Sunday, May 10, 2009

24 Philippa Foot (1920 - ......... )

"Those who are influenced by the emotivist theory of ethics, and yet wish to defend what Hare has called 'the rationality of moral discourse', generally talk a lot about 'giving reasons' for saying that one thing is right, and another wrong.

The fact that moral judgements need defence seems to distinguish the impact of one man's moral views upon others from mere persuasion or coercion, and the judgements themselves from mere expressions of likes and dislikes.

Yet the version of argument in morals currently accepted seems to say that, while reasons must be given, no one need accept them unless he happens to hold particular moral views.

It follows that disputes about what is right and wrong can be resolved only if certain contingent conditions are fulfilled;

if they are not fulfilled, the argument breaks down, and the disputants are left face to face in an opposition which is merely an expression of attitude and will. "

Thus begins Philippa Foot her important article "Moral arguments" in Mind (1958). How often haven't we been in this situation here in The Philosophy Class and searched for a satisfacory answer.

Do we end up in the theory of ethics in relativism, subjectivism. Isn't there any transcendental or universal something to base our moral standards on?

Let's read on:
"Thus, when Hare describes someone who listens to all his adversary has to say and then at the end simply rejects his conclusion, we want to ask 'How can he?'

Hare clearly supposes that he can, for he says that at this point the objector can only be asked to make up his mind for himself'.

No one would ever paint such a picture of other kinds of argument suggesting, for instance, that a man might listen to all that could be said about the shape of the earth, and then ask why he should believe that it was round.

We should want, in such a case, to know how he met the case put to him; and it is remarkable that in ethics this question is thought not to be in place." -end quote

There it is! There is something odd in discussions about right and wrong. For some reason it seems absolutely rational to end an argument with just an "Oh well, if you think so....I don't" Isn't that weird?

Maybe painfull for him, but again we have to say it: it is Hume's fault (1711 - 1776). Based on the syllogistic logic we have the rule that the conclusion never can contain more than is in the premises.

Because our knowledge is only an empirical knowledge of facts, we only can have factual arguments. There is a deeper aspect in logic: when the premises are true, the conclusion is necessarily true.

That is the point....this necessarily being true of a conclusion, based on true premises.That is science! So, "This is the case...That is the case, thence X ought to be done" doesnt work...It is not a contradiction to say: This ought NOT to be done. Where does this OUGHT come from?????

Philippa Foot had a program: "I want to say that it has not even been proved that moral conclusions cannot be entailed by factual or descriptive premises."

Moore tried to show that goodness was a nonnatural property and thus not to be defined in terms of natural properties like 'green' or'wooden'; problem was to explain the concept of a 'natural property', and prove that no ethical definition in terms of natural properties could be correct.

"Good" is an evaluative term, so not a descriptive one. Foot showed in her article that this dichotomy of descriptive and evaluative terms is unwarrantable.

it is obvious that there is something else to be said about the word 'rude' besides the fact that it expresses, fairly mild, condemnation: it can only be used where certain descriptions apply.

The right account of the situation in which it is correct to say that a piece of behaviour is rude, is, I think, that this kind of behaviour causes offence by indicating lack of respect.

Sometimes it is merely conventional that such behaviour does indicate lack of respect (e.g. when a man keeps his hat on in someone else's house); sometimes the behaviour is naturally disrespectful, as when one man pushes another out of the way.

Given that this reference to offence is to be included in any account of the concept of rudeness, we may ask what the relation is between the assertion that these conditions of offence are fulfilled ,let us call it O,

and the statement that a piece of behaviour is rude, let us call it R. Can someone who accepts the proposition 0 (that this kind of offence is caused) deny the proposition R (that the behaviour is rude)?

What Philippa Foot wants to prove here is, that the word "rude" is not just an evaluative term,, it contains also descriptive elements. The word does not only qualify a certain behavior , it also describes behavior.

This was one of the best attacks on emotivism, showing that the concept of 'good' not only was the expression of approval, an emotion, but also could have a descriptive content and thus could entail a normative conclusion.

This is the basic idea of virtue ethics: when we say that this is a good man, we do not only express an approval, but we also imply descriptive statements about that man.

In other words: 'good' is a natural property of a person and not a non natural property. And this was already the idea of Aristotle (384 -322 B.C)

The Discussion

[13:43] herman Bergson: Like all other Oxford women philosophers, Anscombe, Murdoch, Midgley and Marry Warnock, Philippa Foot pleaded for a virtue ethics
[13:43] herman Bergson: the other options were Emotivism or utilitarianism
[13:44] herman Bergson: What is important in her essay is the fact that she shows that an evaluative term also has ad escriptive content
[13:45] herman Bergson: so evatualtive statements...value-judgements are not just expressions of approval, or prescriptions
[13:46] hope63 Shepherd: and the consequence of that?
[13:46] herman Bergson: and in that way she supported Mary Midgley by bringing descriptiv eand evaluative together again
[13:47] herman Bergson: Inother words....evaluative statements, value-judgements arent just a private opinion anymore, like Hare suggested
[13:47] herman Bergson: there is a descritpive basis for them
[13:48] herman Bergson: Like in the example of the word rude
[13:48] herman Bergson: Maybe this confuses you a little ^_^
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: lol a little
[13:49] Samuel Okelly: nah... not "a little" ;-)
[13:49] herman Bergson: Maybe I can explain....
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: as descriptive basis.. would you say something inherent?
[13:50] herman Bergson: Dee to the disjuction between moral statements and rational thoughts, as Midgley showed, moral stands were reduced to private opinions..
[13:50] Corona Anatine: ok actions can be rude or polite on a graduated scale
[13:50] herman Bergson: I give all my arguments for a certain judgements..and you just can say..well..that is your opinion
[13:50] Corona Anatine: but it does not account for motive
[13:51] herman Bergson: so ethics was close to absolute relativism
[13:52] herman Bergson: By showing that evaluative terms also contain a descriptive part, the value-judgement is back in the realm of rational thinking
[13:52] Qwark Allen: got to go to
[13:52] Qwark Allen: :-)
[13:52] herman Bergson: Bye Qwark
[13:52] Qwark Allen: interesting as allways
[13:52] Corona Anatine: sory herman how can relativism be absolute
[13:52] herman Bergson: I mean utter relativism
[13:53] Corona Anatine: thats like having a wet dryness
[13:53] herman Bergson: ok..suit yourself ^_^
[13:53] hope63 Shepherd: smile.. i think its more like damp:) not wet not dry:)
[13:53] herman Bergson: what I mean is that by adding the descriptive part again to evaluative terms you can relate the terms with observable behavior
[13:54] Corona Anatine: ok
[13:54] Samuel Okelly: herman can you clarify what is being described exactly please? what it is about the value judgment that is)
[13:54] herman Bergson: a debate on ethical theory isnt a discussion on personall feelings and likes and dislikes anymore
[13:55] hope63 Shepherd: nor on one cultures morals or anothers..
[13:56] Corona Anatine: it is hard to see how that would be so
[13:56] Corona Anatine: it would imply two things
[13:56] herman Bergson: it means Samuel, that for instance the word 'rude' is not only to express a mild condemnation
[13:57] Corona Anatine: 1 that any alien race would reach the same idea of morality /ethics
[13:57] Corona Anatine: and/or that morality /ethics are indepentdent of humans
[13:57] herman Bergson: Sometimes it is merely conventional that such behaviour does indicate lack of respect (e.g. when a man keeps his hat on in someone else's house); sometimes the behaviour is naturally disrespectful, as when one man pushes another out of the way.
[13:57] Cruella Muggins: hmmm interesting remark
[13:57] herman Bergson: The right account of the situation in which it is correct to say that a piece of behaviour is rude, is, I think, that this kind of behaviour causes offence by indicating lack of respect.
[13:58] hope63 Shepherd: if there is a descriptive part we should be able to see it in all societies..
[13:58] Corona Anatine: [13:38] Corona Anatine: fi you saw a large rock falling from on high then to psuh someone out of the way would be a good act despite the inherent rudeness of the action
[13:58] Samuel Okelly: does this mean that an agreed meaning is always assumed in both a descriptive and evalualtive sense?
[13:59] hope63 Shepherd: i can't really understand the difference you make between conventional and natural rude,.. the conventional is in a way just a common agreemant ona natural behaviour..
[13:59] herman Bergson: I would say, that due to the descriptive content of an evaluative term it is not at will to agree or disagree
[13:59] Cruella Muggins: each culture has its own
[13:59] Corona Anatine: conventional = as defined by convention
[13:59] herman Bergson: Yes to some extend
[14:00] Cruella Muggins: so it s not universal
[14:00] herman Bergson: Well....first thing to consider is , why do we want universality
[14:00] Anne Charles: Thank you professor, gotta go, bye all
[14:01] Daruma Boa: bye anne
[14:01] Laila Schuman: baiee anne
[14:01] Cruella Muggins: dont particularly just tring to understandd
[14:01] herman Bergson: second thing to consider is: are there yet universal values?
[14:01] Corona Anatine: to give us a means of measurement ?
[14:01] hope63 Shepherd: that is the question.. the understanding of a behaviour is not universal.. but sees to be universal as f.ex the term rude exists independent of society..
[14:01] Ze Novikov: Must be off to RL... see you soon and ty Herman...
[14:01] Daruma Boa: thats true hope
[14:01] hope63 Shepherd: seems.. smile not is..:)
[14:01] herman Bergson: Bye Ze ^_^
[14:01] Daruma Boa: bye ze
[14:01] Cruella Muggins: its not rude to spit in china
[14:02] Cruella Muggins: or to belch in arab countries
[14:02] herman Bergson: No....but in China there exists rude behavior..
[14:02] Cruella Muggins: of course
[14:02] Corona Anatine: what we have to look for then is things atat are considered rude in all cultures
[14:02] Samuel Okelly: maybe a better way to view this would be to ask ourselves if, in china, there is an explicit idea of what constutes rude?
[14:03] Cruella Muggins: so what happens when we talk of good evil and morality
[14:03] Cruella Muggins: if it isn t universal we are in big trouble as a human race
[14:03] herman Bergson: There may be a solution when you define rude behavior as behavior that offends
[14:04] herman Bergson: offending is a pretty general term
[14:04] hope63 Shepherd: like mrs obama putting her hand on the shoulder of the queen..:)
[14:04] herman Bergson: what specific behavior is meant may differ per culture
[14:04] Corona Anatine: as we know from sL and the emptiness of the term 'braodly offensive'
[14:04] Cruella Muggins: so when we travel we need a manual
[14:04] herman Bergson: oh definitely Cruella :-)
[14:04] Corona Anatine: did she do that ?
[14:05] Cruella Muggins: lol
[14:05] hope63 Shepherd: she did.. news were full of it.. lese
[14:05] Corona Anatine: cool
[14:05] herman Bergson: funny...:-)
[14:05] Daruma Boa: + she got a ipod from obama....
[14:06] hope63 Shepherd: cru.. today we take a manual.. the british when they founded their empire just took guns.. saying their own morals were the only right ones..
[14:06] Cruella Muggins: well good for her
[14:06] Daruma Boa: lol
[14:06] Cruella Muggins: I would too
[14:06] Corona Anatine: yeh - that showed liz up - the woman who had a yahct scrapped rather than sold - cos she did not want commoner walking where she had
[14:06] Samuel Okelly: time to go i guess... :)
[14:06] Samuel Okelly: thanks again herman ..
[14:06] Daruma Boa: bye samuel
[14:06] Samuel Okelly: lots to think about :)
[14:06] Corona Anatine: that has been a universal
[14:07] hope63 Shepherd: bye sam..
[14:07] Cruella Muggins: don t touch the queen Philp did
[14:07] Cruella Muggins: many times
[14:07] Corona Anatine: might dictating morals
[14:07] herman Bergson: Ok..Bye Samuel
[14:07] Laila Schuman: baiee Samuel
[14:07] herman Bergson: Well..I would suggest..somuch on Philippa Foot...she is 89 now
[14:07] hope63 Shepherd: you can still kiss prince charles and get away with it..:9
[14:07] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[14:07] herman Bergson: and thank you all for your participation
[14:08] Cruella Muggins: well he ain t no spring chicken
[14:08] Daruma Boa: thxs herman

Posted by herman_bergson on 2009-04-07 17:56:25

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