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  • Created by: josie
  • Created on: 23-02-14 19:44


  • Non-cognitivist= moral judgements do not express beliefs (not truth evaluable)
  • They express cognitive states-emotions, attitudes.
  • They are expressions of emotional responses, no attempts to describe how the world is.
  • "X is good"= expressing approval of X. Expressions of approval/dissaproval= not truth evaluable.
  • Simplified version= boo/hooray ethics.
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  • Any version of naturalism fails becaue of the open question argument- it is not self-contradictory to ask of any natural property 'is it good?'.
  • Any version of non-naturalism will fail because talk of non-natural properties lacks literal significance-meaningless.
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Talk of non-natural propeties is meaningless

Only 2 ways a statement can be meaningful:

1)empirically verifiable- (VERIFICATION PRINCIPLE)-"200 cars in the carpark"-verifiable by observation. Any statement where we do not know the conditions under which it would be true/false is meaningless.

2)Analytic-true by definition (TAUTOLIGIES)-"All bachelors are unmarried men"- true in virtue of the definitions of the claims it contains.

  • Those that claim moral judgements express beliefs about non-natural moral properties should be rejected- the claims they make are not analytic/ empirically verifiable= meaningless.
  • Moral statements not analytic.
  • Non-natural properties= not empirically verifiable- cannot be observed (non-natural).
  • If ethical concepts were non-natural, they could only be acessed through mysterious intellectual intuition.  What is intutively certain to one may be doubtful to another.  No other criterion- no way of verifiying whose intuition is true.
  • Such a criterion must be empirically verifiable or it would be subjective and fail original purpose. Ethical concepts are not non-natural- have a verification criteria.
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Initial problems

  • Open question argument fails- naturalism back on the cards.
  • Verification principle fails- not empirically verifiable. Non-naturalism is back on the cards. 


  • Cognitivism can be attacked using the fact-value distinction and the is-ought gap.
  • Non cognitivism and emotivism are still contenders- can survive these failures.
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Judging the abhorrent practices of others

  • Have a secondary function to expressing feelings- influences others emotions& stimulate action. "It is wrong to torture cats"- expressing dissaproval + get others to adopt same attitude.

PROBLEM- Nature of disagreement

  • Issue concerning the nature of moral disagreement and the purpose of moral argument.
  • i say "X=good", you say "x=bad" & all we are doing is expressing pro/con attitude towards X, very little can be said/done. Cannot argue about matters of value/ no contradiction when we disagree. How do we settle moral disputes?

RESPONSE- Appeal to facts

  • Ayer- accepts we cannot argue about matters of value. On one level we can argue by appealing to empirical facts surrounding the issue. 
  • You think abortion is ok- don't have all the facts. I disagree- appeal to facts you were unaware of- help persuade you it isnt.
  • Often in moral disagreements it is about the facts not the values.

PROBLEM- discuss it but still diagree, nothing more can be done. Cannot prove feelings right.

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Does it capture the real nature of moral argument?

  • We often do seem to contradict each other in moral disagreements.
  • We provide reasons and arguments to defend our judgement and convince others of the validity
  • We rationally try and change the attitudes/beliefs of others, not just to get clear on the facts/emotionally manipulate people through skilled oratory.
  • Fails to capture the nature of moral disagreement.
  • It is important to use our values are consistent&have strong reasons for holding them& understand the consequences&implications of holding them.
  • These are rational considerations that do not apply to feelings/attitudes.
  • Ayers account- can adopt one attitude today and a different one tommorow with not hypocracy
  • Giving moral judgements is just psychological manipulation. If this is true- any fact that influences attitudes can count as a reaosn for the attitude produced- cannot be the case, does away with reasonable/ legitimate reasons.
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Moral progres/mistakes

  • In dispensing all cognitive elements of moral judgements and the possibility of moral disagreement/ juging others- the motivist rules out any possibility of meaningful talk of moral progress/mistakes.
  • If moral judgements are not truth evaluable- they cannot be mistaken. left with no criteria to understand moral progress.
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Extent we can value what we like

2 issuses:

1) can we seperate the evaluative and descriptive components of statements?

2) does seperating them lead to seperate conclusions?

  • The assumption there is a radical distinction between fact and evaluative staments can be questioned- lots of examples of statements that contain factual and evaluative elements.
  • "that was really generous"- expressing positive attitude towards action and describing it- had certain features.
  • Difficult to seperate factual and evaluative because our values permeate how we see the world- determining how we describe it.
  • The idea we have a value-free perspective and description of the world does not fit how we actually see/describe it.
  • If it was possible to seperate them, we could approve of anything we liked- genocide/paedo's


Moral discourse has cogntive aspects that emotivism fails to capture.

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