultant in a number of the absurdities of Law.

    A methodology that proceeds from that "murder is wrong" could be quite interesting. To what degree is what one is doing like murder? I would, perhaps, deduce that it is wrong to violate what an other existentially attests. I would, then, of course, have to qualify this. You could say that in so far that what an other existentially attests is in good faith and Ethically sound and valid that it is wrong to violate this. I could parcel out an entire ethic from there as you could as well. I don't think that I would start there, though.

    As murder is the exception and not the rule, I'm not sure that it would be useful to create an ethic proceeding from that "murder is wrong". We can say that "murder is wrong", but that is all that we really know. It's just the one rule that checks out.

    For instance, what about theft? Had you just come out of Bicycle Thieves, you might suggest that it is wrong to steal because you don't know what role that that object has to play in a person's life. Had you just finished reading Les Misérables, you might suggest that it is fine to steal if you need to do so in order to survive. From this, you could deduce that it is wrong to steal a bicycle, but not a loaf of bread, but doing so would be absurd. The percieved need to ascribe abstract truths to Ethics is due to a legal aporia which assumes that there ought to be an effective functioning of the State. A governing body has no idea as to how to deal with criminality without the disjointed logic of objective Ethics. To me, it is clear that Ethics are contingent upon the particulars of any given situation. Because we could never understand any given situation in its entirety, we can't make any objective claims as to what is Ethically valid aside from a few deductions such as that "murder is wrong".
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.