VI
Persuasion

1

WE have seen that the rational methods used in normative ethics may lack finality, even in theory. That they are not final in practice, amid the complexities of applying them, is evident on every hand. What recourse is there, then, for one who despairs of a reasoned solution? Must he be content with a continued disagreement, or may he support his ethical position in some other way? That is to say, are there any methods of settling ethical disagreement that are "nonrational"?

That there are such methods is perfectly obvious. Their nature and modus operandi can be explained in this fashion:

The resolution of an ethical argument requires a resolution of disagreement in attitude, and so requires that the attitudes of one party or the other (or both) be changed or redirected. One way of changing attitudes proceeds via changes in beliefs. Such a procedure is characteristic of the rational methods, as illustrated in the preceding chapter. But there are other ways of altering a man's attitudes -- ways that are not mediated by reasons which change beliefs. Like all psychological phenomena, attitudes are the outcome of many determining factors, and beliefs figure as but one set of factors among others. To the extent that the other factors are subject to control in the course of an argument, and so may contribute to changes in a man's attitudes, they both can be and are used as a means of securing ethical agreement. Such procedures constitute the "nonrational methods" of ethics, which must now be studied.

The most important of the nonrational methods will be called "persuasive," in a somewhat broadened sense. It depends on the sheer, direct emotional impact of words -- on emotive meaning, rhetorical cadence, apt metaphor, stentorian, stimulating, or pleading tones of voice, dramatic gestures, care in establishing rapport with the hearer or audience, and so on. Any ethical

-139-

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Ethics and Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Ethics and Language 1
  • II - Working Models 20
  • III - Some Pragmatic Aspects of Meaning? 37
  • Iv First Pattern of Analysis 81
  • V - First Pattern: Method 111
  • VI - Persuasion 139
  • VII - Validity 152
  • VIII - Intrinsic and Extrinsic Value 174
  • IX - Second Pattern of Analysis: Persuasive Definitions 206
  • X - Second Pattern: Method 227
  • XI - Moralists and Propagandists 243
  • XII - Some Related Theories 253
  • XIII - Further Observations on the Function of Definitions 277
  • XIV - Avoidability; Indeterminism 298
  • XV - Practical Implications 319
  • Index of Proper Names 337
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