An examination of the place of reason in ethics by Stephen Edelston Toulmin

By Stephen Edelston Toulmin

The crucial challenge of ethics, based on Stephen Toulmin, is that of discovering how to distinguish stable ethical arguments from susceptible ones, sturdy purposes from bad ones, and finding out no matter if there comes some degree during ethical argument whilst the giving of purposes turns into superfluous. The inquiry he undertakes in An exam of where of cause in Ethics facilities at the query of what makes a specific set of evidence that endure on an ethical choice a "good cause" for performing in a selected means. the writer contends that he has no real interest in a round argument to the impact "good cause" is one who helps the type of act he could regard as a "good act"; his job is to elucidate the character of ethical reasoning and the type of good judgment that is going into it.

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The `correspondence' theory of truth does, therefore, give a vivid and illuminating account of one feature of the truth of a certain range of sentences, a range which could be made much wider than I have done by examining in more detail the ways in which words are made to 'refer to' things. In this, the theory resembles the philosophical theories of ethics : but, in order to bring out the full force of the analogy between ' truth' and 'goodness ', I must also show that it resembles them in another respect —that, if the `correspondence' theory is assumed to be of universal application, its consequences are paradoxical and even nonsensical.

107-9. a Martin D'Arcy, 'Philosophy Now', in Criterion (1936). 2 49 discount this appearance, at any rate until we are in a position to account for it. As matters turn out, it is quite misleading. One soon discovers in practice that advocates of the doctrine are no less cheerful or ' idealistic' (in the everyday sense) than others, and that they will happily support the most rigorous of ethical j udgements. The point of the doctrine is logical, not empirical. Just as those who adopt the objective and subjective approaches assimilate ethical concepts to the logical categories of `properties' and subjective relations' respectively, the supporters of the imperative doctrine assimilate all ethical sentences to the class of interjections—exclamations, ejaculations, commands and so on.

Recall the old tag, ,Yudicium est 'locus' veritatis. 2 75 Now, to do justice to the theory, and to its advocates, it does seem to give a life-like picture of what we require of certain types of utterance when passing them as `true' or `false'. There are some sentences which we can describe, with almost literal vividness, as 'corresponding to', or even as ' giving a picture of', those features of the world which they describe. Sentences of this kind (we may say) have a `structure': that is, the sentence can be split up into a number of elements; each of these elements 'refers to' something in the world; and the mutual relations of these elements, in the sentence, are like (if the sentence expresses a `true' proposition) or unlike (if it expresses a 'false' one) the mutual relations, in the world, of the things to which the elements `refer'.

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