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Moralische Urteile als Beschreibungen institutioneller Tatsachen. Unterwegs zu einer Theorie moralischer Urteile


Ferber, Rafael (1993). Moralische Urteile als Beschreibungen institutioneller Tatsachen. Unterwegs zu einer Theorie moralischer Urteile. Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosphie (ARSP):372-392.

Abstract

The paper deals with the question of what a moral judgment is. On the one hand, a satisfactory theory of moral judgments must take into account the descriptive character of moral judgments and the realistic language of morals. On the other hand, it must also meet the non-descriptive character of moral judgments that consists in the recommending or condemning element and in the fact that normative statements are derived from moral judgments. However, cognitivism and emotivism or “normativism” are contradictory theories: if moral judgments are descriptive, it is not possible to deduce norms from them. But if one can deduce norms from moral judgments, they are not descriptive. As a solution to this problem, the paper suggests that moral judgments represent institutional facts; the corresponding theory is moral institutionalism. A moral institutional fact – “an act X is Y”, whereas Y means “morally right” or “morally false” – is a hybrid of descriptive and prescriptive elements: it is stating a fact in descriptive language (“is”) and at the same time, it is short for the prescriptive constitutive rule “X is Y according to the moral rules of the language community C”. Institutional facts contain normative presuppositions without letting them appear in their grammatical form. Institutional facts are now (in relation to the language community C) objective and intersubjective and they can be generalized (cognitive aspect), although they cannot be reduced to brute physical or psychological facts, and it is also possible to deduce norms from them because they are built into them. The metaethical concept of moral institutionalism, which is evolved further in the paper, preserves the best intentions of emotivism and cognitivism without leading to contradiction. As a byproduct, the article shows exactly the error in J. R. Searle’s alleged counter-example against the so-called naturalistic fallacy from “is” to “ought”. This lies in the normative “are” of the analytic premise or definition in “2a. All promises are [that is ought to be] acts of placing oneself under (undertaking) an obligation to do the thing promised”.
The metaethical concept of moral institutionalism, which is evolved further in the paper, preserves the best intentions of emotivism and cognitivism without leading into contradiction. Moral institutionalism (1) shows that there are moral facts and that moral judgments are constative sentences which can be true or false; (2) explains why moral language uses descriptive and prescriptive grammatical forms and (3) why moral judgments cannot be empirically verified or falsified; and (4) makes it possible to explain conceptually the phenomenon of moral relativism and the possibility of moral clash, (5) in what way moral judgments are on the one hand stable but can also be changed or modified over time, and (6) what the moral evidence is when we “see” that something is morally right or wrong. Last, moral institutionalism (7) can explain why and how the concept of moral cognitivism and emotivism came into philosophy.

Abstract

The paper deals with the question of what a moral judgment is. On the one hand, a satisfactory theory of moral judgments must take into account the descriptive character of moral judgments and the realistic language of morals. On the other hand, it must also meet the non-descriptive character of moral judgments that consists in the recommending or condemning element and in the fact that normative statements are derived from moral judgments. However, cognitivism and emotivism or “normativism” are contradictory theories: if moral judgments are descriptive, it is not possible to deduce norms from them. But if one can deduce norms from moral judgments, they are not descriptive. As a solution to this problem, the paper suggests that moral judgments represent institutional facts; the corresponding theory is moral institutionalism. A moral institutional fact – “an act X is Y”, whereas Y means “morally right” or “morally false” – is a hybrid of descriptive and prescriptive elements: it is stating a fact in descriptive language (“is”) and at the same time, it is short for the prescriptive constitutive rule “X is Y according to the moral rules of the language community C”. Institutional facts contain normative presuppositions without letting them appear in their grammatical form. Institutional facts are now (in relation to the language community C) objective and intersubjective and they can be generalized (cognitive aspect), although they cannot be reduced to brute physical or psychological facts, and it is also possible to deduce norms from them because they are built into them. The metaethical concept of moral institutionalism, which is evolved further in the paper, preserves the best intentions of emotivism and cognitivism without leading to contradiction. As a byproduct, the article shows exactly the error in J. R. Searle’s alleged counter-example against the so-called naturalistic fallacy from “is” to “ought”. This lies in the normative “are” of the analytic premise or definition in “2a. All promises are [that is ought to be] acts of placing oneself under (undertaking) an obligation to do the thing promised”.
The metaethical concept of moral institutionalism, which is evolved further in the paper, preserves the best intentions of emotivism and cognitivism without leading into contradiction. Moral institutionalism (1) shows that there are moral facts and that moral judgments are constative sentences which can be true or false; (2) explains why moral language uses descriptive and prescriptive grammatical forms and (3) why moral judgments cannot be empirically verified or falsified; and (4) makes it possible to explain conceptually the phenomenon of moral relativism and the possibility of moral clash, (5) in what way moral judgments are on the one hand stable but can also be changed or modified over time, and (6) what the moral evidence is when we “see” that something is morally right or wrong. Last, moral institutionalism (7) can explain why and how the concept of moral cognitivism and emotivism came into philosophy.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Language:German
Date:1993
Deposited On:24 Aug 2014 08:21
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 18:20
Publisher:Steiner, Stuttgart
ISSN:0001-2343

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