Leges sine moribus vanae: does language make moral thinking possible?
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- Colombo, M. Biol Philos (2013) 28: 501. doi:10.1007/s10539-012-9346-y
Does language make moral cognition possible? Some authors like Andy Clark have argued for a positive answer whereby language and the ways people use it mark a fundamental divide between humans and all other animals with respect to moral thinking (Clark, Mind and morals: essays on cognitive science and ethics. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996; Moral Epistemol Nat Can J Philos Suppl XXVI, 2000a; Moral Epistemol Nat Can J Philos Suppl XXVI, 2000b; Philosophy of mental representation. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 37–43 and discussion, 44–61, 2002). I take issue with Clark’s view and argue that language is probably unnecessary for the emergence of moral cognition. I acknowledge, however, that humans unlike other animals seem to posses what Haugeland in Philosophy of mental representation. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2002) terms ‘norm-hungriness’: an idiosyncratic need or desire to create and abide by a multitude of norms. Our peculiar norm-hungriness, I suggest, depends on what can be called florid control rather than on language.