Emotivism

Emotivism

Advantages

  • Accounts for the variety of beliefs. Stephenson - an expression how how we want to see the world. Disagreements arise when fundamental principles clash. Morality isn't confined to the realm of objectivism - it is ultimately dependent on the beliefs of the individual
  • Overcomes the challenges of verifiability that intuitionism faces - is based on personal beliefs, and so doesn't need an abstract concept like intuition to be proved to be meaningful
  • Reflects our lives - when we say statements, we are trying to persuade others to act in that way (Ayer) because its how we want the world to be (Stephenson)

Disadvantages

  • Challenge to debate - ethical debate is rendered as meaningless. How can two people debate opposing ideas? They have no ultimate standard to compare to, no ACTUAL goodness. It is not like two individuals comparing means to fulfil an intuited good; the debate is limited to 'I believe this' and 'you believe that'
  • Reduces the importance of ethical terms - if goodness is an expression of personal feelings (boos or hurrahs) then it would seem that my dislike for say, abortion, is on the same level to my dislike of stubbing my toe (Rachels). There is no hierarchy for discussion, which undermines the serious ethical debates that have occurred throughout civilisation e.g. Hiroshima. They aren't subjectivism (Ayer) and so convey absolutely no truth. Therefore, they could be rendered meaningless
  • No unanimous decision can be made if ethical terms are dependent on the individual's view. It is all internalised and not externally testable (like Naturalism), therefore meaning that a widely agreed decision will never be made
  • Is it even a theory? It just tells us that we can respond to terms with our opinion. Intuitionism accepts this, but says that goodness is an external standard. Vardy argues that emotivism is "nothing but hot air".

Evaluation

Emotivism seems to be reflective of human nature, but is limited in that it merely tells us about that - rather than what 'good' is. It seems to define goodness as arbitrary, meaning that it has no value in ethical debates. It is incompatible with religious beliefs too, as well as meaning that no decision can be made unanimously. By reducing the importance of ethical terms, it seemingly cancels out the advantages of accounting for a variety of beliefs - this, anyway, is an expected aspect of human nature and is not useful in complex ethical decisions and indeed undermines them.

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