“Ayer denies that moral judgments express beliefs: rather, moral judgments express emotions, or sentiments, of approval or disapproval.” As a result, judgments have no truth value.

This is a confusion. Judgment is an intellectual not a volitional phenomenon; moreover, it is possible to judge correctly or incorrectly.

For metaphysical goods, those who judge right are called wise, and those who judge badly are called foolish. Here, judgment compels the emotion of love. Judgment is objective. Grasping my humanity and the natural law flowing from it imposes certain demands on me, such as love or at least lack of hatred for fellow men.

For physical goods, those who judge right are called smart and successful, and those who misjudge are called stupid losers. Here, love or desire compels judgment. Judgment is subjective. I am enjoying this orange, and then and because of this, the orange becomes good.

For physical goods, then, if an orange is loved, then it ought to be. For metaphysical goods, if there is Friday, then Crusoe ought to love him.

Things are more complicated for moral goods, where we observe the phenomenon of a soul judging itself. Here judgments and emotions cooperate in forming moral goodness. Judgment is intersubjective, as in one judges how well he conforms to his own moral ideals, loves his virtue, and hates his vices. One has a true vision of himself as he is or at least as he wants to be. Those who judge these ideals aright are called just; and those who judge poorly are called unjust; moreover, those who judge aright yet do not care to conform to their ideals are called hypocrites. There are true virtues and true vices, but each personality, understood as a harmonious union of numerous well-developed virtues, is unique. Moral propositions are in part true objectively (“courage is a virtue”) and in part may be true for one person yet false for another (“it is moral to save the whales”).

Thus, in order to qualify for the appellation “just,” one must both judge that bovarism is wrong (judgment) and hate bovarism (emotion).

Categories: Metaethics


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