Tuesday, June 14, 2022

What language can we use for evil?

Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor, Chapter 9:

"But how to be morally severe in the late twentieth century? How, when there is so much to be severe about; how, when we have a sense of evil but no longer the religious or philosophical language to talk intelligently about evil? Trying to comprehend ‘radical’ or ‘absolute’ evil, we search for adequate metaphors. But the modern disease metaphors are all cheap shots. The people who have the real disease are also hardly helped by hearing their disease’s name constantly being dropped as the epitome of evil. Only in the most limited sense is any historical event or problem like an illness. And the cancer metaphor is particularly crass."

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Section 187:

"Quite apart from the value of such assertions as 'there exists in us a categorical imperative' one can still ask: what does such an assertion say of the man who asserts it? ...moralities too are only a sign-language of the emotions."

"They Get to Me." Jessica Love. The American Scholar. Spring 2010. p. 71. :

"German bilinguals consistently described the bridge with more feminine adjectives (elegant, beautiful), and Spanish bilinguals described it with more masculine adjectives (sturdy, dangerous). Here’s the kicker: instructions were given in English, descriptions were written in English, and the photograph of the bridge was just that—a photograph. This suggests that pronouns might be important, not just to how we use language, but to how we experience the objects in our world (although, as dear Steven Pinker points out, “Just because a German thinks a bridge is feminine, doesn’t mean he’s going to ask one out on a date”)."

In P. Glassen, "The Cognitivity of Moral Judgments," Mind 68 (1959), pp 57–72. and P. Geach "Assertion." See also C. Wellman, "Emotivism and Ethical Objectivity," American Philosophical Quarterly 5 (1968), pp. 90-9. Reprinted in Richard Joyce. The Myth of Morality. Cambridge University Press, 2001. p. 13. :

"Glassen's point is that if all the evidence suggests that we intend to use our moral language in an assertoric manner, then all the evidence suggests that our moral language is assertoric, for assertion is entirely a matter of our intentions. The evidence that Glassen assembles I would employ to a slightly different end: as confirmation that the linguistic conventions that govern moral discourse are those of assertions. Here is Glassen's list..."
1. They (moral utterances) are expressed in the indicative mood
2. They can be transformed into interrogative sentences
3. They appear embedded in propositional attitude contexts
4. They are considered true or false, correct or mistaken
5. They are considered to have an impersonal, objective character
6. The putative moral predicates can be transformed into abstract singular terms (e.g., "goodness"), suggesting they are intended to pick out properties
7. They are subject to debate which bears all the hallmarks of factual disagreement
We can add to this list the two related characteristics highlighted by Peter Geach.
8. They appear in logically complex contexts (e.g., as the antecedents of conditionals)
9. They appear as premises in arguments considered valid"

Painting Dragons: What Storytellers Need to Know About Writing Eunuch Villains

a caped Minion with vampire teeth
Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

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