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Non-Cognitive statements

When studying religious language in my A-Level course (I am in year 13), my immediate reaction was that I totally questioned the existence of non-cognitive statements. The definition of non-cognitive statements given for this unit is that they are statements for which it is inappropriate to ask whether they are true or false, for they express something other than empirical facts. I could not see how any statement could not be true or false, for example, if I say "I like Star Trek" - surely someone with adequate understanding and equipment could observe my brain functions and conclude that I am having a reaction that shows I enjoy it. What do you think?
I suspect I am being totally oblivious, or just being a total idiot.
Reply 1
Well, given that this is meta-ethics, it's usually about moral statements, and the thesis is that moral statements have no substantial truth conditions (and nor should they).
Original post by ThomasAJWarren
When studying religious language in my A-Level course (I am in year 13), my immediate reaction was that I totally questioned the existence of non-cognitive statements. The definition of non-cognitive statements given for this unit is that they are statements for which it is inappropriate to ask whether they are true or false, for they express something other than empirical facts. I could not see how any statement could not be true or false, for example, if I say "I like Star Trek" - surely someone with adequate understanding and equipment could observe my brain functions and conclude that I am having a reaction that shows I enjoy it. What do you think?
I suspect I am being totally oblivious, or just being a total idiot.

I generally think of non-cognitive statements as statements which do not 'aim to describe the world'. i.e. when you make the statement, you are not making a factual claim which can be empirically verified. When you say 'I like Star Trek', you are referring to a feeling you have when watching Star Trek, this is something which cannot be 'pointed' to in the world and claimed to be true or false. Sure, someone could look inside your brain and see you are undergoing the appropriate activity as if you were enjoying something, but this isn't the same as proving the feeling, it is ignoring the idea of qualia.

Not sure if that made much sense, but that's how I think of it. So if you were claiming that moral statements were non-cognitive, you would claim that they do not aim to describe the world (you can't point at the world and say 'there's goodness!'), and therefore cannot be true or false as they cannot empirically verified.
Original post by miriamhutch8
Original post by ThomasAJWarren
When studying religious language in my A-Level course (I am in year 13), my immediate reaction was that I totally questioned the existence of non-cognitive statements. The definition of non-cognitive statements given for this unit is that they are statements for which it is inappropriate to ask whether they are true or false, for they express something other than empirical facts. I could not see how any statement could not be true or false, for example, if I say "I like Star Trek" - surely someone with adequate understanding and equipment could observe my brain functions and conclude that I am having a reaction that shows I enjoy it. What do you think?
I suspect I am being totally oblivious, or just being a total idiot.

I generally think of non-cognitive statements as statements which do not 'aim to describe the world'. i.e. when you make the statement, you are not making a factual claim which can be empirically verified. When you say 'I like Star Trek', you are referring to a feeling you have when watching Star Trek, this is something which cannot be 'pointed' to in the world and claimed to be true or false. Sure, someone could look inside your brain and see you are undergoing the appropriate activity as if you were enjoying something, but this isn't the same as proving the feeling, it is ignoring the idea of qualia.

Not sure if that made much sense, but that's how I think of it. So if you were claiming that moral statements were non-cognitive, you would claim that they do not aim to describe the world (you can't point at the world and say 'there's goodness!'), and therefore cannot be true or false as they cannot empirically verified.


Very good
Original post by gjd800
Well, given that this is meta-ethics, it's usually about moral statements, and the thesis is that moral statements have no substantial truth conditions (and nor should they).


Turns out I was just being a fool.
Reply 5
A non cognitive statement is simply one that can never be true or false. 'I like Star Trek' is not such a case since the person saying it either does like Star Trek or doesn't (the amount or frequency that they like Star Trek is irrelevant to the fact that it's a cognitive statement). Whereas shouting 'Star Trek!' on its own is non-cognitive because whilst the implication may be that I'm a fan if I exclaim that, not only might that implication be wrong (I might simply be surprised to see a reference to Star Trek somewhere, without actually liking Star Trek) but it doesn't form a premise. It's just words without necessary context.

Moral statements are not non-cognitive, in my opinion. Regardless of whether people think that good or bad can be objective, something subjective can still be cognitive, if what is meant by 'good' and what is meant by 'bad' in a particular context are defined..
(edited 1 month ago)
Original post by Picnicl
A non cognitive statement is simply one that can never be true or false. 'I like Star Trek' is not such a case since the person saying it either does like Star Trek or doesn't (the amount or frequency that they like Star Trek is irrelevant to the fact that it's a cognitive statement). Whereas shouting 'Star Trek!' on its own is non-cognitive because whilst the implication may be that I'm a fan if I exclaim that, not only might that implication be wrong (I might simply be surprised to see a reference to Star Trek somewhere, without actually liking Star Trek) but it doesn't form a premise. It's just words without necessary context.

Moral statements are not non-cognitive, in my opinion. Regardless of whether people think that good or bad can be objective, something subjective can still be cognitive, if what is meant by 'good' and what is meant by 'bad' in a particular context are defined..

I like Star Trek, shown to be true as I like Star Trek?
Surely there must be a corresponding fact (that shows a statement is true or false) to make a statement cognitive, and "I like such thing" refers to something in which there is no corresponding fact other than the feeling itself of liking such thing, In which my original comment was on the reference of a feeling to an empirical fact (appropriate brain activity) to classic examples of non-cognitive statements i.e expressing a feeling or an opinion.
Perhaps I am mistaken, but also wouldn't expressing "Star Trek!" be a cognitive statement? As it would again refer to something in the world in which there is a truth condition that is a science fiction show existing (or not existing), similarly expressing "Bluebells" in any context does indeed refer to something in the world that is verifiable, whereas expressing "I find Bluebells pretty" would refer to something that is not verifiable in the world (subject to a wider debate) and therefore non-cognitive.
Not trying to be contentious here, but I have somewhat clarified my understanding (I hope).
Reply 7
My understanding, having briefly acquainted myself with the term for this topic, is that non-cognitive just means the same as 'invalid'. A valid argument in Philosophy must just have a conclusion that follows from the premises. Whether the premises or the conclusion are true is irrelevant to whether it is a 'valid' argument.

This is an invalid (non-cognitive) argument:
The only TV programme that A has ever watched is Star Trek.
Star Trek is always immediately available for free on A's TV.
Therefore A will be watching Star Trek on his TV tonight. (the conclusion is invalid (non-cognitive) because it didn't properly follow from the premises. The first premise is only necessarily about the past, not his future intentions. The second premise doesn't state he is anywhere near his TV nor if he actually wants to watch Star Trek - or any TV show - tonight or anytime in future).

This is a valid (cognitive) argument:
The only TV programme A watches every Wednesday is Star Trek.
Star Trek is set on Coronation Street in Weatherfield.
Today is Tuesday.
Therefore A will watch Star Trek, which is set on Coronation Street in Weatherfield, tomorrow. (the conclusion is valid (cognitive) because, even though one of the premises is clearly known to be false from our general knowledge, and therefore part of the conclusion is false, that false premise didn't contradict any of the other premises).
(edited 1 month ago)
Original post by Picnicl
My understanding, having briefly acquainted myself with the term for this topic, is that non-cognitive just means the same as 'invalid'. A valid argument in Philosophy must just have a conclusion that follows from the premises. Whether the premises or the conclusion are true is irrelevant to whether it is a 'valid' argument.

This is an invalid (non-cognitive) argument:
The only TV programme that A has ever watched is Star Trek.
Star Trek is always immediately available for free on A's TV.
Therefore A will be watching Star Trek on his TV tonight. (the conclusion is invalid (non-cognitive) because it didn't properly follow from the premises. The first premise is only necessarily about the past, not his future intentions. The second premise doesn't state he is anywhere near his TV nor if he actually wants to watch Star Trek - or any TV show - tonight or anytime in future).

This is a valid (cognitive) argument:
The only TV programme A watches every Wednesday is Star Trek.
Star Trek is set on Coronation Street in Weatherfield.
Today is Tuesday.
Therefore A will watch Star Trek, which is set on Coronation Street in Weatherfield, tomorrow. (the conclusion is valid (cognitive) because, even though one of the premises is clearly known to be false from our general knowledge, and therefore part of the conclusion is false, that false premise didn't contradict any of the other premises).


From what I was taught on my course, “A will be watching Star Trek tonight” would be a cognitive statement since there is a clear method of empirical verification, even if that conclusion is invalid.
It is clear we have drastically different conceptions of the terms here, so we are always going to draw different viewpoints. 👍
Reply 9
Original post by ThomasAJWarren
From what I was taught on my course, “A will be watching Star Trek tonight” would be a cognitive statement since there is a clear method of empirical verification, even if that conclusion is invalid.
It is clear we have drastically different conceptions of the terms here, so we are always going to draw different viewpoints. 👍

Yes, it's cognitive because what the statement says essentially makes grammatical sense about understood concepts, even if it was untrue.
Where we differ is I don't think there has to be a possible way of finding out if it is true.
Therefore, to me, 'God exists' is a cognitive statement, because it makes grammatical sense and we have a concept of what God is (God is in the dictionary, after all).
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 10
Original post by Picnicl
A non cognitive statement is simply one that can never be true or false. 'I like Star Trek' is not such a case since the person saying it either does like Star Trek or doesn't (the amount or frequency that they like Star Trek is irrelevant to the fact that it's a cognitive statement). Whereas shouting 'Star Trek!' on its own is non-cognitive because whilst the implication may be that I'm a fan if I exclaim that, not only might that implication be wrong (I might simply be surprised to see a reference to Star Trek somewhere, without actually liking Star Trek) but it doesn't form a premise. It's just words without necessary context.

Moral statements are not non-cognitive, in my opinion. Regardless of whether people think that good or bad can be objective, something subjective can still be cognitive, if what is meant by 'good' and what is meant by 'bad' in a particular context are defined..

For a non-cognitivist, defining good or bad wouldn't really matter - the ethical non-cog argument is (broadly speaking) that even with these definitions, moral 'facts' are simply assertions of preferences rather than empirically verifiable features of the world.

It is a broad church, there are lots of routes at this.
(edited 1 month ago)

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