Mr. Edwards starts this chapter as follows:
"Before stating my own answer to the three basic
questions of this study, I wish to offer some remarks concerning
firstly what might be called the judgments of taste and secondly
logic of imperatives.
The topic I am about to discuss has hardly been treated at all by
philosophers. This is a great misfortune since, as I hope to show, a
thorough discussion of it throws very much light on the nature of
moral judgments, making some famous theories quite incredible.
I propose to begin by spending a great deal of effort to determine the
meanings of the word "nice" as applied to foods or dishes in different
circumstances. Our conclusions about the meanings of "nice" will
apply, with suitable modifications, to words like "fine," "splendid,"
"excellent," "awful," "mediocre," and many more (..)" (p. 105)
But I propose not to spend that "great deal of
effort" here, for I explained the same points before, and agree with
them, and they seem to me rather obvious. See
Section 2 of
III. Even so, Mr. Edwards is right that it is of importance for
the logic of moral discourse to insist that very many judgments of
supposed taste refer both to facts, to individual appreciations of
facts, and to presupposed criterions of making socially understandable
judgments of taste in a given community.
And so I shall quote a small part of Mr. Edwards
considerations. First, there is this:
"It is necessary to insist on the following point with
the greatest possible emphasis: although it is our tastes, our likes
and dislikes which determines what features we refer to when we call a
steak (or some other dish) nice, (such) a statement (..) is an
objective claim." (p. 110)
Indeed, and the reason is normally that such a judgment
refers both to natural facts and to the appreciation of these natural
facts, and indeed also often to presupposed criterions for making
evaluations of that kind of fact in a given community.
I may quote Mr. Edwards "Summary of Conclusions":
"Let us now try and sum up all that we have learned
concerning the meanings of "nice" as applied to dishes. Let us refer
to sentences of the form "x is nice," where x stands for some food or
other, as "food-evaluations"; and let us refer to the situations in
which such statements are made as "taste-situations." In all
taste-situations, we came across (1) dishes having certain features
and (2) favorable or unfavorable attitudes towards these dishes on the
part of various people involved." (p. 118)
And usually also to (3) presupposed shared
preferences and shared criterions of judgment of this kind.
"The word "nice," we also found, has meaning in all
three senses of the word and its meaning, in all senses, varies a
great deal from type of situation to type of situation. To be more
1. The Objectives of the food-evaluation differs greatly. (..)
2. Food evaluations are always either equivalent to or else imply in
sense (2) or (3) statements concerning the features of the dish in
question. In other words, they are or else imply objective claims.
3. The features of a dish referred to or implied by a food-evaluation
tend to vary from taste-community to taste-community. And even within
the same taste-community they may vary as between different persons.
4. "Nice" does not mean the same for all values of x in "x is nice".
5. The objective statements to which food-evaluations are equivalent
or which they imply are somewhat indefinite without however being
useless on that account.
6. Food-evaluations always express an attitude on the speaker's part
towards the dish in question. (..)
7. "Nice" always expresses a favorable attitude. (p. 118-9)
All of this is mostly so, I shall assume, and the two
main points Mr. Edwards seems to want to make are:
A. The "de gustibus non disputandum" claim - say: about
tastes one cannot dispute (rationally) - is mostly mistaken and misleading:
People often do dispute about judgments of taste, and may do so
rationally, and indeed tend to do so by reference to objective facts
(whether or not disputing rationally).
B. Most if not all judgments of taste involve terms that do not refer to
simple ostensibly definable qualities or relations, but rather to -
selections from - sets of features of some kind of fact, such as food or
drink of some sort.
Indeed, Mr. Edwards concludes his chapter as follows:
"Following a suggestion by Broad in a slightly
different connection, I shall introduce the word nice-making
characteristic" to mean any characteristic which a person would
mention in reply to the question, "What makes it nice?" Following
Ross, we could speak of "grounds of a dish's niceness." (p. 120)
Personally, I prefer here the terminology of Ross, but that
may be a mere matter of terminological taste. In any case, Mr. Edwards sums up thus:
"In the light of our discussion, I wish to insist on
the following points
(i) the niceness belongs to, is "located" in the steak, not in me or
(ii) the niceness of the steak is not identical with any one or
any one set of nice-making characteristics;
(iii) although niceness is objective there is no feature or set of
features to which one can point and say, "This is niceness";
(iv) nevertheless niceness is not something distinct from or over and
above these features - it disjunctively refers to an indefinite set of
them." (P. 120)
I do not agree with all of this, but this doesn't matter
much, since I agree with Mr. Edwards' general approach here. Even so,
there is one difference between him and me that should be brought in the
It seems to me that I tend to give more weight to
subjective factors in these judgments than Mr. Edwards seems inclined
to, in that I believe I can understand - I suppose - at least some of the
things professional torturers would believe is "nice" to do to prisoners
(especially if commanded to do so), and I also can understand why such
people would call such possible acts (electrocuting, burning, beating,
raping) "nice" or why they would approve of them ("gets confessions real
fast" "is less gory and bloody than the alternative") but even so I would much disagree with their motives, their
excuses and their acts.
Also, I suppose Mr. Edwards (e.g. after seeing the
evidence of what American troops did in Iraq to Iraqis in A.D. 2004)
would agree with me, but my point and problem is logical: There are a
number of (cruel, degrading, mean, painful, harmful, dangerous,
unhealthy) things human beings - quite easily - can do to other human
beings about which there are fundamental moral
differences, and indeed mostly these are of the kind that tend to be
judged very much in what I called
socially relative terms:
"If Our Boys do these things to Them, they are - of course - regrettable
and rare incidents; if Their Boys do these very same things to Us, they
are - of course - very ordinary very cruel practices of very beastly men."
And the logical point I have is that in such cases one
has some fundamental moral disagreement, while the logical problem is:
On what grounds can one base judgments to the effect that e.g. torturing
is bad, also if this concerns one's enemies, and also if one's enemies
would torture one if they got the chance?
I have given part of the answer I would give in
Chapter IV, and will say more
in later chapters and in my Supplementary
At this place it makes sense to finish this chapter with
a few remarks on judgment, free will and taste,
that are in part caused by Mr. Edwards' above quoted statement:
"The topic I am about to discuss has hardly been treated
at all by philosophers." (p. 105)
To start with judgments of taste. This does not
seem to be quite as true as Mr. Edwards says. There are, for example,
Kant's "Kritik der Urteilskraft", which is mostly concerned with
judgments of taste; there is Newman's "Grammar of Assent", that
is concerned with the motives and reasons involved in religious and
moral judgments, and there are quite a few texts on esthetical judgment.
The fact is, though, that such judgments are neither
simple nor of simple qualities. Indeed, reverting for a moment for
convenience to the judging of the qualities of steaks, it is not
difficult to see that for each judge (1) there are quite a few
dimensions along which to appraise a steak, such as succulence, size,
qualities of the meat, modes of preparing it and so on while (2) even if
two persons agree on the dimensions they use to appraise a steak, each
may differ from the other in the relative weight or importance of the
dimension, as one might - at one time - be more interested in its size
than in its dressing.
In short, speaking of judgements, schematically
one can for each judge a distinquish qualities that a uses to judge the
steak: q1(a,s) ... qn(a,s) and similarly for judge b: q1(b,s) ...
qn(b,s), with each such quality receiving some value by each judge.
Furthermore, as I said, these qualities may be expected to be weighed
differently as to their importance by each judge, for which reason each
of the above judgments will be complicated by a relative weight like so
for a: q1(a,s)*w(a,q1) ... qn(a,s)*w(a,qn)
and for b: q1(b,s)*w(b,q1) ... qn(b,s)*w(b,qn),
where in each case "s" refers to a specific steak that's being judged.
Thus for each x the niceness of the stake, if
reconstrued and explained along the above lines, will get the form of a
sum: q1(x,s)*w(x,q1) + ... + qi(x,s)*w(x,qi)
+ ... + qn(b,s)*w(b,qn),
in which each factor qi will have a personal weight w(x,qi)
for each x and a personal value qi(x,s)
for any specific steak. (There are other ways then summing to combine
such partial judgments of specific features, but summing will usually be
the simplest - and will be difficult anyway, also mathematically, as
those who know a little about integration in the mathematical
sense, which concerns the making of sums, will know.)
Besides, since I am at present indulging a little in
mathematics, it should be added here that, even if two people agree on
selecting, say, 10 dimensions or features along which they weigh
something, and agree that on each of these dimensions or features the
weight they attribute is positive, yet with 10 weights there are 10! =
3,628,800 possible different orderings of preference of these weights,
so that is quite easily possible that, even with so much agreement on
judging, one person might judge something very mildly positive and
another might judge the same thing very positively, and one might hold
relatively important what another considers relatively unimportant.
Next, with steaks and many other kinds of things that
are judged in this way, by distinguishing varying qualities of varying
importance, there will be people, at least in a certain community that
shares certain tastes and modes of selecting and recognizing qualities,
who are recognized experts in such judgments, and others who are
not. And one reason there will be experts is that there so often are so
many different possible ways in which to reach a judgment and in which
to make relevant distinctions and discriminations that this requires a
lot of training, relevant knowledge, study and experimentation.
And indeed, where steaks are concerned, those who are
recognized experts will be professional cooks or known gourmands;
where crimes and misdeeds are concerned, those who are recognized
experts will be judges or psychiatrists or clergy; where art is
concerned, recognized experts will be makers, dealers, academic
specialists and amateurs of the art, and so on. And in each case,
recognized experts will be recognized as such, at least in their own
communities, because of some amount of known expertise and relevant
special knowledge, study and training to make such judgments and also
some acknowledged success in making them.
Furthermore, the moral intuitionists, that were spoken
of in the previous chapter,
are right in the sense that the making of such judgments, both of moral
qualities and of esthetical qualities and of the qualities of dishes,
will be "intuitive" in the sense that also where what happens in
fact may be best formally explained in terms of discriminated factors,
weights and sums as I just have done, the actual judging tends not to
involve such considerations in a very conscious way, while nevertheless
the actual judgments may be subtle, well-considered, careful and
balanced, and involve a considerable amount of skill and expertise - and
indeed, of course, the actual judgments made may have none of these
qualities, and in consequence the person may be harmed or hurt.
Finally, to turn to the topic of free will, which
I remarked upon earlier,
it should be remarked that one good reason why a living human being, and
indeed a living animal, may have a free will is that it lives in a
dangerous environment where its chances of survival, happiness, health
and well-being depend on its powers of discrimination and well-balanced
judgment of chances and opportunities on each and every moment, for each
moment gives the opportunity - and sometimes the urgent need, if the
person or the animal is to survive or thrive - for new judgments of new
situations and facts in the light of knowledge and experience and
judgments made in the past, and with reference to such ends and needs
and interests and concerns as one has on that moment.
And indeed, the personal happiness, satisfaction,
well-being, health and continued survival will depend on the personal
judgments of a person in many ways through many situations. And Mr.
Edwards is quite right that such judgments usually involve
(1) many dimensions and many qualities
(2) both personal values, desires, needs and appraisals and
factual features of the things judged
(3) often require considerable relevant knowledge, information and
experience to be made with skill and success, as measured by survival
and well-being, at least.
But personally I find the matter of judging steaks not
the best sort of example to discuss when discussing moral judgments, and
so I have chosen not to spend that "great deal of effort" that
Mr. Edwards spend on it. Also, it may be remarked that the reader may
find - for one important example - instances of moral and political
judgments in the speeches Thucydides gives to various people,
normally speaking for specific parties, in his "The Pelopponesian War".
These speeches tend to be far more explicit, honest and clear than
speeches of modern politicians, and also to be more realistic.