Emotivist par excellence

When it comes to President Trump, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between a political strategy and a nervous breakdown …

If all moral claims are merely emotive” — statements about ourselves rather than the nature of reality — then there is no way to argue between them. The statement that stealing is wrong” can be debated. The statement I feel that stealing is wrong” is not subject to rational dispute. Someone else could simply assert, I feel that stealing is right,” and the argument would be at a stalemate.

Trump is the emotivist par excellence. He holds no objective, abstract beliefs about the meaning of justice or duty. He approves of things that help him and disapproves of things that hurt him. There is no other moral grounding. Yet he makes his assertions with utter confidence.

The president currently claims that asking a dependent government to dig up dirt on a political rival is a good thing, even when it involves the implication of extortion. He makes no argument about why the traditional definition of corruption has changed. He feels no need. The shift is in his interest. And that is enough to require the assent of his followers.

Michael Gerson

October 8, 2019

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