You may not be quite sure what I am actually referring to in the title, but it is, in my view, an essential aspect of philosophy and one that is SO often neglected and the foundational reason why most philosophical discussions tend to end up being disagreements about the “meaning” of the terms (words) involved in the discussion, rather than actual philosophy.
One of the glorious examples of this problem is the basic foundations for the idea of meta-ethics. Meta ethics is often discribed as the field of understanding what is the “meaning” of the words “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “evil”, “moral” and “immoral” etc. In meta ethics it all coalesces into the dichotomy … is morality cognitive or non-cognitive.
First of all, whenever philosophy converges towards language/words, I always remind myself what the factuality of those terms really are.
Language, are sounds made by an individual
You may think that this is too simplistic or insufficient. Yes and no. The factual aspect is just that. Whatever else you want to add, are all value based descriptions .. like “… in order to communicate x …”. These are value-imbued expressions, because “communication” is an interpretation or “behavior”, based on the purpose or the valued result of that factual action. Sound is a sensory signal and therefore propositions can be made about it. “Communication” is a value expression and propositions cannot be made about them.
Value and changes in value is a part of the individuals consciousness. A change in value is something like this:
The change of perceived value of two situations related by causality, each described by their factual expressions (true propositions)
Since value is subjective (otherwise trade would be impossible), the value expressions cannot be used to describe any universal “rules” of any kind. They must be described using ONLY factual descriptions. This has HUGE consequences for how one understands human interactions and how ethics is used and the moral principles that it may lead to.
This distinction is the essence in Hume´s “is/ought” gap and where the ideas of objectivity and subjectivity come from.
Podcasts in danish regarding this subject: