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  1. 1. 5. Challenges to Expressivism Antti Kauppinen
  2. 2. I The Logic of Moral Statements
  3. 3. Logic and Truth <ul><li>Unlike expressions like ”Boo!” and ”Hurrah!”, moral statements can be combined with each other and empirical statements with all standard logical connectives (and, or, if...then, not) </li></ul><ul><li>But as standardly understood, these connectives are defined in terms of truth </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For example, ’P and Q’ is true iff P is true and Q is true </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Similarly, an inference is deductively valid iff its conclusion can’t be false while the premises are true </li></ul><ul><li>So if moral statements are not in the business of representing the world and so cannot be true (or if we have to ’earn the right’ to speak of moral truth), how can we make sense of their surface syntax and logical connections? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Blackburn: Rethinking Connectives <ul><li>As Blackburn points out, we have independent reason to think the classical definition of connectives is too restrictive: it does make sense to combine commands, for example </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We easily understand ”Close the door and shut out the lights!” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We should understand compositional semantics for moral statements in terms of combining commitments rather than truth </li></ul><ul><ul><li>”’ and’ links commitments to give an overall commitment which is accepted only if each component is accepted” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So, ”Torturing cats is wrong and bullying the shy is bad” expresses a commitment which is accepted by someone who disapproves both torturing cats and bullying the shy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leaving aside fine points about moral attitudes, Blackburn represents disapproval and approval as B! (torturing cats) and H! (gratitude) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The combination of commitments can be represented as B! (torturing cats) + B! (bullying the shy) </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. The Frege-Geach Problem: Indirect Contexts <ul><li>In essence, the so-called Frege-Geach problem for expressivism is that it is hard for a non-cognitivist to explain what moral sentences mean in contexts in which we do not seem to be expressing our attitudes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>These are sometimes called indirect or embedded or unasserted contexts </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A simple example of such a context is a conditional statement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If I say ”If Sweden beats Finland in ice hockey, pigs will fly”, I am not saying either that Sweden beats Finland in ice hockey or that pigs will fly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Similarly, if I say ”If it is wrong to eat animals, it is wrong to let others eat animals”, I am not saying that it is wrong to eat animals or that it is wrong to let others eat animals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Therefore, on the expressivist analysis, I am not expressing any kind of disapproval toward eating animals or letting others eat </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. The Frege-Geach Problem: Ambiguity <ul><li>If I’m not expressing any attitude toward eating animals when I say ”If eating animals is wrong...”, what does the word ’wrong’ contribute to the meaning of the sentence? </li></ul><ul><li>What is more, if ’wrong’ means one thing in an embedded context and another in a simple one, how can there be logically valid inferences containing moral terms? </li></ul><ul><li>Clearly, inferences containing terms that have a different sense in different premises are invalid: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If Lydia can’t bear children (=doesn’t like the company of children), she won’t enjoy visiting the kindergarten. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lydia can’t bear children (=is infertile). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So, Lydia won’t enjoy the kindergarten. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Since the meanings of the sentences differ, this is not a case of modus ponens (P->Q, P | Q) but rather the invalid (P->Q, R | Q) </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Moral Modus Ponens <ul><li>But there seem to be perfectly good moral inferences: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If it is wrong to eat animals, it is wrong to let others eat animals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It is wrong to eat animals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So, it is wrong to let others eat animals </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How can the expressivist make sense of this? Even if we don’t worry about truth, remember that the first premise does not involve booing anything, so the expressivist should read the inference like this: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If it is wrong (??) to eat animals, it is wrong (??) to let others eat animals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B! (eating animals) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So, B! (letting others eat animals) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The conclusion simply doesn’t follow, since ’wrong’ has a different meaning in 4 and 5 </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Moral Conditionals <ul><li>What the expressivist must do, then, is to give an alternative account of moral conditionals </li></ul><ul><li>Blackburn’s idea is that moral conditionals express attitudes toward moral sensibilities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A moral sensibility is a set of dispositions to react to certain inputs (beliefs about natural facts) with certain outputs (attitudes of approval and disapproval) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So, my moral sensibility includes dispositions to react to waterboarding with disapproval, to react to hospital privatisation with disapproval, to react to investment in healthy school food with approval, and so on </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Someone else may well disapprove of elements of my moral sensibility – that is, disapprove of reacting to waterboarding with disapproval, for example </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For practical purposes, we need to be able to talk about moral sensibilities somehow </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Conditionals and Sensibilities <ul><li>Suppose someone has a moral sensibility that includes both disapproving of eating animals and disapproving of eating dogs; this can be represented as </li></ul><ul><ul><li>[[B! (eating animals)] + [B! (letting others eat animals)]] </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Crucially, Blackburn thinks that we use moral conditionals to express attitudes toward such combinations of attitudes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>According to his initial pass, ”If eating animals is wrong, letting others eat animals is wrong” expresses H! [[B! (eating animals) + [B! (letting others eat animals)]] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>That is, the conditional expresses approval of combining disapproval of eating animals with disapproval of letting others eat animals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Note that as observed earlier, the conditional does not express an attitude toward eating animals or letting others eat itself – a meat-eater may well agree with it </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Why just the conditional? Because we use conditionals in general to introduce suppositions and topics of discussion, to rule out some combinations of propositions </li></ul>
  10. 10. Hale’s Improvement <ul><li>We can make Blackburn’s case a bit stronger by modifying his take on the conditional a little </li></ul><ul><li>Instead of approval of a combination, the conditional expresses disapproval of holding one attitude and failing to hold another </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use --[B! (x)] to represent ”fails to disapprove of x” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>” If eating animals is wrong, letting others eat animals is wrong” becomes B! [[B! (eating animals) + --[B! (letting others eat animals)]] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>That is, the conditional expresses disapproval of sensibilities that combine disapproval of eating animals with a lack of disapproval of letting others eat animals </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Validity and Consistency <ul><li>In these terms, the original moral modus ponens can be cast as follows: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>B! [[B! (eating animals) + --[B! (eating dogs)]] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B! (eating animals) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B! (eating dogs) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In what sense is the inference valid? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Classical validity is obviously ruled out </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But perhaps we can extend the notion of validity already in the non-moral cases: an inference is valid iff someone who believes the premises is irrational or incomprehensible if she fails to believe the conclusion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In the moral case, someone who has the attitudes in the premises but not the attitude in the conclusion disapproves of a combination of attitudes she herself has – she disapproves of combining disapproval of eating animals with lack of disapproval of eating dogs, but still holds those very attitudes </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Inconsistent Attitudes <ul><li>In Blackburn’s terms, a person who accepts the premises but fails to accept the conclusion suffers from a ’fractured sensibility’ and ’a clash of attitudes’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is her true stance on eating dogs if she fails to boo it but boos eating animals and boos combining booing eating animals with a lack of booing eating dogs? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Just like we cannot make sense of someone who accepts the premises of an ordinary valid argument but fails to accept the conclusion, we cannot make sense of someone with such a fractured sensibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We signal this by saying that her reasoning is bad, that the inference she draws is invalid </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Or, an inference is valid if one must accept the conclusion when accepting the premises on pain of becoming impossible to make sense of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Just like we can’t make sense of the non-moral failure because she holds an inconsistent set of beliefs , we can’t make sense of the moral failure because she holds an ’ inconsistent’ set of attitudes – she stands self-condemned </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Deep Structure and Surface Structure <ul><li>As we’ve noted, the surface structure of moral language is realist – ‘is wrong’ is a predicate, and predicates generally ascribe properties; “The Pope is wicked” is a declarative sentence, and declarative sentences generally admit of truth or falsehood; “It is true that the Pope is wicked” is syntactically well-formed </li></ul><ul><li>Blackburn’s key argument is that this is just what we would expect on an expressivist picture of ethics: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To be able to talk about what attitudes we should have and what implications they have, we “invent a predicate answering to the attitude, and treat commitments as if they were [factual] judgments, and then use all the natural devices for debating truth.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The propositional surface “gives us all the resources of logic, in order to discuss, accept, reject, attitudes, and in order to work out which networks of attitudes and beliefs stand up, and which do not stand up so well. The justification is that this is something we need to do, and there is no other form of expression so well adapted to doing it.” (Blackburn 2002, 127) </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. The Basic Problem with Blackburn’s Solution <ul><li>Blackburn says that the problem with the person who fails to accept the conclusion of a moral modus ponens is that she ”has a fractured sensibility which cannot itself be the object of approval ” (my emphasis) </li></ul><ul><li>As Wright and Hale have argued, this means that the failure in question is a moral rather than a logical one </li></ul><ul><ul><li>” Anything worth calling the validity of an inference has to reside in the inconsistency of accepting its premises but denying its conclusion. [But in Blackburn’s ’clash of attitudes’] nothing worth regarding as inconsistency seems to be involved. Those who do that merely fail to have every combination of attitudes of which they themselves approve. That is a moral failing, not a logical one.” (Wright 1988) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hale: the improved version has the conclusion-denier violate the moral principle ”Don’t do what you boo!” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So, Blackburn fails to account for the intuitive validity of moral modus ponens </li></ul>
  15. 15. Miller’s Rescue Attempt <ul><li>Alexander Miller tries to defend Blackburn’s solution by arguing that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>sometimes failure to infer by modus ponens is best interpreted as a moral rather than logical failure and that </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>in other cases, we need to broaden our understanding of logical fault to encompass mistakes caused by a disposition to hold logically inconsistent beliefs, and finally that </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>given these extensions of the notion of validity, a Blackburnian story can best explain what is going on in the cases </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Miller’s argument hangs on cases in which someone either gets only non-moral inferences right (in which case the agent is guilty of a moral rather than logical fault) or only moral inferences right (in which case the agent’s mistake in non-moral cases is explained by lack of logical acumen, and so would her mistake in moral cases, were he to make it) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Basically, to find out whether the failure is moral or logical, we need to look at the agent’s response to other (possibly counterfactual) cases </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. The Problem with Miller’s Suggestion <ul><li>We always have a simpler explanation of the agent’s failure available </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If the agent gets non-moral cases right but moral ones wrong, his failure is still a logical one, but it may be caused by a separate moral confusion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If the agent gets non-moral cases wrong but moral cases right, he is obviously guilty of a logical failure for non-moral inferences, but his logical acumen may be improved by moral clarity for the moral cases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>There is, in fact, empirical evidence for something like this </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>In each case, failure and success are straightforwardly logical, but may be causally influenced by the agent’s moral sensibility </li></ul>
  17. 17. An Open Debate <ul><li>Since solving the Frege-Geach problem is essential for the contemporary expressivist project of saving appearances and there is no widely accepted response in existence, there now exists a minor cottage industry of producing new solutions and shooting them down </li></ul><ul><li>Blackburn, Gibbard (x2), Dreier (x2), Horgan & Timmons, Unwin, van Roojen, Ridge, Schroeder... </li></ul><ul><li>The discussions can get very technical, but are worth looking into if one is writing an essay on this challenge to expressivism </li></ul>
  18. 18. II Moral Truth and Objectivity
  19. 19. Moral Phenomenology and Realism <ul><li>We tend to experience moral demands as binding on us independent of our desires and attitudes </li></ul><ul><li>We don’t just argue about ethics, but expect there to be correct answers, and at least in some cases objectively true ones </li></ul><ul><li>Further, sometimes it seems as if we can just perceive, say, the moral depravity of an action </li></ul><ul><li>Can expressivism explain these features of our moral thought and practice? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Can the projectivist take such things as obligations, duties, the ‘stern daughter of the voice of God’, seriously? Mustn’t he in some sense have a schizoid attitude to his own moral commitments – holding them, but also holding that they are ungrounded?” (Blackburn 1984, 197) </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. The Mind-Dependence Challenge <ul><li>For the expressivist, to think that training child soldiers is wrong is to hold an attitude of moral disapproval toward training child soldiers </li></ul><ul><li>So, if we didn’t morally disapprove of training child soldiers, it wouldn’t be wrong </li></ul><ul><li>But training child soldiers would be wrong even if everybody morally approved of it </li></ul><ul><li>So, expressivism makes morality objectionably mind-dependent </li></ul>
  21. 21. Blackburn on Mind-Dependence <ul><li>The expressivist qua expressivist is not committed to premise 2, “If we didn’t morally disapprove of training child soldiers, it wouldn’t be wrong” </li></ul><ul><li>Rather, the conditional is a first-order claim and thus itself an expression of a moral attitude toward a possible moral sensibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>H! (lack of disapproval of training child soldiers + -B! (training child soldiers) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Blackburn on kicking dogs: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Suppose someone said ‘if we had different sentiments, it would be right to kick dogs’, what could he be up to? Apparently, he endorses a certain sensibility: one which lets information about what people feel dictate its attitude to kicking dogs. But nice people do not endorse such a sensibility. What makes it wrong to kick dogs is the cruelty or pain to the animal.” (1984, 218) </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Zangwill’s Critique <ul><li>Zangwill (1994) argues that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the mind-independence of some moral truths is a conceptual truth </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Moral demands are normative, and as such presuppose the possibility of us being wrong in our current attitudes: “It is part of making a moral judgment that one knows that there is a difference between making a judgment and making the right judgment. If so, one could not make a moral judgment without knowing that thinking something so doesn’t make it so,” and that </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>expressivists can’t explain this conceptual status </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>After all, on Blackburn’s view, people who endorse a sensibility on which the wrongness of kicking dogs depends on how we feel are taking a substantive moral stand </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Earning Truth <ul><li>Since the expressivist begins with non-cognitive attitudes as building blocks, she has to earn the right to a notion of moral truth </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Ambitious quasi-realism’ is an attempt to construct such a notion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ To show that these fears have no intellectual justification means developing a concept of moral truth out of the materials to hand: seeing how, given attitudes, given constraints upon them, given a notion of improvement and of possible fault in any sensibility including our own, we can construct a notion of truth.” (198) </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Best Possible Attitudes <ul><li>Basic idea: to say that an utterance expressing an attitude is true is to say that the attitude could not be improved </li></ul><ul><ul><li>That is, it belongs to the best possible set of attitudes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If there isn’t a unique best set of attitudes M*, this can’t work, since otherwise an utterance could be both true and false (true in M1 and false in M2, say) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If my sensibility leads me to judge that euthanasia is morally acceptable, your sensibility leads you to judge it isn’t, and I can’t claim mine is superior, I have no right to think of my judgment as true </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Attitudes can only be assessed as better or worse from within a moral sensibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Betterness-judgments are, after all, first order moral judgments </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Transcending the Tree <ul><li>Blackburn’s way of working toward a unique best sensibility is borrowed from Hume </li></ul><ul><li>Suppose we have the following situation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A young man thinks Ovid is the greatest writer ever </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An old man thinks Tacitus is the greatest writer ever </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Neither aesthetic sensibility admits of improvement </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Blackburn: this is the wrong way to construe the situation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The mere fact that the tree branches is a reason to reject the idea that the sensibilities can’t be improved </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In Hume’s case, both the young man and the old man would judge better if they accepted that Ovid and Tacitus are of equal merit, though they have features that appeal to different people </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ In so far as acquaintance with another value system makes me respect it, then it properly makes me rethink both systems, transcending the tree structure.” (201) </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Minimalism About Truth <ul><li>Ramsay, Wittgenstein: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ P’ is true if and only if p </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Saying that p is true is just the same as saying p </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Ramsay’s Ladder’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Donating to terrorists is wrong </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It is true that donating to terrorists is wrong </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It is a fact that donating to terrorists is wrong </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Blackburn: Ramsay’s ladder is horizontal – 3 says just the same as 1 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To show that it is a fact that terrorism is wrong is just the same as to show that terrorism is wrong </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To claim moral knowledge is “to claim a standpoint such that no improvement will lead to a reversal of attitude” </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Minimalism and Objectivity <ul><li>How about people who hold different attitudes? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>” A view we totally reject, such as the view that women deserve death for talking to men outside the family, is not ’true for’ anybody at all, any more than it is true in Pakistan and false here. The fact that some people in Pakistan believe it and act on it is neither here nor there. It just shows that they are corrupt and evil and ought to be stopped.” (Blackburn 2002, 134) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hold it, isn’t this just asserting your own view? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>” In saying this I am, of course, voicing my own attitude on the matter. But that is nothing to be ashamed about.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can this be objectively true? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Well, ”it is true, and I hope I have looked at the matter as objectively as it deserves. That is, I have not overlooked some hidden complexity, or let some hidden agenda of bias or self-advantage determine my attitude. This is what objectivity is in ethics.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can it be proven? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Not to the vicious: ”Proof in these areas depends upon some common ground, and some communal ’similarity space’ within which analogies prove compelling, inconsistencies matter, and at least some shared values can be deployed by each side together.” </li></ul></ul></ul>
  28. 28. III Defining Moral Attitudes
  29. 29. What Are Moral Attitudes? <ul><li>If expressivists are to give an account of moral judgment in terms of moral approval or disapproval, they have to distinguish it from other types of approval and disapproval – aesthetic, gustatory, prudential etc. </li></ul><ul><li>It is obvious that expressivists can’t define moral attitudes in terms of moral content, since that would be circular </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If to morally disapprove of x is to disapprove of x because it is morally bad, as one sees it, the definition already presumes a grasp of what it is to think of something as morally bad </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So, expressivists must define moral disapproval in terms of non-moral attitudes </li></ul>
  30. 30. The Moral Attitude Problem <ul><li>Miller: An analogue of the Open Question Argument can be made against expressivist accounts of moral attitude </li></ul><ul><li>Basically, the form is this: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>” A holds non-moral attitude x toward y, but does A morally (dis)approve of y?” is always an open question </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Miller employs two strategies: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The direct strategy: attitude x is intuitively insufficient for moral disapproval </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The indirect strategy: there is a conceptual connection between judging that y is morally wrong and being disposed to demand that others share this very attitude, and one can intuitively have attitude x without such a disposition </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. Miller Against Emotional Ascent <ul><li>Basically, what the expressivist must do is construct a notion of BM! (moral booing) from non-moral booing and hooraying </li></ul><ul><li>The emotional ascent model can be put as </li></ul><ul><ul><li>BM! (murder) = B! (murder) + H! (everyone has the attitude B! (murder)) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>But, Miller argues, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>” when I judge that murder is morally wrong, I express a non-cognitive sentiment towards murder, and I approve of everyone sharing that same type of non-cognitive sentiment: it wouldn’t be enough, for example, for others to find murder merely aesthetically displeasing” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is needed is thus B! (murder) + H! (everyone has the attitude BM! (murder)), which is circular </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Miller Againt Stability <ul><li>Blackburn has an alternative suggestion: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>” If we imagine the general field of an agent’s concerns, his or her values might be regarded as those concerns that he or she is also concerned to preserve” (Blackburn 1998, 67) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This is to have a higher-order approval toward maintaining the first-order disapproval, and/or toward the disapproval itself </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Here Miller deploys his indirect strategy: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Assume that there is a conceptual connection between judging that y is morally wrong and being disposed to demand that others share this very attitude </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Competent, reflective speakers can imagine someone having a higher-order approval toward (the maintenance of) her disapproval of x without being disposed to demand that others share her disapproval, for example because her disapproval is aesthetic or gustatory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So, it is conceivable that someone has the non-moral attitudes Blackburn requires without having a moral attitude; thus, moral attitudes can’t be defined in Blackburn’s terms </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. Can Gibbard Avoid the Moral Attitude Problem? <ul><li>Miller does not think that it is an open question whether an agent who judges that it is rational to feel guilt and anger for doing x morally disapproves of x </li></ul><ul><li>If this is right, the challenge is to explain guilt and anger themselves in non-moral terms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Surely not just any kind of anger will close the question? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gibbard must presume that judgmental theories of moral emotions are false </li></ul></ul>