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Are you an emotivist?

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Are you an emotivist?
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SnufkinPosts: 55Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:02 am

Are you an emotivist?

Secular Humanism makes a lot of sense to me, but there was always an underlying 'why':

'Why is it good to not cause suffering to others?'

Somehow I followed a link to a Wikipedia about emotivism. I hadn't heard the word before but it made a lot of sense to me.

The gist is that an emotivist believes that ethical or moral statements are the expression of the speakers feelings/emotion, and have no objective truth.

Of course you can accept emotivism and still be a humanist - realising ethical statements are based on emotion doesn't stop you from having emotions.

So:
  1. Are you an emotivist?
  2. Why isn't this word used more frequently to express someones position?
  3. (removed)
  4. Do you have any objections to emotivism?
  5. Any other thoughts?

A link to a page about emotivism (perhaps not the best, but more readable than the wikipedia page).
Last edited by Snufkin on Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 4:32 pm
televatorUser avatarPosts: 1252Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2010 12:02 amLocation: In hell, rocking out with Satan! Gender: Cake

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

1. No. At least not entirely. At any given time that really counts, I try not to react solely on my emotions. That's the kind of crap that got me in trouble as a kid and still gets me sometimes as an adult.

2. Because people can have facts and not just emotions to base their actions on and it's basically another name for relativism.

3. What?

4. Yes, see 5.

5. So are bigoted, anti-human, religious zealots not basing anything on their emotions too? Because if that's the basis for "ethics" then what they do can also be labeled as "ethical".
a·the·ism: The absence of belief in god(s)

There are no additional, claims, laws, commandments, rules, doctrines, presuppositions, stand alone ideologies, dogmas, and/or faith based beliefs required by or inevitably derived from atheism.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:08 pm
Anachronous RexLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 2008Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 4:07 pmLocation: Kansas City, MO Gender: Male

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

If you're looking for a counterargument, I would suggest just reading anything by Sam Harris.

Our prefrontal lobes are too small. Much too small. That's a problem of the birth canal, I'm very sorry to say for those that like their birth canals... tight.
-C. Hitchens.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:33 pm
ProlescumWebhamsterUser avatarPosts: 5007Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 8:41 pmLocation: Peptone-upon-Sores

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

1. No
2. Because it's rubbish
3. What?
4. To what?
5. Yes. Why people promote that pissy little bigot Harris is beyond me.
if constructive debate is allowed to progress, better ideas will ultimately supplant worse ideas.

Comment is free, but facts are sacred
Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:57 pm
SnufkinPosts: 55Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:02 am

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

I've removed the third question and clarified one.
I'll think about the answers that have been posted so far (I'm a slow thinker).

Prolescum: Why do you think it's rubbish?

btw: I'm not expecting everyone to answer all questions, pick and choose if you want.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:11 pm
televatorUser avatarPosts: 1252Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2010 12:02 amLocation: In hell, rocking out with Satan! Gender: Cake

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

Prolescum wrote:Why people promote that pissy little bigot Harris is beyond me.


Because he's at least trying something. I don't entirely agree with him on everything, but I appreciate the conversations he's trying to start with respect to ethics. So it's not really promoting him so much as his idea which could lead to something useful.
a·the·ism: The absence of belief in god(s)

There are no additional, claims, laws, commandments, rules, doctrines, presuppositions, stand alone ideologies, dogmas, and/or faith based beliefs required by or inevitably derived from atheism.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:13 pm
LaurensSocial EditorUser avatarPosts: 2995Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:24 pmLocation: Norwich UK Gender: Male

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

No, emotions are a weak basis for actions. We all know how irrationally we can act when angry, or in love - I think that to use something that can often cause us to act irrationally as a basis for morality and ethics is a bad idea. I would say that reason and rationality is a far, far better basis for morality.

Edit:

To expand upon that a little bit... We all know how weak an argument it is when Christians say that 'I just feel God's presence' or 'I just know God exists', to argue that something is wrong because 'I just have a feeling that it is wrong' or 'I just know it is wrong' is equally as bad an argument. Not really any better than saying something is wrong because God says its wrong.

I think morality is about giving reasonable answers to the question 'Why is _____ wrong?' - to answer that it's not objectively wrong, but your emotions tell you that it is, is not a reasonable answer. If you feel like smashing someone's head in when you're angry does it justify that action? I think there are lots of problems when you argue simply from emotion. There's no real substance to it. When asked why something is wrong we should be able to give reasonable arguments regardless of whether you accept objective morality or not.
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Last edited by Laurens on Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:35 pm
ProlescumWebhamsterUser avatarPosts: 5007Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 8:41 pmLocation: Peptone-upon-Sores

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

@Snufkin

Because it seems utterly superfluous, a bit of a pseud's term.

@televator

It wasn't a question.
if constructive debate is allowed to progress, better ideas will ultimately supplant worse ideas.

Comment is free, but facts are sacred
Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:35 pm
Anachronous RexLeague LegendUser avatarPosts: 2008Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 4:07 pmLocation: Kansas City, MO Gender: Male

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

Prolescum wrote:1. No
2. Because it's rubbish
3. What?
4. To what?
5. Yes. Why people promote that pissy little bigot Harris is beyond me.

Wasn't promoting him. His stance is probably as close as one is going to get to opposite of Emotivism in a secular context. Hence he is relevant.
Our prefrontal lobes are too small. Much too small. That's a problem of the birth canal, I'm very sorry to say for those that like their birth canals... tight.
-C. Hitchens.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:26 pm
ProlescumWebhamsterUser avatarPosts: 5007Joined: Thu Dec 31, 2009 8:41 pmLocation: Peptone-upon-Sores

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

I should note that it wasn't a dig at anyone in particular, it's just what I was thinking at the time.
if constructive debate is allowed to progress, better ideas will ultimately supplant worse ideas.

Comment is free, but facts are sacred
Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:35 pm
SnufkinPosts: 55Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:02 am

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

Thanks for the replies.

It's massive wall of text time guys. :)

Anachronous Rex wrote:If you're looking for a counterargument, I would suggest just reading anything by Sam Harris.

I agree with what Sam says so I don't consider it a counterargument (I've not read him yet - only watched his videos).
It always comes down to an axiomatic-like statements that it's bad to cause harm. Why is it bad to cause harm? I believe that's his (and my) emotional feeling.

televator wrote:2. Because people can have facts and not just emotions to base their actions on and it's basically another name for relativism.

I think that's true. Relativism applied to ethics. I'll read up some criticisms of relativism.

televator wrote:5. So are bigoted, anti-human, religious zealots not basing anything on their emotions too? Because if that's the basis for "ethics" then what they do can also be labeled as "ethical".

I'd say they are basing their statements on emotion. But I think you're conflating "ethical" with your own (emotional) idea of what is right.

televator wrote:1. No. At least not entirely. At any given time that really counts, I try not to react solely on my emotions. That's the kind of crap that got me in trouble as a kid and still gets me sometimes as an adult.

and
Laurens wrote:No, emotions are a weak basis for actions. We all know how irrationally we can act when angry, or in love - I think that to use something that can often cause us to act irrationally as a basis for morality and ethics is a bad idea. I would say that reason and rationality is a far, far better basis for morality.


If you're an emotivist it doesn't mean you can't use reason or logic, it just means you think emotions are the basis of ethics.

I tried to sort this out in my mind, here's a few examples:

The statement:
Given that our goal is to prevent crime, and that most criminals are repeat offenders we should lock criminals up to prevent crime

I don't think that's an emotional statement, reason is used there. There's also a context and objective goal which can be reached towards by using reason/logic.

It's bad to circumcise your son because it can cause physical and emotional damage

Reason is used here, but it still has an emotional basis, because it assumes:

Causing physical and emotional damage to people is wrong

That is an axiom, based on the speakers emotion - you can't arrive at this using reason because it's the smallest unit.
If it can be reached using reason I'd like to see how.

Given that your goal is to prevent physical pain, it's bad to circumcise your son

That's not an emotional statement because it has a context/objective goal.

If the axioms of your statement/reasoning depend on your emotion, it's an emotional statement.
Last edited by Snufkin on Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:52 pm
televatorUser avatarPosts: 1252Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2010 12:02 amLocation: In hell, rocking out with Satan! Gender: Cake

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

Wow...I wrote all manner of sorts that I wasn't aware of. :P
a·the·ism: The absence of belief in god(s)

There are no additional, claims, laws, commandments, rules, doctrines, presuppositions, stand alone ideologies, dogmas, and/or faith based beliefs required by or inevitably derived from atheism.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:07 pm
SnufkinPosts: 55Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:02 am

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

televator wrote:Wow...I wrote all manner of sorts that I wasn't aware of. :P

Oh apologies :lol: will fix.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:10 pm
televatorUser avatarPosts: 1252Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2010 12:02 amLocation: In hell, rocking out with Satan! Gender: Cake

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

Snufkin wrote:I'd say they are basing their statements on emotion. But I think you're conflating "ethical" with your own (emotional) idea of what is right.


Whaaaaaaa? What sort of reversal is this? That's what you're talking about, not me.

Here:
The gist is that an emotivist believes that ethical or moral statements are the expression of the speakers feelings/emotion, and have no objective truth.


Ethics = emotions. You wrote it right there in plain English. If that's not what you mean, then please do clarify.

Snufkin wrote:If you're an emotivist it doesn't mean you can't use reason or logic, it just means you think emotions are the basis of ethics.


I fail to grasp how one is using reason and logic by being entirely emotional at the same time... There's a rather large contradiction there.
a·the·ism: The absence of belief in god(s)

There are no additional, claims, laws, commandments, rules, doctrines, presuppositions, stand alone ideologies, dogmas, and/or faith based beliefs required by or inevitably derived from atheism.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:23 pm
LaurensSocial EditorUser avatarPosts: 2995Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:24 pmLocation: Norwich UK Gender: Male

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

Snufkin wrote:If you're an emotivist it doesn't mean you can't use reason or logic, it just means you think emotions are the basis of ethics.



I think that reason and logic should be the basis rather than emotion.

If emotion is the basis, it means that one could discard reason and still be an emotivist, seeing as they are secondary. I believe they should be primary.

Perhaps I should clarify, does an emotivist use emotions as justification behind actions? For example 'helping people makes me feel good' - using the feeling good as justification for the action of helping somebody. Or does it mean something else entirely?

If emotions are used as justifications behind actions then one could say 'pushing old ladies down stairs makes me feel good' and justify doing so in such a manner.
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Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:57 pm
ArthurWilbornPosts: 964Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:46 pm

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

Snufkin wrote:Secular Humanism makes a lot of sense to me, but there was always an underlying 'why':

'Why is it good to not cause suffering to others?'

Somehow I followed a link to a Wikipedia about emotivism. I hadn't heard the word before but it made a lot of sense to me.

The gist is that an emotivist believes that ethical or moral statements are the expression of the speakers feelings/emotion, and have no objective truth.

Of course you can accept emotivism and still be a humanist - realising ethical statements are based on emotion doesn't stop you from having emotions.

So:
  1. Are you an emotivist?
  2. Why isn't this word used more frequently to express someones position?
  3. (removed)
  4. Do you have any objections to emotivism?
  5. Any other thoughts?

A link to a page about emotivism (perhaps not the best, but more readable than the wikipedia page).


1. Yes
2. Because it's basically the same as relativism
4. Nope.
5. I perhaps have a more expansive definition of 'emotions'; I would include things like "sense of correctness" and "desire for justice" as emotions. Emotions are what give value to something. Why is "harm" an undesirable thing? Because of the emotions it stirs up, I would say. Consider masochists; doing something that would be a crime to another would be OK with them because they enjoy it.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:16 pm
SnufkinPosts: 55Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:02 am

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

televator wrote:
Snufkin wrote:I'd say they are basing their statements on emotion. But I think you're conflating "ethical" with your own (emotional) idea of what is right.


Whaaaaaaa? What sort of reversal is this? That's what you're talking about, not me.


Yes, I'm talking about what the topic of the thread is... :?
I thought you were trying to imply we shouldn't call "bigoted, anti-human, religious zealots" people ethical, I was pointing out that those people are only bad when you took your emotion into account...or do you believe they are objectively bad (or is there another alternative)?

televator wrote:I fail to grasp how one is using reason and logic by being entirely emotional at the same time... There's a rather large contradiction there.


Where did you get entirely emotional from? How does emotivism imply that humans cannot use logic or reason? I gave an example of using reason and emotion at the same time in my long response.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:18 pm
SnufkinPosts: 55Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:02 am

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

Laurens wrote:If you're an emotivist it doesn't mean you can't use reason or logic, it just means you think emotions are the basis of ethics.

I think that reason and logic should be the basis rather than emotion.

If emotion is the basis, it means that one could discard reason and still be an emotivist, seeing as they are secondary. I believe they should be primary.

Perhaps I should clarify, does an emotivist use emotions as justification behind actions? For example 'helping people makes me feel good' - using the feeling good as justification for the action of helping somebody. Or does it mean something else entirely?

If emotions are used as justifications behind actions then one could say 'pushing old ladies down stairs makes me feel good' and justify doing so in such a manner.


I partly agree...I think an emotivist is someone who justifies the action of helping someone because it makes them feel good, or because they dislike the feeling of not helping someone or they simply feel that helping people is good.
On the other-hand I can't think of a reason why realising that your morality is based on emotion would cause your emotion to change and cause you to start pushing old ladies down stairs.

It's like the bottom layer of our existence is emotional, but we can apply reason so we can achieve our goals effectively/efficiently.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:30 pm
impikuUser avatarPosts: 211Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 9:58 amLocation: Hell. Gender: Cake

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

Snufkin wrote:Why isn't this word used more frequently to express someones position?
How many people do you think understand what emotivism is?

Laurens wrote:No, emotions are a weak basis for actions. We all know how irrationally we can act when angry, or in love - I think that to use something that can often cause us to act irrationally as a basis for morality and ethics is a bad idea. I would say that reason and rationality is a far, far better basis for morality.
Emotivism is not about using emotion as a basis for morality, it is a metaethical stance, non-cognitivist anti-realist. It is not moral realist nor does emotivism entail constructing an ethical system based on emotion.

ArthurWilborn wrote:2. Because it's basically the same as relativism
No, it's not. One lacks propositional truth value and the other doesn't.
"Who needs Satan when you have a God like this?" -- Robert M. Price

"In the sphere of thought, absurdity and perversity remain the masters of the world, and their dominion is suspended only for brief periods." -- Arthur Schopenhauer
Last edited by impiku on Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:57 pm
LaurensSocial EditorUser avatarPosts: 2995Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:24 pmLocation: Norwich UK Gender: Male

Post Re: Are you an emotivist?

Snufkin wrote:
I partly agree...I think an emotivist is someone who justifies the action of helping someone because it makes them feel good, or because they dislike the feeling of not helping someone or they simply feel that helping people is good.
On the other-hand I can't think of a reason why realising that your morality is based on emotion would cause your emotion to change and cause you to start pushing old ladies down stairs.

It's like the bottom layer of our existence is emotional, but we can apply reason so we can achieve our goals effectively/efficiently.


Well the pushing old ladies down stairs is a bit extreme, but people do get kicks out of doing mean or bad things. Making your partner jealous on purpose, or cheating on them for example. People like the thrill of doing bad things sometimes, and probably don't have any justification for it other than how it makes them feel. People often get into fights or steal things just for the thrill of it.

I just think that if you are arguing solely from emotion then you can argue both ways. 'Murder makes me feel bad so you shouldn't do it' would be no stronger an argument than a psychopath saying 'murder makes me feel good, that's why I do it'.

Edit: So when faced with the decision between two arguments; 'stealing is fun you should do it' and 'stealing is bad you shouldn't do it' how do you decide which is ethical?
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Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:58 pm
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