Emotivism: the idea that moral statements
are not statements but facts but are indicators
of emotional state
Background to Emotivism Logical Positivism
The original logical positivists were in Austria (the Vienna Circle) They followed the principle of Hume's Fork and applied this to language.
A statement is meaningful if it is either...
- It is an analytic statement , true by definition
- It is a synthetic statement that can be verified by the senses
Any statements that do not fit into these categories are meaningless, they do not convey facts - this includes ethical statements
A J Ayer:
- A.J.Ayer basically agrees with the logical positivists. This informs his view of ethics
- Moral statements are not obviously logical nor can any matter of fact prove them to be true, so moral statements are something else
Ethical Statements and Emotion:
- Ayer is not concerned with what ethical statements mean but what they are there for
- Ethical statements are simply expressions of personal preferences/emotions
- "Murder is wrong!" = "Murder no!"
- If I say that you were wrong to steal my chips, the word 'wrong' doesn't add any factual content, I might as well say, "you stole my chips" in a disapproving tone
The Vienna Circle and the Verification Principle
- The verification Principle put forward by the logical positivists suggests that statements are only meaningful if they're analytic or synthetic statements
- Hume argued that moral judgements were feelings or sentiments rather than factual judgements. When we observe the facts if a situation we are not able to see the rightness or wrongness
Hume and the Fish:
- The criticism of Naturalism was our inability to sense right and wrong. Hume and Mackie are supporting emotivism when they say...
- When we percieve a murder, we see the facts but we do not percieve the wrongness.
- The wrongness is only our feeling towards the action
- Believe that there is such a thing as 'goodness'
- What is right and wrong can be worked out using empirical evidence
- Aquinas, Mill and Aristotle would support this view
- Emotivists believe that objective right and wrong does not exist
- When we call something right or wrong, we are describing our emotions towards that action
- A J Ayer was an emotivist
- Intuitionists believe that there is such a thing as goodness but goodness is not like other properties
- It cannot be worked out or experienced but we have an intuitive sense of right and wrong
- When we hear of a distressing crime, we just know that it is wrong
- G.E.Moore was in intuitionist
Prescriptivism (Not on spec):
- Prescriptivists agree that there is no right or wrong
- However, when we call something right or wrong, we are trying to prescribe our views to others
- "Abortion is wrong" = "I don't like abortion and neither should you"
- R M Hore was a prescriptivist
There are three levels to meta ethics...
- Meta Ethics: What is 'good'? Does it exist? What does it mean?
- Normative Ethics: How do we decide what is right and wrong?
- Applied Ethics: What should X do?
- The Greek word 'Meta' means above and beyond, so Meta Ethics is above or beyond 'normal ethics'
- Meta Ethics is concerned with the deeper questions of ethics
- Is there such a thing as right and wrong? And what do ethical words mean?
Internal and External Questions:
- The questions posed in normative and practical ethics are internal questions. The 'what should I do?' and 'how should I decide?' are within the game of ethics
- The questions posed by meta ethics are external questions. They are questions about the game posed outside of the game.