1. Statement of My Theory
We have arrived at the first of three chapters in which Mr. Edwards will state, explain and defend his own - metaethical - theory of the logic of moral discourse. Indeed, nearly all of the foregoing chapters can be seen as part of the necessary explanation of relevant terms, concepts, presuppositions and theories.
He starts as follows:
"In this and the next two chapters I shall state and defend my own metaethic, my own answers to the three questions which form the subject matter of this inquiry. I am advancing my theory in a purely experimental spirit, to be modified or discarded as new evidence comes available. I believe it to be a strong theory mainly for two reasons. Firstly, it is a theory compatible with and indeed explains all the facts concerning moral judgments which we noticed in various discussions and many of which are incompatible with other metaethical theories. Secondly, it fits all the examples of moral judgments, disputes and arguments I have had occasion to analyze." (p. 139)
It should be noted that Mr. Edwards rather than saying he proposes his theory in a "experimental spirit" should have said - what he almost certainly meant - that he does so in a scientific or rational spirit, and indeed the two reasons he gives are common criterions that adequate scientific theories should pass: Be compatible with all the known facts, and fit all known examples. For if they don't, they contradict some fact they should explain, and cannot be true, and are factually refuted.
Next, there is the following general statement of Mr. Edwards' theory - and I have provided links to the relevant passages in earlier chapters in this review:
"The main features of my metaethic are summarized in the following six propositions:
(1) most moral judgments are objective claims in the narrow sense of Chapter I, Section 5, or else in the broader sense defined at the end of Chapter VI;
(2) moral judgments, so far as their descriptive meaning is concerned, tend to be polyguous like statements about the niceness of food or the boringness of lectures;
(3) the features to which moral judgments refer or which they imply are no more non-natural than the features to which judgments about the niceness of foods refer;
(4) certain moral judgments resemble commands and requests in certain respects, but they are not commands or requests - they are sui generis and also differ from commands and requests in various significant ways; and some moral judgments do not even resemble commands and requests in any significant way;
(5) many moral disputes are, within certain limits, capable of settlement in the same sense or a sense closely analogous to that in which scientific disputes can be settled;
(6) many moral judgments "follow from" non-moral judgments in the only sense in which any ordinary person ever meant to assert this." (p. 139-40)
Before saying something about these features, it makes sense to let Mr. Edwards explain in what sense he intends his theory, notably as regards what he calls naturalistic:
"The direction of many of my discussions will be clearer if I pause here to say a few words about the naturalistic character of my theory and the way in which it differs from other forms of naturalism.
Let us call a situation in which a moral judgment is made a "moral situation." Now, according to intuitionism, four types of entities enter into most if not all moral situations:
(1) Attitudes or emotions on the part of the person who makes the moral judgment;
(2) Attitudes or emotions on the part of the person to whom the judgment is addressed;
(3) Natural features of the moral judgment;
(4) Non-natural features of the moral judgment.
As against this, naturalists of various types have held that only (1), (2) and (3) enter into the moral situation. In this, I think they have been entirely in the right." (p. 140)
As I indicated before, I agree with Mr. Edwards' naturalism, while I hold that instead of (4) there is in moral judgments always, whether explicitly made or not, some reference to a supposed shared common human nature and common experience, if not of all than at least of those with whom one cooperates in one's own sociey. But I agree with Mr. Edwards that this is a factual and natural hypothesis, although I believe it is a matter of indisputable fact most men when dealing with ordinary affairs and ordinary men make the hypothesis that they themselves and the men they deal and cooperate with have quite a few needs, feelings, desires, likes and dislikes, and factual judgments in common, for indeed they could not cooperate succesfully or at all if they did not.
Now let me state some brief comments on the six features Mr. Edwards listed.
(1) While I agree that most moral judgments refer to objective facts, I also insist that they refer to subjective feelings, and it is a mistake to obscure this - nor is this necessary or desirable from a naturalistic point of view. In fact, what makes the class of moral judgments stand on its own is precisely that moral judgments refer to both - supposed - natural facts and - supposed - human desires, feelings, appreciations, likes and dislikes and presuppose some human ends and ideas about reality and human nature.
(2) Mr. Edwards is mostly right about what he calls the polyguity of moral statements, and has at least the beginning of a plausible approach to them, which indeed largely consists of allowing that moral judgments may appeal to and depend on both natural facts and human feelings, desires and ends concerning these facts and often appeal to and depend on several selections from several sets of factual features that are deemed relevant for that kind of judgment.
(3) Also, I agree with Mr. Edwards in rejecting non-natural explanations, or indeed rejecting appeals to a supposed immortal god-given human soul or a god or a Holy Writ supposedly containing the last word on things moral, social, human and religious. However, it is well to insist that obviously such appeals appear valid and indeed provide much of the motivation behind the moral judgments of many religious people - with which he and I indeed may agree in practice, while disagreeing about their theoretical foundations, since neither Mr. Edwards nor I are moved by the hope or fear of a rewarding and punishing divinity.
(4) What Mr. Edwards said about imperatives and requests also seems mostly sensible to me, though I should add that - as under (2) - what Mr. Edwards offers is not so much "a logic of moral discourse" as part of the necessary groundwork to surrect one (which I personally believe can be done well only if it is a form of formal logic, at least for those who wish to seriously discuss fundamental theoretical issues).
(5) I agree with Mr. Edwards that there are quite a few senses in which moral disputes could or can be settled in "a sense closely analogous to that in which scientific disputes can be settled" - but I also should insist that as a matter of fact moral disputes, especially but not only between organized groups and nations, tend to be settled not by verbal dispute but by threats, violence, murder or war or (also) by propaganda and fallacious argumentation.
(6) There is indeed a sense of "follows from" that is quite common in which it is true that "ought" and "should" statements are supposed to "follow from" factual statements - but it seems well to remark that this seems to hold only for such people or communities that share a number of the same values and desires.
Having stated my own agreements, disagreements and reservations, let us see what Mr. Edwards has to add, and start with noting a precisification he gives:
"My exposition will be greatly simplified if I distinguish at this stage between two classes of moral judgments. Following suggestions made by Broad and Findlay, I shall distinguish between "value-judgments" and "judgments of obligation". Judgments having as their predicate "good," "desirable," "worthwile," are instances of the former. Sentences containing "ought," "oblige," or "duty" are instances of the latter.
I shall single out judgments containing "good" as their predicate from the class of value-judgments and I shall select sentences containing "ought" from the obligation-judgments. I shall from now on, call the former "good-judgments" and the latter "ought-judgments." " (p. 141)
It should be remarked that this concerns only the terminology used, and that it makes sense to make some such explicit convention and selection as Mr. Edwards makes, because there are so many distinct ways of stating (moral) approval or disapproval, and also because there are fashions in the usage of such terms. Thus - for a mere example - what Mr. Edwards called "good" some 20 years later was called by young adults "groovy" and yet 20 years later by the young adults raised by those who used "groovy" was instead called "cool". Very probably the later terms of approval were used, in Mr. Edwards' terminology, as polyguous terms, and very probably in the vast majority of cases little more was meant than "the speaker approves or has a positive attitude to whatever he calls "groovy" or "cool"".
2. "Good and Nice"
Now Mr. Edwards embarks on a fairly systematic comparison of the terms "good" and "nice", indeed along four different axes of comparison. He starts as follows:
"There are many highly interesting likenesses between the functions of the word "good" as applied to actions and characters and the word "nice" as applied to foods." (p. 141)
I agree, but there also seem to me to be two fairly fundamental related dis-similarities between "good" and "nice", which are also relevant, and should be noted. They are these:
(A) Normally, one expects a word like "good" to occur in the context of ethical or moral judgments and a word like "nice" in the context of esthetical judgments and judgments of taste.
(B) One basic difference between ethical and esthetical judgments - to use two convenient terms - is that ethical judgments (i) tend to refer to some sort of assumption of a shared human nature (or for religious people, in addition to this, a divinely made human soul) and (ii) refer to far more - supposed - factual knowledge and - supposed - ends about human society, interaction and cooperation than esthetical judgments.
Having said this, let me follow Mr. Edwards' discussion and four headings.
"(A) OBJECTIVITY AND POLYGUITY
Like "nice," "good" usually both refers to certain qualities of the thing judged to be good and expresses a favorable attitude on the part of the person who makes the judgment. As in the case of "nice," the emphasis is sometimes on the one, sometimes on the other. Like "nice," furthermore, "good" is polyguous so far as its referent is concerned. People belonging to different groups and also, though far less so, different people belonging to the same group, tend to refer to more or less different features when they use the word "good." Like "nice," too, "good" tends to be rather vague." (p. 141-2)
This seems mostly true, and it is interesting and relevant that in statements and considerations of the law, which are intimately related to moral judgments, there are both efforts to decrease the possibilities of polyguity and ambiguity and an acknowledgement that some of this is unavoidable, and must be met by case-law.
Next, Mr. Edwards gives an interesting and personal example.
"Not long ago at a party I was, in misanthropic fashion, talking along the following lines: "The average man is a liar and a thief. His dearest aim is to get something for nothing. He is anxious to please and be pleased, but never to have the truth about himself or the people he euphemistically calls his 'friends'. Full of envy and fear, he destroys the life in his children whom he fashions in his own image..." As I was proceeding in this vein, reciting case after case, someone interrupted me with a question: "Well have you ever met a good person?" I thought for a moment and the I said, quite sincerely: "Yes. X.Y. is a good person." " (p. 142)
What interests me in this passage is not the identity of X.Y., that Mr. Edwards does not reveal, though he has to say rather a lot in praise of this female person, but the realism of Mr. Edwards, at least at such moment that he feels somewhat "misanthropic".
Indeed, there are at least 9 features involved in very many moral judgments people make in fact that should be mentioned and should be reckoned with and indeed accounted for, since they make moral judgments rather different from most non-moral judgments, and also tricky and difficult in quite a number of respects.
Here is a list of these nine features, with some brief comments:
1. Hypocrisy: Wherever there are moral norms in a society, there will be hypocrisy: Many of the supposed adherents of a moral code, which they defend by word of mouth and occasional public action when this is neither dangerous nor onpopular, do not in fact adhere at all or for the most part to the codes they pretend to adhere to. They merely act as if because doing so profits them or because not doing so would hurt them, and lie while falsely pretending to practise moral norms they know that they do not practise.
2. Lies: Wherever there are moral norms in a society, there will be lies, and not only because of hypocrisy but to mislead people. Already Plato discussed seriously the possibility and desirability for the political leaders of the type of society he preferred to lie to and mislead the ordinary people by pleasing myths, deceitful terms etc. Most succesful politicians since have been succesful liars, though it should be added this may, at times, have been motivated honorably.
3. Fraudulence: Very often the moral norms in a society are defended and maintained by people who are fraudulent and know themselves to be frauds. Three well-known examples of the types of men and fraudulence I have in mind are the Borgia-pope Alexander VI and the socialist humanists Stalin and Mao. But indeed there are and have been far more of such men and women, and it would seem that no well-known political party or religion is without its leading frauds, who to a large extent preach what they do not practice nor believe in to acquire power or influence over those they mislead or deceive. (See e.g. Machiavelli, Mandeville and De la Boétie.)
4. Bias: Wherever there are moral norms in a society, there will be bias: In normal cases the vast majority of both the proponents and the opponents of given moral norms or judgments will have a biased view of the evidence, and indeed of what should count as evidence, while the vast majority of those contending about popular moral issues tend to be only informed about such evidence as they believe would strengthen their own point of view or weaken the case of their opponents.
5. Prejudice: Wherever there are moral norms in a society, there will be prejudice: Not only will most proponents and opponents of contentious moral issue be biased, they will also be prejudiced, in that they hold points of view and censure points of view not on the basis of relevant knowledge and objective evidence, but on the basis of whether the supposed knowledge or evidence conforms to or weakens the ethical or other assumptions they already have.
6. Propaganda: Wherever there are moral norms in a society, there will be propaganda: The moral norms will be defended and popularized by means that the popularizers know are slanted, biased, partial, prejudiced, improperly informed, or simply misleading, false or lies.
7. Wishful thinking: Wherever there are moral norms in a society, there will be a lot of wishful thinking about what these moral norms would produce if only all or most men believed or practised them, and also usually a lot of wishful thinking about how bad, inferior, stupid or otherwise reprehensible the opponents (or non-comformers) are. Likewise:
8. Chauvinism: Wherever there are moral norms in a society, there will be chauvinism, for moral norms are meant to serve and express the interests, norms, values, practices and ends of a certain society or group, and this tend to be combined with much that may sound more noble, moral and honorific than "Us is Good, Them is Bad", but which does not amount to much more than this.
9. Conformism: Wherever there are moral norms in a society, there will be conformism: Many people, rather than oppose what they disagree with or question what they don't see the rational point of, will conform rather than oppose or publicly disagree, simply because this is easier, more profitable, socially more popular, or indeed because they know that opposition or disagreement with the norms they conform to will be punished by the authorities. (The main difference between a conformer and a hypocrite is that the hypocrite lies in addition to being a conformer, and for the most part knows he lies, and knows he does so for some advantage to himself or his group. And it should be noted that there may be very good reasons in a totalitarian society or religion for people to conform.)
It seems to me these 9 features are quite important in the rational discussion of actual moral discourse, and it also seems to me they are not often taken seriously to the extent they deserve to be taken seriously.
After all, the yield of these 9 features is that very much about moral discourse and moral acting is neither what it seems nor what it is claimed to be nor what people pretend it is:
Much of moral discourse and moral acting is play-acting, role-playing, acting as if, external conformism, hypocrisy, and based on prejudice while furthered with propaganda. And it seems this aspect of morals has not often been seriously dealt with, though there are some examples of texts which do, if not in the context of a philosophical or logical discussion of moral discourse. I refer to E. Goffman's "The Presentation of Self in Ordinary Society" and to E. Berne's "Games People Play" and also to Machiavelli's "The Prince", which is quite clear and outspoken about this, and which is on my site with my own extensive notes and comments.
And I say something about a few of the above features and the reason why they exist in my "Fundamental Principles of Invalid Reasoning". Also, there is on my site an interesting moral poem about the role and importance of moral vice in ordinary life to ordinary people: Mandeville's "Fable of the Bees".
At this place, Mr. Edwards discusses a number of examples of good, bad and indifferent people in some detail which I have to forego because it clearly mostly presupposes the American situation in which he wrote his book in 1950, which - I will suppose - is mostly unknown to most people who read this review in 2004, when I wrote it, or later.
Nevertheless, it is somewhat interesting, since Mr. Edwards is or was American, that the person he calls good "was at one time a member of the Communist Party", next to having such features as "she is incapable of lying", "she is completely devoid of envy", she "is devoid of neurotic anxieties and the sadistic traits which are so common", and many other desirable features that may strike some as incredible. (See Mr. Edwards' book around p. 143).
Likewise, Mr. Edwards discusses another American member of the American C.P.:
"a lecturer in philosophy and psychology at some such institution as the Jefferson School of Lies and Forgeries. He originally joined the Party partly out of genuine conviction and partly because he had powerful desires to be a hero and a celebrity. With other groups he could not cut much ice since he was neither very intelligent nor particularly charming. But he found that if he bellowed "Fascist," "Trotzkyite," "wrecker and saboteur," very often and at the top of his voice at people who were out of favor with "the most progressive section of the working-class," he was certain to get thunderous applause from a certain quarter. So he became a "Party-philosopher". (..) his character has also many features that should not be surpressed in this survey. Thus he is a pathological liar. (..) neither the truth nor the sufferings of millions means anything to him, so long as he can go on feeling important." (p. 145-6)
My main reasons to quote this is that (a) I have met many men and women of the very same type - who tend to call themselves "socialists", "democrats" and/or "feminists", in which they are all as honest and sincere as was Stalin when claiming humanism for himself - in the Universiy of Amsterdam when I studied there in the late 70-ies and 80-ies of the 20th C, and indeed men and women of the type still have the power both in that University and also in the City of Amsterdam (in which drugsmafiosi consequently have thrived and made - literally! - billions of dollars over the last 30 years) (b) because Raymond Aron describes much the same type in his "L'Opium des intellectuels", also written in the early fifties, and also about Marxism and especially French Marxists (c) because George Orwell again did the same, for example in "Homage to Catalonia", "Animal Farm" and "1984" and in quite a few of his Collected Essays and Letters and finally (d) in support of the nine features of ordinary moral discourse that I listed above, and that may seem "cynical" or "aristocratic" in the eyes of those who either don't know the facts or prefer to be safely blind and silent about them.
In short: There are far more totalitarian persons and hypocritical conformers than publicly announce they are or indeed than know they are, for most totalitarian people of the left believe themselves to be "humanists", "democrats" etc. and would angrily reject so much as the possibility that their judgments are not as rational as they like to believe nor that their motives are as noble and altruistic as they publicly claim they are. (Perhaps I should add that I also do not believe people with non-leftist political convictions are more honest, less deluded or more intelligent.)
Also, this seems to be the place to repeat a small quotation of George Orwell, who saw the hypocrisy and totalitarianism of both left and right really well, though he thought of himself as "a socialist" - and I stress the principal part of his diagnosis:
"Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians, which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side." (The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3, p. 419, written in May 1945.)
To continue with Mr. Edwards' account of his theory:
"It is worth our while now to recall another point which I emphasized in Chapter V. I there pointed out that when (..) I say "the steak at Barney's is nice" my taste determimes what features in a stake I refer to by "nice," but the statement itself refers to the features and not to my taste." (p. 147)
As I pointed out repeatedly, I agree with this except for the fact that I insist that one's taste also is involved, even if it is tacitly presupposed in a context where others are known to mostly share it. Mr. Edwards continues:
"Similarly, what causes me to call X.Y. a good person is my favorable attitude to gentleness and truthfulness and freedom from envy. But what I refer to when I say, "X.Y. is a good person" are these features in X.Y. and not my approval.
The same remark I just made must be once again repeated - and obviously what Mr. Edwards conveys by such judgments, even if they are wholly or mostly based on facts is that Mr. Edwards himself approves of these features and that person, and indeed would be quite willing to give good rational reasons - in his opinion - why he thinks so.
"Similarly (..) in plenty of others which have not analyzed:
what determines one to regard a person or an action as good is one's approval of certain of the qualities of that person or action, but in saying that the person or the action is good one refers to the qualities and not to the approval. This is most important point of my whole treatise. I shall therefore state it once more in slightly different language: the referent of the moral judgment is determined by the speaker's attitude, but is not that attitude." (p. 148)
Since Mr. Edwards says "This is most important point of my whole treatise" it seems worthwile to qualify. The problem is this: What Mr. Edwards says comes down to "a characteristic F is good if and only if F has (disjunctively, polyguously etc.) the qualities (most) members of group G call "good", or alternatively expressed: "conforms (disjunctively etc.) to the desires that most or all in the group hold." But that seems not sufficient for, at least, the following two reasons:
(a) Is that characteristic F good in any useful rational sense, also if the group G is one of professional torturers, henchmen, or of terrorists?
(b) Isn't it in fact argued by many moral philosophers that the good is what it is - in part - because human beings, human societies and natural reality have certain features?
In short, I agree mostly with Mr. Edwards, but so far he just has not addressed these fundamental questions and the further one which may be posed thus:
(c) Is it true that what is good (in the ethical sense) for human beings depends at least in part on what human beings, human societies and reality are really like?
Mr. Edwards does see some of my points, but not, I think, in the same way as I do. But he does give a relevant and interesting quotation of Hume in the present context:
"I should like to cite and defend a passage from Hume which, in one crucial aspect at least, advocates the same doctrine:
When a man denominates another man, his rival, his antagonist, his adversary, he is understood to speak the language of self-love, and to express sentiments, peculiar to himself, and arising from his particular circumstances and situation. But when he bestows on any man the epithets of vicious or odious or depraved, he then speaks another language, and expresses sentiments, in which he expects all his audience are to concur with him. He must, therefore, depart from his private and particular situation, and must choose a point of view, common to him with others; he must move some universal principle of the human frame, and touch a string to which all mankind have an accord and sympathy. If he means, therefore, to express that this man possesses qualities, whose tendency is pernicious to society, he has chosen this common point of view, and has touched the principle of humanity, in which every man, in some degree, concurs." (p. 148-9)
I have been argueing a very similar point of view. Unfortunately, Mr. Edwards draws the wrong inference:
"(..) according to Hume "X is vicious" means, "X possesses certain qualities - namely qualities which are pernicious to society." "X is vicious" is an objective statement in our sense. It is not a statement about the author's disapproval of other people either: it is about X's qualities. The disapproval of mankind, on Hume's view, determines what qualities "vicious" refers to. But the referent of "vicious" are X's qualities and not the disapproval of mankind." (p. 149)
By contrast, it is my considered (and repeated) opinion that such statements as "X is vicious" and "Y is good" are both about the author's disapproval of other people and about X's or Y's qualities - and this is precisely the mark of moral judgments: These are both about the facts and about people's attitudes to the facts and generally incorporate or presuppose a theory of a shared human nature - as Hume puts it: "some universal principle of the human frame",
And therefore the referent of "vicious" are both X's qualities and the supposed disapproval of mankind as based on a theory of human nature (that may be false but usually is presupposed in some form by those who argue about moral judgments).
Next, Mr. Edwards has a very similar argument as regards judging people, and notably his own example of human goodness he calls X.Y.:
(B) REASONS AND REFERENT
(..) the answer to this (..) "What reasons do you have for saying that X.Y. is a good person?" is (..) taken to mean, "What are X.Y.'s features which are the reasons for your favorable attitude towards her?" (p. 150)
But as above, Mr. Edwards, apparently impressed or misled by his capacity for finding an objective side to his question thinks that X.Y.'s - supposed - factual features are all that matters. By contrast, I ask: Why are these features good? And I maintain that whatever rational answer Mr. Edwards could but does not give should be given as Hume did in the previous quotation, namely in terms of ends and values Mr. Edwards has about human nature, human society and a desirable human life.
We now come to Mr. Edwards' third comparison:
(C) VAGUENESS AND INDEFINITENESS
"Something must now be said about a subject which I have glossed over up to now. The good-judgments made by fanatics tend to be fairly definite since a fanatic tends to approve very few features for their own sake. But other good judgments are both indefinite and vague." (p. 150)
Whether Mr. Edwards is correct in his claim about fanatics and non-fanatics I shall not discuss, but he seems right that many, though not all (more or less) "good-judgments are both indefinite and vague." I will quote only some of his points about this subject.
"When I say that somebody is a good person I refer to one or other of a certain set of features. But in most cases, there are some features where my usage of "good" is simply not sufficiently fixed for me to say whether or not I am referring to them.
One further remark in this connection to correct or supplement something I said earlier: when I say something about a particular person, e.g., X.Y., shat she is good, I have of course certain features in mind. But in the sense in which we defined "refer" I am not referring to them as such but to any of a large number of possible sets." (p. 151)
Supposing this to be mostly so, it is well that Mr. Edwards adds:
"There is nothing in what I have been saying which implies that moral judgments are necessarily "uncritical" or "irrational." What is meant by a "critical moral judgment", I am assuming, is a moral judgment based on investigation of the features of the object judged." (p. 151-2)
To be sure, with my qualification: On the often but not always tacit presupposition of some shared human nature and experience, normally, and/or on the basis of certain ends one wishes to further in society, and with and about human beings.
Mr. Edwards also adds:
"My view does not imply that moral judgments are "emotional" in the sense of expressing momentary fits of emotion. What they express are attitudes and attitudes have what is pompously called "an element of universality"." (p. 152)
Again: Which they can have in a rational sense because an assumption is made as I described in my previous remark.
To turn now to Mr. Edwards' last comparison:
"(D) TYPES OF MORAL ATTITUDES AND OBJECTIVES
Approval and disapproval are sometimes called "the moral emotions" or "the moral attitudes." I should like to point out in this connection that, whether they are in fact always expressed by moral judgments or not, there seem to be other emotions and attitudes which are occasionally at least also expressed by a moral judgment." (p. 152)
Mr. Edwards gives two examples, one - again - of a "Communist" "of the tough, hard-boiled variety" who is "absolutely pitiless" "full of envy" and "responsible for more deaths and deportations among the German and Austrian refugees than any other single person" who also "made sure that some of his worst personal enemies were handed over to the Gestapo." About this man, Mr. Edwards says that: "Gottfried Eisinger I call an evil man and what I am expressing here is not just disapproval, but impersonal hatred. I hate him not because he has done me any harm personally. He has not. I hate him because his character has certain qualities. I would hate anybody with a character of the same kind." (p. 153)
I only give this as an example of what Mr. Edwards means. The same applies to his other example:
My second example is that of Martin Sekierer. Sekierer is a sadist and pornographer with a cleanliness-neurosis. He also lives in constant fear that people may take him for a homosexual. He sees dirt where nobody else can see it.
Martin Sekierer is too insignificant to call him evil. The terms I usually apply to him are unprintable. When I use printable terms I call him a vile stinker. Here what I am expressing, in addition to disapproval and a certain modicum of impersonal hatred, is contempt and anger." (p. 154-5)
I think that the least that can be said is that Mr. Edwards has given two examples of the sort of judgments many will agree are moral judgments, even if they quite disagree with them or would use quite different terms to express similar judgments. (Note 1)
And I do not want to discuss Mr. Edwards' examples, but do wish to make a general remark: There is the difficulty I mentioned earlier, that in political or religious context judgments like Mr. Edwards formulated tend to be made as a matter of course, but often with little supporting good evidence, even if with a lot of noise and a great show of confidence and rectitude. Moreover, in the Soviet Union morally good and intellectually capable persons have been locked up in madhouses and slandered in all manner of ways, merely because they opposed the Soviet régime. And in American presidential campagnes, the candidates or their propagandizers and ad-people tend to slander and smear the opposing candidates in terms that if only partially true would be enough to disqualify all the candidates from office as morally, humanly and intellectual utter incompetents or worse.
Mr. Edwards ends this section as follows:
"I may have given the impression in what I said concerning the polyguity of "good" that when two people with a different back-ground argue about the goodness of a person, they are engaged in a purely verbal disagreement and that their dispute is therefore a "pseudo-dispute." I shall deal with this point more fully in Chapter VIII. But I should like to say at once that this is only a small part of my view concerning moral disputes. The disputants do indeed, in such a case, "speak different languages," but their linguistic differences are the signs of non-verbal disagreements."
Hence, I would say, to say if they have a real non-verbal disagreement, it is mistaken or misleading that to say that they "speak different languages".
Mr. Edwards open this section thus:
"It is impossible to give an adequate account of the functions of the word "ought" or of ought-judgments without a discussion of moral disputes. Prior to that discussion we shall have to confine ourselves to a few simple and obvious points." (p. 155)
So I will do the same.
"An interesting point about ought-judgments is their "flavor of holiness." By this I mean the speaker's implication, "I make this statement although I do not stand to gain by its satisfaction" or "I would say this even if its satisfaction would not bring me any personal benefit." In many cases of advice something of this flavor is also present, but rarely to the same extent as in ought-judgments." (p. 157)
This seems to be so and is consistent with many of the 9 features of actual morals I noted above. Next, Mr. Edwards says:
"It should also be noted that while the Objective of (non-moral) imperatives is always the performance of some action or other, the Objectives of ought-judgments is sometimes the adoption of a certain attitude rather than the performance of an action." (p. 158)
This is also the case - and it is wonderful with what degree and display of moral rectitude and sense of imparting very useful information some elder people can tell young boys, I found when a young boy, that "you ought to be good!" and other similar moral profundities.
Mr. Edwards concludes this chapter thus:
"Like good-judgments, ought-judgments tend to be rather vague. That is to say, there will usually be a fairly wide range of features of an action concerning which a person will not be able definitely to say either that they are or are not relevant to the ought-judgment concerning the action. My discussion in preceding paragraphs may have given the impression that people always either definitely approve or definitely disapprove of a given feature or definitely adopt an attitude of moral indifference. I hasten to add not that this is not the case. Observation quite plainly shows that there are varying degrees of approval and indifference." (p. 158)
This is also true, and it suggests a logical point Mr. Edwards does not make: A formal logic that is capable of more or less adequately representing the moral judgments people make, must be able to deal explicitly somehow with indifference and vagueness of judgments - which means that it must comprise more than standard formal logic does, which may be adequate to represent the reasoning mathematicians use when reasoning mathematically, but is not adequate, as is, to represent the indefinite or vague moral judgments people often make, and cannot avoid making if they want to make moral judgments at all. (Incidentally: The easiest way to do something along these lines is by using probability theory and include explicit personal judgments of value, e.g. as I did in Chapter V.)