Sunday, November 22, 2009

08 Emotivism

Hume’s argument for subjectivism is a disjunctive syllogism, so it’s valid (its logic is correct):
Premise 1:
Moral judgments originate either in sensation (impressions with external origin) or feelings (impressions with internal origin).

Premise 2:
They don’t originate in sensation ("Is" does not imply "ought").
Conclusion: Therefore, they originate in feelings.

To this we ad a bit of Alfred Ayer (1910 – 1989):
- begin quote -
Logical positivism proposed that only two types of statements make genuine truth claims (claims that are true or false).

First, there are empirical statements (like “It is snowing outside”); these can in principle be shown by our sense experience to be true, or at least highly probable.

Second, there are analytic statements (like “All bachelors are single”); these are true because of the meaning of words.

Since moral judgments do not fit in either category, they cannot be true or false. Instead of being truth claims, they only express emotions. “This is bad” is much like “Boo on this!”
- quote end -

For logical reasoning we need statements, that are either true or false. Knowledge claims are based on statements being true or false. Now look at our situation regarding moral judgements.

Let's put some more oil on the fire . Ayer: "Moral judgments do not say anything. They are pure expressions of feeling and do not come under the category of truth and falsehood."

How in the world is there any rational debate on moral judgements possible? John says: "Homosexuality is wrong!" and the Gay Activist says: "Homosexuality is morally acceptable!"

According to Ayer this should be translated in "Homosexuality! Yuck!" or "Homosexuality! Hurray!" or as prescriptive expressions like "Don’t be homosexual." or "Homosexuality: go for it."

As expressions of emotions there is no truth claim here. The speakers are expressing different attitudes toward it, or urging different actions.

Does that mean that we are stuck in opposing opinions? It is my feelings against yours and as we saw already, logic and reason don't apply to feelings.

Ayer: "Ethical philosophy consists simply in saying that ethical concepts are pseudo-concepts and therefore unanalyzable. The further task of describing the different feelings that ethical terms express, and the different reactions that they provoke, is a task for the psychologist.

There cannot be an ethical science, if by ethical science one means the elaboration of a “true” system of morals. As ethical judgments are mere expressions of feeling, there can be no way of determining the validity of any ethical system and no sense in asking whether any such system is true. - quote end -

So a genuine moral disagreement would be something like you feel "Do it!" while I feel "Don't do it!" and there it stops. We seem to be with our back agains the wall.

For, suppose you say : "Homosexuality is wrong even if the Gay Activist expresses approval for it or advocates it." that would mean "Homosexuality! Yuck! /Don’t do it! – even if the Gay Activist expresses approval for it or advocates it."

But that would make little sense, because there is a clear difference of opinion and such an argument would not be acceptable at all for the Gay Activist.

Here again we are victim of that indestructible urge of the human mind to think binary. Emotivism assumes that if a moral judgment expresses my feeling, it can’t also be supported by reason.

either my moral judgment expresses my attitudes OR it is the outcome of a reasoning process, but not both. But why not both?

Suppose you go the your doctor because you have a terrible headache. That is what you feel at least, and you say to the doctor "I have a headache!" The doctor says: " I don't think you have a headache. That is how I feel about it."

Fortunately your doctor wont react in that way. If he would have you would be stunned. You would say something like "Are you out of your mind?"

And all this is created by the initial assumption of Hume and Ayer, that a a statement expresses EITHER a feeling which cant have a truth value OR an empirical fact which is true or false.

What your doctor will do is examining you, in other words examining the factual content of the 'feeling' I have a headache.

And in that sense have moral judgements also a factual content together with an emotional content. So I think that this semantical interpretation of moral judgements is more acceptable than the emotivist point of view.

The Discussion

[13:19] herman Bergson: So much on emotivism ㋡
[13:20] herman Bergson: If you have a remark or question...go ahead ㋡
[13:20] BrainCrave OHare: so is it your contention that logic and reasoning don't apply to feelings?
[13:20] herman Bergson: Not mine but that of the emotivist
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate whispers: that must have caused a lot of backlash no?
[13:21] BrainCrave OHare: so you would agree that feelings are both logical and rational, and have a basis as such?
[13:21] herman Bergson: what is 'backlash'?
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: many arguments against their ideas
[13:22] herman Bergson: Well Brain ..not exactly in that way...
[13:22] BrainCrave OHare: somewhere in the gray? :)
[13:23] herman Bergson: The problem begins with the dichotomy of feelings - sensations
[13:23] herman Bergson: the ratio controls feelings while feelings influence the cant cut them apart
[13:23] Myriam Brianna shakes her head, re-reads a part of herman's text
[13:23] oola Neruda: sometimes decisions must be made... for example the passing of a law... and people argue rational reasons.. but do not agree... and end up deciding according to their feelings... how does this fit
[13:24] herman Bergson: My text even influences a head to shake
[13:24] herman Bergson: why so Myriam
[13:25] Myriam Brianna: because I have the feeling of running up against a wall. Not seeing the sense in the "in that sense" ;)
[13:25] herman Bergson: At this moment an emotivist approach of moral judgements is still alive in the philosophical debate of today
[13:25] Myriam Brianna: there's a leap, but I'm not yet sure where exactly
[13:25] oola Neruda: or perhaps you did explain it... if i apply your comments properly
[13:25] Yejiba Severine: But how does one get away from emotivism, especially in terms of governing. It is used in a sort of propaganda way to get persons on their side on an issue. In fact, is seems to be used in a wide variety of situations including news. (nods to oola)
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: very much so
[13:26] oola Neruda: i agree
[13:26] herman Bergson: The main characteristic is that it puts you in a situation of Opinion against Opinion
[13:27] herman Bergson: and no way to say which opinion is right
[13:27] Yejiba Severine nods.
[13:27] BrainCrave OHare: when you have no standards, what do you expect will happen?
[13:27] herman Bergson: in fact it is a kind of subjectivism
[13:27] BrainCrave OHare: agree
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: there you go that is right
[13:27] Yejiba Severine nods.
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: standards
[13:27] herman Bergson: What I say become a supporter of subjectivism
[13:28] BrainCrave OHare: don't count on it
[13:28] BrainCrave OHare: (couldn't be further from the truth)
[13:28] herman Bergson smiles
[13:28] BrainCrave OHare: :)
[13:28] Myriam Brianna: the factual content of moral judgements you have pointed to, Herman, is - as I see it - them being represented as a cognitive state. Which is something no one doubts. The doctor examining you tries to ascertain if you are feeling what you claim you are feeling ... *scratches at the base of her scalp*
[13:28] herman Bergson: I agree Brain
[13:29] herman Bergson: yes Myriam, but that doctor will never see you pain
[13:29] Myriam Brianna: that's to say: I think the simile limps
[13:29] oola Neruda: are you saying the standards are arbitrary.. depending upon whom has the upper hand in the discussion
[13:29] herman Bergson: He might see a high blood pressure ...things like that
[13:29] BrainCrave OHare: there can be no upper hand without standards oola
[13:30] BrainCrave OHare: by definition
[13:30] oola Neruda: stronger personality is perhaps what i should have said
[13:30] herman Bergson: That is the whole point
[13:30] Myriam Brianna: yes, but I also do not "see" the position of someone on, say, homosexuality
[13:31] herman Bergson: No....but when you say Homosexuality is wrong you arent debating about homosexuality
[13:31] BrainCrave OHare: i have a hard time understanding where the challenge is in separating moral standards from personal preferences
[13:31] herman Bergson: You are talking about your feelings
[13:31] Myriam Brianna: yes, exactly
[13:32] Myriam Brianna: and that I have some feeling on (x) no one doubts
[13:32] herman Bergson: That makes it impossible to say "Homosexuality is wrong even when you approve it."
[13:32] oola Neruda: in the creation of the standards... WHO says this is the standard and why... barbie doll has, in it's own way, been a standard
[13:32] herman Bergson: You only can say that when the concept of homosexuality is something factual
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes oola.....who says so...
[13:33] BrainCrave OHare: reason
[13:33] herman Bergson: That is decided on the factual content of moral judgements
[13:33] herman Bergson: Indeed Brain...decided by reason and good argument
[13:34] oola Neruda: in a perfect world... but i guess philosophy does aim at the ideal?
[13:34] herman Bergson: You may observe that worldwide some moral standards are used everywhere
[13:34] BrainCrave OHare: is that the purpose of philosophy? to pursue the ideal? i don't think so
[13:34] herman Bergson: that cant be a coincidence
[13:35] herman Bergson: No...the purpose of philosophy is to clarify
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: but it does not seem to :-)
[13:35] Yejiba Severine: Clarify different states of perception?
[13:35] BrainCrave OHare: i think the purpose of philosophy is to help us live
[13:36] herman Bergson: As Bertrand Russell said: The goal of philosophy is to learn us to live with uncertainty.
[13:36] Yejiba Severine: I thought that was religion.
[13:36] BrainCrave OHare: <-- doesn't agree with bertrand
[13:37] herman Bergson: Religion is certainty, I would say
[13:37] Myriam Brianna: unjustified certainty
[13:37] herman Bergson: indeed Myriam, therfore it is called belief
[13:37] Yejiba Severine: I think it is a cover for uncertainty. Put things is a framework so we are not frightened.
[13:38] BrainCrave OHare: certainty = fact
[13:38] herman Bergson: But the quintessence of the current debate is whether everything we experience, know, feel etc depends solely on the mind, or not everything is mind-dependent.
[13:39] BrainCrave OHare: try to experience something without using the mind
[13:39] herman Bergson: That means....does my computer still exist when I dont see it and I am in another room
[13:39] Abraxas Nagy: impossible
[13:39] herman Bergson: This is not the point Brain
[13:40] herman Bergson: The point is does the mind create our reality (idealism) or is there an interaction between the mind and an external world
[13:40] herman Bergson: which however we only experience with our senses
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: it must have something to sense tho
[13:41] BrainCrave OHare: reality exists, whether we choose to perceive it or not (i.e., regardless of whether we choose to use our minds)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Ok Brain....
[13:41] BrainCrave OHare: your computer exists regardless of whether you think of it, doesn't it?
[13:41] herman Bergson: So it also exists in moral judgements
[13:42] herman Bergson: a moral judgement is in such a context not just my personal feeling
[13:42] BrainCrave OHare: a moral judgment is based on reality, not personal preference, if that's what you're getting at
[13:42] herman Bergson: the judgement is also related with factual things , with parts of reality which is not my mind
[13:42] BrainCrave OHare: or, rather, it should be
[13:43] herman Bergson: the emotivist believes it is a personal thing
[13:43] Daruma Boa: oh must go. sorry.
[13:43] BrainCrave OHare: so the emotivist is wrong
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: daruma
[13:43] Daruma Boa: bye and see u next week
[13:43] BrainCrave OHare: would anyone here disagree?
[13:43] oola Neruda: yes
[13:44] Abraxas Nagy: bye Daruma
[13:44] herman Bergson: As you may have noticed...I do not agree with the emotivist point of view ㋡
[13:44] oola Neruda: because you cannot prove the side you take
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: i think it probably is wrong :-)
[13:44] Myriam Brianna: wait, wait - in what way do you think the actual, factual existence of an objective world is of importance to ethics?
[13:44] herman Bergson: especially because I dont agree with the basic assumption that you have feelings on the one hand and sensations (true /false statements) on the other hand
[13:45] BrainCrave OHare: let's put it this way - if you have ethics not based on truth (e.g., facts), what would happen? one opinion against another
[13:45] oola Neruda: i think that is exactly the problem
[13:46] herman Bergson: The objective external world is important to ethics because we live in it...what is happening there affects matters of life and death for instance
[13:46] oola Neruda: just opinion
[13:46] Myriam Brianna: okay, let's put it in another way. I do also assume that there's an objective world. I do think that my judgements relate to actual occurrences in space-time, not to figments of my imagination. But my judgements would be the same in a wholly illusionary environment
[13:46] herman Bergson: Indeed oola, if everything were just opinion, why then not assume that the earth is still flat for instance
[13:47] oola Neruda: probably some people do
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: i am not sure anyone ever did
[13:48] oola Neruda: i had the impression we were separating empiricism and emotivism
[13:48] herman Bergson: You may have a point there Gemma
[13:48] Myriam Brianna: yes, that's the whole point. Ethical questions are on another level than questions about, e.g., the shape of the world or even the existence of it
[13:48] BrainCrave OHare: i disagree with that myriam - truth is truth... A is A
[13:48] Myriam Brianna: you were not attacking emotivism, but an effigy of it
[13:49] oola Neruda: A is A is binary
[13:49] herman Bergson: Yes is because they are a combination of different aspects of being..feelings, emotions AND empirical experiences
[13:49] BrainCrave OHare: i know - i read the blog - this class doesn't seem to like binary :)
[13:50] herman Bergson: No Brain..only my computer does ㋡
[13:50] BrainCrave OHare: lol
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: liking has little to do with it
[13:50] herman Bergson: No Gemma you are right, I have arguments for that
[13:50] herman Bergson: rational arguments
[13:51] BrainCrave OHare: rational arguments for subjectivism?
[13:51] herman Bergson: and today is a nice example...I simply say "I dont like emotivis" and I tried to give some arguments for that
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: lolol
[13:52] herman Bergson: Subjectivism doesn work either Brain
[13:52] BrainCrave OHare: :)
[13:52] BrainCrave OHare: where's ayn rand when you need her? rofl
[13:52] oola Neruda: would you call instinct emotive?
[13:53] herman Bergson: When you study a subject use google and just type "against emotivism"
[13:53] Myriam Brianna: the wrong ones, I think
[13:53] herman Bergson: or things like that
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: ah good idea
[13:53] herman Bergson: Works on whole statements..
[13:54] herman Bergson: Is instinct emotive?
[13:54] oola Neruda: is it?
[13:54] herman Bergson: I would say no
[13:55] herman Bergson: Instinct is an innate pattern in the nature of an organism, that is not what is meant with emotive
[13:55] herman Bergson: Instinct is not equal to emotion
[13:55] oola Neruda: for example, a fear reaction ..
[13:56] oola Neruda: to falling for example
[13:56] herman Bergson: Instinct reaction amy cause emotions
[13:56] herman Bergson: may
[13:56] oola Neruda: nods... that makes sense
[13:57] Myriam Brianna: what was the url again, for the blog?
[13:57] herman Bergson:
[13:57] Myriam Brianna:
[13:57] Abraxas Nagy: hahaha bye berg
[13:57] Myriam Brianna: ah, yes
[13:57] Myriam Brianna: cya Bergfrau
[13:57] herman Bergson: Well...this was not a simple discussion.....
[13:58] BrainCrave OHare: depends on your perspective :)
[13:58] herman Bergson: The more questions you have left the more succesfull we were today ㋡
[13:59] herman Bergson: Yes Brain...some have that lucky perspective....I am the more troublesome kind ㋡
[13:59] BrainCrave OHare: luck favors the prepared? :)
[13:59] BrainCrave OHare: (sorry)
[13:59] BrainCrave OHare: (meant only in jest, of course)
[13:59] herman Bergson smiles
[14:00] oola Neruda: as a teacher...that is part of why i assigned homework
[14:00] herman Bergson: I thank you for you participation again ...
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: LOL
[14:00] BrainCrave OHare: thank you herman
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: i have to go now
[14:00] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ... ㋡

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