Is what you are saying, then, that factual language has all the ethics we need in it already?I think the answer to the first question is Yes, although of course much depends on what we mean by "factual language." I mean something like ordinary language, language whose meaning can be explained or is quite clear. (Or I want to mean that. Am I cheating?)
If so, then what do you make of this, at least apparent, difference: Suppose someone asks me how many books I have on my shelf, to decide how many boxes I need to pack my office, and I say "I have five." Compare this to looking at the toes of a newborn and counting them and saying "She has five."
This is not a difference between factual and ethical, but it seems to me that the wonder is there in the second case, and it is not there in the first. At least to me it feels that there is a deep difference of grammar, or a of point, between the two utterances.
Is Wittgenstein recommending that we say everything in the second full-of-wonder kind of way? And if not, is there a room here for a distinction?
One thing I want to say about the "I have five"/"She has five" cases is that these sentences could be used in various ways, even sticking to the examples involving numbers of books and numbers of toes. "I have five books!" could be said with great excitement by a Robinson Crusoe anxious that he would lose his mind without company or books. (A silly example, perhaps, but Chesterton recommends thinking of all that exists as if we were Crusoe, and his attitude toward the world has been likened to Wittgenstein's.) On the other hand, one can also imagine a tired nurse doing a standard check of a newborn and reporting that, yet again, this one has five toes on each foot just like all the others without the slightest trace of wonder.
So what is the difference? I'm imagining a loving parent looking at the baby and doing a kind of inventory: she's got a nose, and two eyes, and two hands, and ... But the point is not to report facts. It is a reveling in the facts. Does this make it nonsense? I don't think so. There is no great mystery about what the parent is saying. It's a lot like Hooray! Even if they want to talk about the miracle of birth or life, they still are not going so far as to talk about wondering at the existence of the world. They are wondering at one thing in the world. This is love, isn't it? Maybe there's a problem for my position here: what is love? I won't try to answer that now.
Is Wittgenstein recommending that we say everything in a full-of-wonder kind of way? He certainly doesn't say so, and it would seem like a weird thing to say. But on the other hand, how would we talk if we took Chesterton's Crusoe-attitude, or agreed with Wittgenstein that everything is a gift from God? How would a good actor playing Father Zossima (or Jesus or the Buddha or whoever you like) speak? Not with an exclamation point or "Wow!" at the end of every sentence, certainly, but maybe not the same way I speak. Thankfully it doesn't really matter. If we live in wonder we will speak however we speak. And if we don't, it's our loss. What Wittgenstein would have thought is neither here nor there.
Reshef's next set of questions was this:
So, to say something with an ethical intention is to say something that uses normal vocabulary, but uses it in a way that somehow charges it with special meaning?I don't really like the sound of special meaning, but the answer might be Yes, depending on exactly what terms like "special meaning" and "ethical intention" mean. I don't think that ethics requires a special vocabulary, so my inclination is to say Yes. Here's a possible example of using the same words with an ethical and with a non-ethical intention. Take the words "You'll kill him." If two people are debating what to do about someone who has been causing them problems they might quickly agree that this person needs killing, and then it might become clear that one of them has the better chance of success. At this point one says to this other: "You'll kill him." It's just saying out loud the rational conclusion of their conversation, given their goals, etc. In another case I might be beating a prisoner to get information from him, but he isn't being very forthcoming and I hit him harder. Seeing that I am behaving this way, and hoping to stop me, someone might say "You'll kill him" to point out the danger of my committing murder. This might be motivated by a desire to avoid trouble with the police, but it might also be motivated simply by a desire to prevent murder. That, I take it, would be an ethical intention. Same words, different context, different intention. But there is no need to refer to human rights or moral duties or higher pleasures or anything of that sort. In fact that kind of talk would be unlikely to have the desired effect. "You'll kill him" is an ordinary sentence that can be used for different purposes, one of which is trying to get someone to stop what they are doing. There is nothing absolute or mysterious about that. It isn't nonsense
Also, what would make a sentence nonsense: (1) the vocabulary it uses, or (2) the intention (or lack thereof) with which the vocabulary is used, or (3) something else?
Part of what I'm not sure I understand--if that's what you mean--is how there might be logical room for using the same words with a different, ethical, intention.
What nonsense is is hard to define, I think. In the Lecture on Ethics Wittgenstein refers repeatedly to what is obvious, to common ground, to the common sense of a word, to perfectly good and clear sense, and so on. Nonsense might best be understood as what cannot be translated into terms of this kind. So what makes a sentence nonsense would be neither the vocabulary used nor the intention but something else--the impossibility of its being explained in ordinary language. But I can't define 'ordinary' in any precise way. Perhaps this is a problem, but the position seems to be inherently non-technical, imprecise. It depends on appeal to common ground and what's obvious. And perhaps anything that relies on that kind of appeal can only be defended to one small audience at a time, or needs to avoid dogmatism completely.
What about other possible objections to what I've been saying? Here's something I wrote in an email recently:
How would I respond to my recent self? In the first part of the first paragraph that I just quoted I give various things that "Cruelty is bad:" might mean, or that someone might mean by these words. If they mean any of these things then the words have a meaning. And so they aren't nonsense in the sense I've been talking about here. They aren't attempts to articulate anything absolute or beyond the world. In the philosopher example I think "cruelty is bad" means something like "we all agree that cruelty is bad." It is a statement of fact, not of ethics. If it were meant to express an absolute value then it would be neither funny nor redundant.I'm not convinced yet that "Cruelty is bad" is really nonsense. I can imagine a military leader urging his troops to believe that cruelty is necessary, perhaps as a means to a desirable end. Or someone giving relationship advice suggesting that sometimes one has to be cruel to be kind. And I think Nietzsche advocates cruelty at some point. These are all different cases, but in each of them isn't it possible to imagine someone responding, "But cruelty is bad!"? This would be a rejection of the advice given (or a suggestion that 'cruelty' can't really be the right word), and perhaps a reminder of commonsense ethics. It doesn't seem like nonsense unless one has a theory of nonsense according to which this kind of thing counts as nonsense, [...]. I can also imagine, I think, a philosopher going step-by-step through an argument designed to show that something or other is wrong, and getting to the conclusion that X is cruel, only to follow this with the unnecessary "And cruelty is bad" for the sake of completeness or just as a joke. Either way, again, the word 'nonsense' doesn't seem quite right.Secondly, I wonder about other kinds of propositions that one might use or encounter in ethics. Not "cruelty is bad" or "murder is wrong" but, say, "abortion is wrong" or "no matter what the case may be, it is always best to maximize good consequences." There are also less obviously evaluative claims, like "water-boarding is torture". These all seem more debatable and less redundant than "cruelty is bad."
I'll go through the other three examples one by one. "Abortion is wrong"--this could mean that abortion is never a good idea prudentially, but it probably more often means something like "abortion is unjust" or "abortion ought to be illegal." In the "there oughta be a law" sense it probably isn't nonsense. Otherwise it might be. People do talk a lot of nonsense about abortion, e.g. comparing it with murder without thinking for a second that it ought to be treated like murder, i.e. saying things they don't mean. I would call that nonsense. And claims that it violates the rights of the fetus might turn out to be nonsense too, depending on whether this talk of rights, and the attribution of rights to a fetus, and so on, can be explained. If they just mean "I don't like it" or something like that, then that's a statement of fact. So that's OK.
"It's always best to maximize good consequences"--there are things to be explained here, perhaps most obviously 'best'. If it can be explained, OK. If not, there's a problem. But if the sentence is just a report of the speaker's love of consequentialism then that's a factual statement and not nonsense.
"Water-boarding is torture"--this is perhaps most likely to be said in a discussion about whether people like the CIA should carry out water-boarding. It could mean something like, "water-boarding naturally belongs in the same category as the use of thumb-screws and the rack." As a statement about similarities it looks like a fact to me. There is also a history of people, including the US Government, I believe, objecting to the use of water-boarding by other nations as torture. Or it could be a statement of fact about the speaker's position. If it's meant to be something else, though, then it does start to sound like nonsense. That is, I don't know what else it might mean.
I hope I haven't contradicted too much of what I said in my last two posts. I also hope I haven't defended them in a way that removes all interesting content from them. But please feel free to point it out if I have.