Virtue Ethics Framework 2

The value criterion is...promoting human flourishing.

Here are some of the best justifications for a virtue ethics framework.

The res is a question of choice architecture. The same choices are still available when you negate, the difference is how choices are packaged. THALER:

[modified for clarity and word economy] Richard Thaler [an American economist and the Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business] AND Cass Sunstein [is an American legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioral economics, who was the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration]. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness. Penguin Books USA. 2008/9.  KINDLE Edition.

But our basic source of information here is the emerging science of choice, consisting of careful research by social scientists over the past four decades. That research has raised serious questions about the rationality of many judgments and decisions that people make. To qualify as Econs, people are not required to make perfect forecasts (that would require omniscience), but they are required to make unbiased forecasts. That is, the forecasts can be wrong, but they can’t be systematically wrong in a predictable direction. Unlike Econs, Humans predictably err. Take, for example, the “planning fallacy”—the systematic tendency toward unrealistic optimism about the time it takes to complete projects. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever hired a contractor to learn that everything takes longer than you think, even if you know about the planning fallacy. Hundreds of studies confirm that human forecasts are flawed and biased. Human decision making is not so great either. Again to take just one example, consider what is called the “status quo bias,” a fancy name for inertia. For a host of reasons, which we shall explore, people have a strong tendency to go along with the status quo or default option. When you get a new cell phone, for example, you have a series of choices to make. The fancier the phone, the more of these choices you face, from the background to the ring sound to the number of times the phone rings before the caller is sent to voice mail. The manufacturer has picked one option as the default for each of these choices. Research shows that whatever the default choices are, many people stick with them, even when the stakes are much higher than choosing the noise your phone makes when it rings. Two important lessons can be drawn from this research. First, never underestimate the power of inertia. Second, that power can be harnessed. If private companies or public officials think that one policy produces better outcomes, they can greatly influence the outcome by choosing it as the default. As we will show, setting default options, and other similar seemingly trivial menu-changing strategies, can have huge effects on outcomes, from increasing savings to improving health care to providing organs for lifesaving transplant operations.


Humans are not rational; there is no such thing as a default free choice, nor is it possible for any agent to not exert a framing effect on others. The side constraint is that options remain available not the way the options are framed. THALER (2):

The first misconception is that it is [not] possible to avoid influencing people’s choices. In many situations, some organization or agent must make a choice that will affect the behavior of some other people. There is, in those situations, no way of avoiding nudging in some direction, and whether intended or not, these nudges will affect what people choose. As illustrated by the example of Carolyn’s cafeterias, people’s choices are pervasively influenced by the design elements selected by choice architects. It is true, of course, that some nudges are unintentional; employers may decide (say) whether to pay employees monthly or biweekly without intending to create any kind of nudge, but they might be surprised to discover that people save more if they get paid biweekly because twice a year they get three pay checks in one month. It is also true that private and public institutions can strive for one or another kind of neutrality—as, for example, by choosing randomly, or by trying to figure out what most people want. But unintentional nudges can have major effects, and in some contexts, these forms of neutrality are unattractive; we shall encounter many examples. Some people will happily accept this point for private institutions but strenuously object to government efforts to influence choice with the goal of improving people’s lives. They worry that governments cannot be trusted to be competent or benign. They fear that elected officials and bureaucrats will place their own interests first, or pay attention to the narrow goals of self-interested private groups. We share these concerns. In particular, we emphatically agree that for government, the risks of mistake, bias, and overreaching are real and sometimes serious. We favor nudges over commands, requirements, and prohibitions in part for that reason. But governments, no less than cafeterias (which governments frequently run), have to provide starting points of one or another kind. This is not avoidable. As we shall emphasize, they do so every day through the rules they set, in ways that inevitably affect some choices and outcomes. In this respect, the antinudge position is unhelpful—a literal nonstarter. The second misconception is that paternalism always involves coercion. In the cafeteria example, the choice of the order in which to present food items does not force a particular diet on anyone, yet Carolyn, and others in her position, might select some arrangement of food on grounds that are paternalistic in the sense that we use the term. Would anyone object to putting the fruit and salad before the desserts at an elementary school cafeteria if the result were to induce kids to eat more apples and fewer Twinkies? Is this question fundamentally different if the customers are teenagers, or even adults? Since no coercion is involved, we think that some types of paternalism should be acceptable even to those who most embrace freedom of choice. In domains as varied as savings, organ donations, marriage, and health care, we will offer specific suggestions in keeping with our general approach. And by insisting that choices remain unrestricted, we think that the risks of inept or even corrupt designs are reduced. Freedom to choose is the best safeguard against bad choice architecture.


Choice architecture should be subject to a virtue paradigm. Ethical theory can begin as deontic or Aretaic. They cannot be conceptually equated and the Aretaic cannot be derived from the deontic – which means the former must come conceptually first. GRYZ:

Jarek Gryz [Prof in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at York University]. “On the Relationship Between the Aretaic and the Deontic.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (2011) 14:493–501. Springer.

The way we use words ‘good/bad’ and ‘right/wrong’ seems to support the above claims. Goodness and badness come in degrees, hence we have words like ‘better’ and ‘worse’; we lack similar terms for deontically evaluated actions. The availability of degree terms in the former case seems to indicate the presence of many criteria used in evaluation; an all-or- nothing choice, implied by the use of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, suggests focusing on only one quantum quality.12 But fine-grainedness is not only a property of particular aretaic terms, the entire aretaic vocabulary is infinitely richer and allows us to draw much finer distinctions in act-evaluations than the deontic vocabulary. For example, by saying that something is praiseworthy we imply that it deserves approval or favor: we assess it higher when we say that it is admirable, since then it should be also respected and honored. The meaning of the word ‘praiseworthy’ can be quite well conveyed by saying, that it is something that ought to be done, or that it is the right (in Ross’s understanding of ‘right’) thing to do: yet expressing the word ‘admirable’ in deontic vocabulary seems just impossible. From what has been said so far one can derive an encouraging conclusion for the advocates of attractive ethics. Sheer richness and fine-grainedness of aretaic vocabulary seems to be a good reason for believing that all that can be said in deontic terms can be equally well expressed in aretaic terms. This is not to say, however, that we can produce a translation manual which would provide us with a general method of expressing deontic notions in terms of aretaic ones for all possible cases. In particular, it does not seem possible, as we hope to have shown, to substitute ‘good’ for ‘right’ or ‘deplorable’ for ‘wrong’. The relation between the aretaic and the deontic seems to be somewhat similar to the relation between the physical and the mental in the mind-body problem. We can claim that deontic is supervenient on the aretaic without committing ourselves to the idea of complete definitional reduction. In other words, we may allow for token identity (each particular action can have an aretaic description that perfectly matches the deontic one) and deny the possibility of type identity (that there is aretaic sentence true of all and only the actions having some deontic property). If this analogy is correct then the idea of definitional reduction of the deontic to the aretaic, and in particular, Stocker’s identification of rightness and goodness, is doomed. But we can still pursue a more modest goal. If our task is just to substitute every particular deontic evaluation with an aretaic one, there are no logical reasons that would make it impossible (it would not work, of course, in the opposite direction). From that perspective, attractive ethical theories seem to be much better off than the imperative ones.



The standard is promoting human flourishing.


Prefer the standard:

First, only a virtue paradigm is capable of expressing the content of moral rules. Rules are indeterminate unless grounded in social and communal use and only such a ethical system can account for the decision making of moral life.


[modified for clarity and word economy] Saul Kripke [Might be the smartest philosophy alive today]. Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language: An Elementary Exposition. 1982. Harvard University Press

Following Wittgenstein, I will develop the problem initially with respect to a mathematical example, though the relevant sceptical problem applies to all meaningful uses of language. I, like almost all English speakers, use the word ‘plus’ and the symbol ‘+’ to denote a well-known mathematical function, addition. The function is defined for all pairs of positive integers. By means of my external symbolic representation and my internal mental representation, I ‘grasp’ the rule for addition. One point is crucial to my ‘grasp’ of this rule. Although I myself have computed only finitely many sums in the past, the rule determines my answer for indefinitely many new sums that I have never previously considered. This is the whole point of the notion that in learning to add I grasp a rule: my past, intentions regarding addition determine a unique answer for indefinitely many new cases in the future. Let me suppose, for example, that ‘68 + 57’ is a computation that I have never performed before. Since I have performed — even silently to myself, let alone in m y publicly observable behavior — only finitely many computations in the past, such an example surely exists. In fact, the same finitude guarantees that there is an example exceeding, in both its arguments, all previous computations. I shall assume in what follow s that ‘68 + 57’ serves for this purpose as well. I perform the computation, obtaining, of course, the answer ‘125’. I am confident, perhaps after checking my work, that ‘125’ is the correct answer. It is correct both in the arithmetical sense that 125 is the sum of 68 and 57, and in the metalinguistic sense that ‘plus’ as I intended to use that word in the past, denoted a function which, when applied to the numbers I called ‘68’ and ‘ 57’ yields the value 125. Now suppose I encounter a bizarre sceptic. This sceptic questions my certainty about m y answer, in what I just called the ‘metalinguistic’ sense. Perhaps, he suggests, as I used the term ‘plus’ in the past, the answer I intended for ‘68 + 57’ should have been ‘5’! Of course the sceptic’s suggestion is obviously insane. My initial response to such a suggestion might be that the challenger should go back to school and learn to add. Let the challenger, however, continue. After all, he says, if I am now so confident that, as I used the symbol ‘+’  my intention was that ‘68 + 57’ should turn out to denote 125, this cannot be because I explicitly gave myself instructions that 125 is the result of performing the addition in this particular instance. By hypothesis, I did no such thing. But of course the idea is that, in this new instance, I should apply the very same function or rule that I applied so m any times in the past. But who is to say what function this was? In the past I gave myself only a finite number of examples instantiating this function. All, we have supposed, involved numbers smaller than 57. So perhaps in the past I used ‘plus’ and ‘+’ to denote a function which I will call ‘quus’ [Defined as plus in all instances unless the second integer equals 57] and symbolize by ‘⊕ ’ . It is defined by: x ⊕ y = x + y, if x, y < 57 = 5 v otherwise. Who is to say that this is not the function I previously meant by ‘+’? The sceptic claims (or feigns to claim) that I am now misinterpreting my own previous usage. By ‘plus’, he says, I always meant quus; now, under the influence of some insane frenzy, or a bout of LSD , I have come to misinterpret my own previous usage. Ridiculous and fantastic though it is, the sceptic’s hypothesis is not logically impossible. To see this, assume the common sense hypothesis that by ‘+’ I did mean addition. Then it would be possible, though surprising, that under the influence o f a momentary, ‘high’, I. should misinterpret all my past uses of the plus sign as symbolizing the quus function, and proceed, in conflict with my previous linguistic intentions, to compute 68 plus 57 as .5. (I would have made a mistake, not in mathematics, but in the supposition that I had accorded with m y previous linguistic intentions.) The sceptic is proposing that I have made a mistake precisely of this kind, but with a plus and quus reversed. Now if the sceptic proposes his hypothesis sincerely, he is crazy; such a bizarre hypothesis as the proposal that I always meant quus is absolutely wild. Wild it indubitably is, no doubt it is false; but if it is false, there must be some fact about my past usage that can be cited to refute it. For although the hypothesis is wild, it does not seem to be a priori impossible. Of course this bizarre hypothesis, and the references to LSD, or to an insane frenzy, are in a sense merely a dramatic device. The basic point is this. Ordinarily, I suppose that, in computing ‘68 + 57’ as I do, I do not simply make an unjustified leap in the dark. I follow directions I previously gave myself that uniquely determine that in this new instance I should say ‘125’ . What are these directions? By hypothesis, I never explicitly told myself that I should say ‘125’ in this very instance. Nor can I say that I should simply ‘do the same thing I always did’ if this means ‘compute according to the rule exhibited by my previous examples.’ That rule could just as well have been the rule for quaddition (the quus function) as for addition. The idea that in fact quaddition is what I meant, that in a sudden frenzy I have changed my previous usage, dramatizes the problem. In the discussion below the challenge posed by the sceptic takes two forms. First, [s]he questions whether there is any fact that I meant plus, not quus, that will answer his sceptical challenge. Second, [s]he questions whether I have any reason to be so confident that now I should answer ‘125’ rather than ‘ 5’. The two forms of the challenge are related, I am confident that I should answer ‘125’ because I am confident that this answer also accords with what I meant. Neither the accuracy of my computation nor of my memory is under dispute. So it ought to be agreed that if I meant plus, then unless I wish to change my usage, I am justified in answering (indeed compelled to answer) ‘125’, not '5 ’ . An answer to the sceptic must satisfy two conditions. First, it must give an account of what fact it is (about my mental state) that constitutes my meaning plus, not quus. But further, there is a condition that any putative candidate for such a fact must satisfy. It must, in some sense, show how I am justified in giving the answer ‘125’ to ’68 + 57’. The ‘directions’ mentioned in the previous paragraph, that determine what I should do in each instance, must somehow be ‘contained’ in any candidate for the fact as to what I meant. Otherwise, the sceptic has not been answered when he holds that my present response is arbitrary. Exactly how this condition operates will become much clearer below, after we discuss Wittgenstein’s paradox on an intuitive level, when we consider various philosophical theories as to what the fact that I meant plus might consist in. There will be m any specific objections to these theories. But all fail to give a candidate for a fact as to what I meant that would show that only ‘125’ , not ‘5’, is the answer I ‘ought’ to give. The ground rules of our formulation of the problem should be made clear. For the sceptic to converse with me at all, we must have a common language. So I am supposing that the sceptic, provisionally, is not questioning my present use of the word ‘plus’; he agrees that, according to m y present usage, ‘68 plus 57’ denotes 125. Not only does he agree with me on this, he conducts the entire debate with me in my language as I presently use it. He merely questions whether my present usage agrees with m y past usage, whether I am presently conforming to my previous linguistic intentions. The problem is not “How do I know that 68 plus 57 is 125?”, which should be answered by giving an arithmetical computation, but rather “ How do I know that ‘68 plus 57’, as I meant ‘plus’ in the past, should denote 125?” If the word ‘plus’ as I used it in the past, denoted the quus function, not the plus function (‘quaddition’ rather than addition), then my past intention was such that, asked for the value of ‘68 plus 57’ , I should have replied ‘ 5’. I put the problem in this way so as to avoid confusing questions about whether the discussion is taking place ‘both inside and outside language’ in some illegitimate sense. If we are querying the meaning of the word ‘plus’, how can we use it (and variants, like ‘quus’) at the same time? So I suppose that the sceptic assumes that he and I agree in our present uses of the word ‘plus’ : we both use it to denote addition. He does not ~~ at least initially - deny or doubt that addition is a genuine function, defined on all pairs of integers, nor does he deny that we can speak of it. Rather he asks why I now believe that by ‘plus’ in the past, I meant addition rather than quaddition. If I meant the former, then to accord with my previous usage I should say ‘125’ when asked to give the result of calculating ‘68 plus 57’. If I meant the latter, I should say ‘5’ The present exposition tends to differ from Wittgenstein’s original formulations in taking somewhat greater care to make explicit a distinction between use and mention, and between questions about present and past usage. About the present example Wittgenstein might simply ask, “How do I know that I should respond ‘125’ to the query ‘68 + 57’?” or “How do I know that ‘68 + 57’ comes out 125?” I have found that when the problem, is formulated this way, some listeners hear it as a sceptical problem about arithmetic: “How do I know that 68 + 57 is 125? ” (Why not answer this question with a mathematical proof?) At least at this stage, scepticism about arithmetic should not be taken to be in question: we may assume, if we wish, that 68 + 5 7 = 125 ; Even if the question is reformulated ‘metalinguistically’ as “ How do I know that ‘plus’, as I use it, denotes a function that, when applied to 68 and 57, yields 125?”, one may answer, “ Surely I know that ‘plus’ denotes the plus function and accordingly that ‘68 plus 57’ denotes 68 plus 57. But if I know arithmetic, I know that 68 plus 57 is 125. So I know that ‘68 plus 57’ denotes 125!” And surely, if I use language at all, I cannot doubt coherently that ‘plus’, as I now use it, denotes plus! Perhaps I cannot (at least at this stage) doubt this about my present usage. But I can doubt that my past usage of ‘plus’ denoted plus. The previous remarks - about a frenzy and LSD - should make this quite clear. Let me repeat the problem. The sceptic doubts whether any instructions I gave myself in the past compel (or justify) the answer ‘125’ rather than ‘5’ . He puts the challenge in terms o f a sceptical hypothesis about a change in m y usage. Perhaps when I used the term ‘plus’ in the past, I always meant quus: by hypothesis I never gave myself any explicit directions that were incompatible with such a supposition. Of course, ultimately, if the sceptic is right, the concepts of meaning and of intending one function rather than another .will make no sense. For the sceptic holds that no fact about my past history - nothing that was ever in m y mind, or in my external behavior - establishes that I meant plus rather than quus. (Nor, of course, does any fact establish that I meant quus!) But if this is correct, there can of course be no fact about which function I meant, and if there can be no fact about which particular function I meant in the past, there can be none in the present either. But before we pull the rug out from under our own feet, we begin by speaking as if the notion that at present we mean a certain function by ‘plus’ is unquestioned and unquestionable. Only past usages are to be questioned. Otherwise, we will be unable to formulate our problem. Another important rule of the game is that there are no limitations, in particular, no behaviorist limitations, on the facts that may be cited to answer the sceptic. The evidence is not to be confined to that available to an external observer, who can observe my overt behavior but not my internal mental state. It would be interesting if nothing in my external behavior could show whether I meant plus or quus, but something about my inner state could. But the problem here is more radical. Wittgenstein’s philosophy of mind has often been viewed as behavioristic, but to the extent that Wittgenstein may (or may not) be hostile to the ‘inner’, no such hostility is to be assumed as a premise; it is to be argued as a conclusion. So whatever ‘looking into my mind’ may be, the sceptic asserts that even if God were to do it, he still could not determine that I meant addition by ‘plus’. This feature of Wittgenstein contrasts, for example, with Quine’s discussion of the ‘indeterminacy of translation’ .10 There are m any points of contact between Quine’s discussion and Wittgenstein’s. Quine, however, is more than content to assume that only behavioral evidence is to be admitted into his discussion. Wittgenstein, by contrast, undertakes an extensive introspective11 investigation, and the results of the investigation, as we shall see, form a key feature of his argument. Further, the w ay the sceptical doubt is presented is not behavioristic. It is presented from the ‘inside’. Whereas Quine presents the problem about meaning in terms o f a linguist, trying to guess what someone else means by his words on the basis of his behavior, Wittgenstein’s, challenge can be presented to me as a question about myself; was there some past fact about me — what I ‘meant’ by plus - that mandates what I should do now? To return to the sceptic. The sceptic argues that when I answered ‘125’ to the problem ‘68 + 57’ , my answer was an unjustified leap in the dark; my past mental history is equally compatible with the hypothesis that I meant quus, and therefore should have said ‘ 5’ . We can put the problem this w ay: When asked for the answer to ‘68 + 57’ , I unhesitatingly and automatically produced ‘125’ , but it would seem that if previously I never performed this computation explicitly I might just as well have answered ‘ 5. Nothing justifies a brute inclination to answer one way rather than another. Many readers, I should suppose, have long been impatient to protest that our problem arises only because o f a ridiculous model of the instruction I gave m yself regarding ‘addition’ . Surely I did not merely give myself some finite number of examples, from which I am supposed to extrapolate the whole table (“ Let ‘+’ be the function instantiated by the following examples: . . . ” ). No doubt infinitely many functions are compatible with that. Rather I learned - and internalized instructions for - a rule which determines how addition is to be continued. What was the rule? Well, say, to take it in its most primitive form : suppose we wish to add x and y. Take a huge bunch of marbles. First count out x marbles in one heap. Then count out y marbles in another. Put the two heaps together and count out the number of marbles in the union thus formed. The result is x + y. This set of directions, I may suppose, I explicitly gave myself at some earlier time. It is engraved on my mind as on a slate. It is incompatible with the hypothesis that I meant quus. It is this set of directions, not the finite list of particular additions I performed in the past, that justifies and determines m y present response. This consideration is, after all, reinforced when we think what I really do when I add 68 and 57. I do not reply automatically with the answer ‘125’ nor do I consult some non-existent past instructions that I should answer ‘125’ in this case. Rather I proceed according to an algorithm for addition that I previously learned. The algorithm is more sophisticated and practically applicable than the primitive one just described, but there is no difference in principle. Despite the initial plausibility of this objection, the sceptic’s response is all too obvious. True, if ‘count’, as I used the word in the past, referred to the act of counting (and m y other past words are correctly interpreted in the standard w ay), then ‘plus’ must have stood for addition. But I' applied. ‘count’ , like ‘plus’, to only finitely many past cases. Thus the sceptic can question my present interpretation o f m y past usage of ‘count’ as he did with ‘plus’ . In particular, he can claim that by ‘count’ I formerly meant quount, where to ‘quount’ a heap is to count it in the ordinary sense, unless the heap was formed as the union of two heaps, one of which has 57 or more items, in which case one must automatically give the answer ‘ 5’. It is clear that if in the past ‘counting’ meant quounting, and if I follow the rule for ‘plus’ that was quoted so triumphantly to the sceptic, I must admit that ‘68 + 57’ must yield the answer ‘ 5’ . Here I have supposed that previously ‘count’ was never applied to heaps formed as the union of sub-heaps either of which has 57 or more elements, but if this particular upper bound does not work, another will do. For the point is perfectly general: if ‘plus’ is explained in terms of ‘counting’, a non-standard interpretation of the latter will yield a non-standard interpretation of the former. It is pointless of course to protest that I intended the result of counting a heap to be independent of its composition in terms of sub-heaps: Let me have said this to myself as explicitly as possible: the sceptic will smilingly reply that once again I am misinterpreting my past usage, that actually ‘independent’ formerly meant quindependent, where ‘quindependent’ means . . . Here of course I am expounding Wittgenstein’s well know n remarks about ‘' a rule for interpreting a rule” . It is tempting to answer the sceptic by appealing from one rule to another more ‘basic’ rule. But the sceptical move can be repeated at the more ‘basic’ level also. Eventually the process must stop - “ justifications come to an end somewhere” - and I am left with a rule which is completely unreduced to any other. How can I justify my present application of such a rule, when a sceptic could easily interpret it so as to yield any of an indefinite number of other results? It seems that my application of it is an unjustified stab in the dark. I apply the rule blindly. Normally, when we consider a mathematical rule such as addition, we think of ourselves as guided in our application of it to each new instance. Just this is the difference between someone who computes new values of a function and someone who calls out numbers at random. Given my past intentions regarding the symbol ‘+’ one and only one answer is dictated as the one appropriate to ‘68 + 57 ’. On the other hand, although an intelligence tester may suppose that there is only one possible continuation to the sequence 2, 4, 6, 8, . . mathematical and philosophical sophisticates know that an indefinite number of rules (even rules stated in terms of mathematical functions as conventional as ordinary polynomials) are compatible with any such, finite initial segment. So if the tester urges me to respond, after 2, 4, 6, 8, . . with the unique appropriate next number, the proper response is that no such unique number exists, nor is there any unique (rule determined) infinite sequence that continues the given one. The problem can then be put this way: Did I myself, in the directions for the future that I gave myself regarding ‘+’, really differ from the intelligence tester? True, I may not merely stipulate that ‘+’ is to be a function instantiated by a finite number of computations. In addition, I may give myself directions for the further computation of ‘+’, stated in terms of other functions and rules. In turn, I may give myself directions for the further computation of these functions and rules, and so on. Eventually, however, the process must stop, with ‘ultimate’ functions and rules that I have stipulated for myself only by a finite number of examples, just as in the intelligence test. If so, is not my procedure as arbitrary as that of the man who guesses the continuation of the intelligence test? In what sense is my actual computation procedure, following an algorithm that yields ‘125’, more justified by my past instructions than an alternative procedure that would have resulted in ‘5’? Am I not simply following an unjustifiable impulse?’ Of course, these problems apply throughout language and are not confined to mathematical examples, though it is with mathematical examples that they can be most smoothly brought out. I think that I have learned the term ‘table’ in such a way that it will apply to indefinitely many future items. So I can apply the term to a new situation, say when I enter the Eiffel Tower for the first time and see a table at the base. Can I answer a sceptic who supposes that by ‘table’ in the past I meant tabair, where a ‘tabair’ is anything that is a table not found at the base of the Eiffel Tower, or a chair found there? Did I think explicitly of the Eiffel Tower when I first ‘grasped the concept of a table, gave myself directions for what I meant by ‘table’? And even if I did think of the Tower, cannot any directions I gave myself mentioning it be reinterpreted compatibly with the sceptic’s hypothesis? Most important for the ‘private language’ argument, the point of course applies to predicates of sensations, visual impressions, and the like, as well: “ How do I know that in working out the series -f 2 I must write “ 20,004, 20,006” and not “ 20,004, 20,008” ? - (The question: “ H ow do I know that this color is - ‘red’?” is similar.)” (Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, I, §3.) The passage strikingly illustrates a central thesis of this essay: that Wittgenstein regards the fundamental problems of the philosophy of mathematics and of the ‘private language argument’ - the problem of sensation language ~ as at root identical, stemming from his paradox. The whole of §3 is a succinct and beautiful statement of the Wittgensteinian paradox; indeed the whole initial section of part I of Remarks' on the Foundations of Mathematics is a development of the problem with special reference to mathematics and logical inference. It has been supposed that all I need to do to determine my use of the word ‘green’ is to have an image, a sample, of green that I bring to mind whenever I apply the word in the future. When I use this to justify my application of ‘green’ to a new object, should not the sceptical problem be obvious to any reader of Goodman? Perhaps by ‘green’, in the past I meant grue,15 and the color image, which indeed was grue, was meant to direct me to apply the word ‘green’ to grue objects always. If the blue object before me now is grue, then it falls in the extension of ‘green’, as I meant it in the past. It is no help to suppose that in the past I stipulated that ‘green’ was to apply to all and only those things ‘of the same color as’ the sample. The sceptic can reinterpret ‘same color’ as same schmolor, l6 where things have the same schmolor if . . . Let us return to the example of ‘plus’ and ‘quus’ . We have just summarized the problem in terms of the basis of my present particular response: what tells me that I should say ‘125’ and not ‘5’? Of course the problem can be put equivalently in terms of the sceptical query regarding my present intent: nothing in my mental history establisheswhether I meant plus or quus. So formulated, the problem may appear to be epistemological - how can anyone know which of these I meant? Given, however, that everything in my mental history is compatible both with the conclusion that I meant plus and with the conclusion that I meant quus, it is clear that the sceptical challenge is not really an epistemological one. It purports to show that nothing in my mental history of past behavior - not even what an omniscient God would know ~ could establish whether I meant plus or quus. But then it appears to follow that there was no fact about me that constituted my having meant plus rather than quus. How could there be, if nothing in my internal mental history or external behavior will answer the sceptic who supposes that in fact I meant quus? If there was no such thing as my meaning plus rather than quus in the past, neither can there be any such thing in the present. When we initially presented the paradox, we perforce used language, taking present meanings for granted. Now we see, as we expected, that this provisional concession was indeed fictive. There can be no fact as to what I meant by ‘plus’, or any other word at any time. The ladder must finally be kicked away. This, then, is the sceptical paradox. When I respond in one way rather than another to such a problem as ‘68-l-57’, I can have no justification for one response rather than another. Since the sceptic who supposes that I meant quus cannot be answered, there is no fact about me that distinguishes between my meaning plus and my meaning quus. Indeed, there is no fact about me that distinguishes between my meaning a definite function by ‘plus’ (which determines my responses in new cases) and my meaning nothing at all.


And KRIPKE (2) explains the skeptical solution.

[modified for gendered language] Saul Kripke [Might be the smartest philosophy alive today]. Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language: An Elementary Exposition. 1982. Harvard University Press

Finally, we can turn to Wittgenstein’s sceptical solution and to the consequent argument against ‘private’ rules. We have to see under what circumstances attributions of meaning are made and what role these attributions play in our lives. Following Wittgenstein’s exhortation not to think but to look, we will not reason a priori about the role such statements ought to play; rather we will find out what circumstances actually license such assertions and what role this license actually plays. It is important to realize that we are not looking for necessary and sufficient conditions (truth conditions) for following a rule, or an analysis of what such rule-following ‘consists in’ Indeed such conditions would constitute a ‘straight’ solution ’ to the sceptical problem, and have been rejected. First, consider what is true of one person considered in isolation. The ' most obvious fact is one that might have escaped us after long contemplation of the sceptical paradox. It holds no terrors in our daily lives; one actually hesitates when asked to produce an answer to an addition problem! Almost all of us unhesitatingly produce the answer ‘125’ when asked for the sum of 68 and 57, without any thought to the theoretical possibility that a quus-like rule might have been appropriate! And we do so without justification. Of course, if asked why we said ‘125’, most of us will say that we added 8 and 7 to get 15, that we put down 5 and carried 1 and so on. But then, what will we say if asked why we ‘carried’ as we do? Might our past intention not have been that ‘carry’ meant quarry; where to ‘quarry’ is . . .? The entire point of the sceptical argument is that ultimately we reach a level where we act without any reason in terms of which we can justify our action. We act unhesitatingly; but Blindly. This then is an important case of what Wittgenstein calls speaking without ‘justification’ (‘Rechtfertigung1), but not wrongfully’ ([german I could not reproduce]).75 It is part of our language game of speaking of rules that a speaker may, without ultimately giving any justification, follow his own confident inclination that this way (say, responding ‘125’) is the right way to respond, rather than another way (e.g. responding ‘5’). That is, the ‘assertability conditions’ that license an individual to say that, on a given occasion, he ought to follow his rule this way rather than that, are, ultimately, that he does what he is inclined to do. The important thing about this case is that, if we confine ourselves to looking at one person alone, his psychological states and his external behavior, this is as far as we can go. We can say that [s]he acts confidently at each application of a rule; that he says - without further justification - that the way he acts, rather than some quus-like alternative, is the way to respond. There are no circumstances under which we can say that, even if he inclines to say ‘125’, [s]he should have said ‘5’, or vice versa. By definition, [s]he is licensed to give, without further justification, the answer that strikes him [her] as natural and inevitable. Under what circumstances can he be wrong, say, following the wrong rule? No one else by looking at his mind; and behavior alone can say something like, “He is wrong if he does not accord with his own past intentions”; the whole point of the sceptical argument was that there can be facts about him [her] in virtue of which [s]he accords with his [her] intentions or not. All we can say, if we consider a single person in isolation, is that our ordinary practice licenses him to apply the rule in the way it strikes him. But of course this is not our usual concept of following a rule. It is by no means the case that, just because someone thinks [s]he is following a rule, there is no room for a judgement that [s]he is not really doing so. Someone - a child, an individual muddled by a drug - may think he is following a rule even though he is actually acting at random, in accordance with no rule at all. Alternatively, he may, under the influence of a drug, suddenly act in accordance with a quus-like rule changing from his first intentions. If there could be no justification for anyone to say of a person of the first type that his confidence that he is following some rule is misplaced, or of a person of the second type that he is no longer in accord with the rule that he previously followed, there would be little content to our idea that a rule, or past intention, binds future choices. We are inclined to accept conditionals of such a rough type as, ‘‘If someone means addition by ‘ + ’ then, if he remembers his past intention and wishes to conform to it, when he is queried about ‘68 + 57’, he will answer ‘125’.” The question is what substantive content such conditionals can have. If our considerations so far are correct, the answer is that, if one person is considered in isolation, the notion of a rule as guiding the person who adopts it can have no substantive content. There are, we have seen, no truth conditions or facts in virtue of which it can be the case that he accords with his past intentions or not. As long as we regard him as following a rule ‘privately’, so that we pay attention to his justification conditions alone, all we can say is that he is licensed to follow the rule as it strikes him. This is why Wittgenstein says, “To think one is obeying a rule is not to obey a rule. Hence it is not possible to obey a rule ‘privately’; otherwise thinking one was obeying a rule would be the same thing as obeying it. ” (§202) The situation is very different if we widen our gaze from consideration of the rule follower alone and allow ourselves to consider him as interacting with a wider community. Others will then have justification conditions for attributing correct or incorrect rule following to the subject, and these will not be simply that the subject’s own authority is unconditionally to be accepted. Consider the example of a small child learning addition. It is obvious that his teacher will not accept just any response from the child. On the contrary, the child must fulfill various conditions if the teacher is to ascribe to him mastery of the concept of addition. First, for small enough examples, the child must produce, almost all the time, the ‘right’ answer. If a child insists the answer ‘7’ to the query ‘2 + 3’, and a ‘3’ to ‘2 + 2 ’, and makes various other elementary mistakes, the teacher will say to him, “ You are not adding. Either you are computing another function” - I suppose he would not really talk quite this way to a child! - “ or, more probably, you are as yet following no rule at all, but only giving whatever random answer enters your head. ” Suppose, however, the child gets almost all ‘small’ addition problems right. For larger computations, the child can make more mistakes than for ‘small’ problems, but it must get a certain number right and, when it is wrong, it must recognizably be ‘trying to follow’ the proper procedure, not a quus-like procedure, even though it makes mistakes. (Remember, the teacher is not judging how accurate or adept the child is as an adder, but whether he can be said to be following the rule for adding.) Now, what do I mean when I say that the teacher judges that, for certain cases, the pupil must give the ‘right’ answer? I mean that the teacher judges that the child has given the same answer that [s]he him[her]self would give.


Second, only virtue paradigms can both provide principles that can extend in application and be socially bounded. MAYO:

Bernard Mayo. Ethics and the Moral Life. New York, ST Martin’s Press. 1958

No doubt the fundamental moral question is just ‘What ought I to do?’ And according to the philosophy of moral principles, the answer (which must be an imperative ‘Do this’) must be derived from a conjunction of premisses consisting (in the simplest case) firstly of a rule, or universal imperative, enjoining (or forbidding) all actions of a certain type in situations of a certain type, and, secondly, a statement to the effect that this is a situation of that type, falling under that rule. In practice the emphasis may be on supplying only one of these premisses, the other being assumed or taken for granted: one may answer the question ‘What ought I to do?’ either by quoting a rule which I am to adopt, or by showing that my case is legislated for by a rule which I do adopt. To take a previous example of moral per plexity,1 if I am in doubt whether to tell the truth about his condition to a dying man, my doubt may be resolved by showing that the case comes under a rule about the avoidance of unnecessary suffering, which I am assumed to accept. But if the case is without precedent in my moral career, my problem may be soluble only by adopting a new principle about what I am to do now and in the future about cases of this kind. This second possibility offers a connection with moral ideals. Suppose my perplexity is not merely an unprecedented situation which I could cope with by adopting a new rule. Suppose the new rule is thoroughly inconsistent with my existing moral code. This may happen, for instance, if the moral code is one to which I only pay lip-service; if (in the language of IX , 7) its ; authority is not yet internalised, or if it has ceased to be so; it is i ready for rejection, but its final rejection awaits a moral crisis such as we are assuming to occur. What I now need is not a rule for deciding how to act in this situation and others of its kind. I need a whole set of rules, a complete morality, new principles to live by. Now according to the philosophy of moral character, there is another way of answering the fundamental question ‘What ; ought I to do?’ Instead of quoting a rule, we quote a quality of ' character, a virtue: we say ‘Be brave’, or ‘Be patient’ or ‘Be lenient’. We may even say ‘Be a man’: if I am in doubt, say, whether to take a risk, and someone says ‘Be a man’, meaning a morally sound man, in this case a man of sufficient courage. (Compare the very different ideal invoked in ‘Be a gentleman’. I shall not discuss whether this is a moral ideal.) Here, too, we have the extreme cases, where a man’s moral perplexity extends not merely to a particular situation but to his whole way of living. And now the question ‘What ought I to do?’ turns into the question ‘What ought I to be?’ — as, indeed, it was treated in the first place. (‘Be brave.’) It is answered, not by quoting a rule or a set of rules, but by describing a quality of character or a type of person. And here the ethics of character gains a practical simplicity which offsets the greater logical simplicity of the ethics of principles. We do not have to give a list of characteristics or virtues, as we might list a set of principles. We can give a unity to our answer. Of course we can in theory give a unity to our principles: this is implied by speaking of a set of principles. But if such a set is to be a system and not a mere aggregate, the unity we are looking for is a logical one, namely the possibility that some principles are deducible from others, and ultimately from one. But the attempt to construct a deductive moral system is notoriously difficult, and in any case ill-founded. Why should we expect that all rules of conduct should be ultimately reducible to a few? 9. Saints and Heroes But when we are asked ‘What shall I be?’ we can readily give a unity to our answer, though not a logical unity. It is the unity of character. A person’s character is not merely a list of dispositions; it has the organic unity of something that is more than the sum of its parts. And We can say, in answer to our morally perplexed questioner, not only ‘Be this’ and ‘Be that’, but also ‘Be like So-and-So’ — where So-and-So is either an ideal type of character, or else an actual person taken as representative of the ideal, an exemplar. Examples of the first are Plato’s ‘just man’ in the Republic; Aristotle’s man of practical wisdom, in the Nicomachean Ethics; Augustine’s citizen of the City of God; the good Communist; the American way of life (which is a co lective expression for a type of character). Examples of the second kind, the exemplar, are Socrates, Christ, Buddha, St. Francis, the heroes of epic writers and of novelists. Indeed the idea of the Hero, as well as the idea of the Saint, are very much the expression of this attitude to morality. Heroes and saints are not merely people who did things. They are people whom we are expected, and expect ourselves, to imitate. And imitating them means not merely doing what they did; it means being like them. Their status is not in the least like that of legislators whose laws we admire; for the character of a legislator is irrelevant to our judgment about his legislation. The heroes and saints did not merely give us principles to live by (though some of them did that as well): they gave us examples to follow. 

[This framework originally and generously contributed by Torrey Pines VB.]