VII
Validity

1

THE preceding chapters have dealt with the nature and effectiveness of methods that are in fact used in common life. Such a study is not the same, if we are to go by parallels to deductive and inductive logic, as a study of what methods are valid. People often use invalid methods, and these sometimes help them to win arguments. Common acceptance does not imply validity. Hence there would seem to be a further part of ethical methodology, as yet only touched upon, which has to do with correcting or validating the methods that are usually employed. It has been suggested1 that this further problem may, contrary to appearances, have no special place in ethical methodology; but this must now be considered with more care.

There are certain aspects of ethical arguments -- and very important ones -- to which questions about validity are obviously relevant. If an ethical argument applies formal logic, as in example (1), page 115, it will be valid or invalid in whatever sense the logic is valid or invalid. If it uses empirical reasons, the inductive support given to them in their turn (as distinct from the support given by the reasons to the ethical judgment) may be called valid or invalid in whatever sense the empirical methods used are valid or invalid.2 Thus when ethics uses the methods of logic or science directly, the ordinary canons of validity remain in full operation.

On the other hand, validity has nothing to do with persuasive methods. It is cognitively nonsensical to speak either of "valid" or of "invalid" persuasion. If one is led by the excitement of persuasion into making logical errors, it is the logic, and not the

____________________
1
Pp. 113 f.
2
It will be assumed here that one may speak of "valid" and "invalid" inductive procedures, though of course an inductive argument will not be demonstratively valid.

-152-

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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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