Bad Faith - in Philosophy, Psychology, and Psychoanalysis - Analytical Philosophy and The Error Theory of Moral Statements

Analytical Philosophy and The Error Theory of Moral Statements

For philosophers in the Anglo-American analytical tradition statements involving moral values have caused concern because of their similarity to statements about objects and events in the physical world. Compare:

  1. Littering is commonplace in Chiang Mai
  2. Littering is wrong

Both have the same grammatical structure, but the way we might verify the first is quite different from the way we might want verify the second. We can verify the first statement by observations made in the physical world, but, according to David Hume, no amount of physical world observation can verify statements of the second type. Hume's view is summarized as “you can not derive ought from is”. Whereas statements of the first type must be true or false, some philosophers have argued that moral statement are neither true nor false. Richard M. Hare, for example, argues that moral statements are in fact imperatives (commands). For him the statement “littering is wrong” means “do not litter”, and “do not litter” is neither true nor false.

In sharp contrast to people like Hare, J. L. Mackie contended that moral statements are false. Mackie's view discomforts Crispin Wright who says that it “relegates moral discourse to bad faith”. Wright is not saying that all moral statements are bad faith. What he is saying is that if Mackie is correct, and somebody believes that Mackie is correct, then that person will be guilty of bad faith whenever he makes a moral statement.

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