Verificationism and Ethics

  1. profile image0
    Sooner28posted 4 years ago

    One aspect of argumentation that is extremely difficult to determine is what role feelings should play in assessing the truth or falsity of a belief.  For example, the realm of morality is often seen and felt to be real and true.  Yet, the collective strong feelings of a nation is in no way evidence for the truth or falsity of the proposition that there is "objective morality."  I personally believe in objective morality, but I couldn't really tell you why.

    A.J. Ayer was a proponent of the view known as verficationism, which asserts, "The criterion which we use to test the genuineness of apparent statements of fact is the criterion of verifiability.  We say that a sentence is factually significant to any given person, if, and only if, he knows how to verify the proposition which it purports to express..."  For anyone interested, this philosophy is more fully laid out in Ayer's book Language Truth & Logic .

    Now, under this view, ethics are obliterated; propositions containing ethical judgments are asserting nothing at all.  Obviously this view goes against our commonsensical judgments about moral and immoral behavior, which is one criticism of verificationism.  A simplified form of this objection is as follows:

    1.  If verificationism is true, then ethics are illusory.

    2.  Ethics are not illusory.

    3.  Therefore, verification is false.

    To me, this appears to be an appeal to consequences, not an argument AGAINST the truth or falsity of the verification principle.  There are highly charged emotions attached to the view of objective ethics, so the skeptic of the verification theory of meaning (which is the philosophical long way to describe it) seems to actually be appealing to his emotional attachment to objective morality.  I'm not 100% sold that this is the fallacy of consequences, but it at least appears to be so.

    This has me thinking about what role emotions should play in addressing the truth or falsity of a proposition.  I feel it's good to be on guard against dismissing a belief because of an emotional distaste for the particular point of view, or accepting one because of positive emotional predispositions.

    Your thoughts?

    1. kess profile image60
      kessposted 4 years agoin reply to this

      Acceptance or denial of any particular proposition has very little to do with emotions.
      It has a lot to do with Identity....which ultimately is either True or False.

      So with the False all is falsehood.
      And with the True all is Truth.

      For in the end you will decide based on who you are.

      1. profile image0
        Sooner28posted 4 years agoin reply to this

        We make decisions based on our personal identity?