Intro to emotivism

  • A non cognitive anti realist argument
  • Non cognitive- non factual claims.
  • ethical statements are neither true nor false as they are not genuine propositions
  • statements can be meaningful even if they dont refer to the world and true and false dont apply to them
  • Anti realist- there exist no objective values
  • particular aspects of the world do not exist beyond human minds
  • ethical statements have no real existence
  • Comes from logical positivisms (Hume) who seek to do away with metaphysical language as it is not verifiable
1 of 5

Ayer's emotivism

  • Hurrah boo theory
  • In order for a statement to be meaningful it must pass the verification principle
  • synthetic and analytic
  • any other fact such as religious belief and moral opinion cant be verified so it is not meaningful
  • ethical statements and moral judgements are emotive responses such as expressions of preference, attitude or feeling
  • simply expresses our feelings- to say lying is wrong is just to say boo to lying
  • if we say abortion is wrong we are just saying i do not like abortion- it is not a value judgement based on an objective point of reference
  • Moral arguments therefore serve no real purpose as they are just an expression of feeling
2 of 5

Stevenson's emotivism

  • Stevenson disagreed with Ayer and believed that there was a disagreement in attitudes
  • Argued that moral judgements contain two elements- expression of an attitude based on a belief (subjectivism) and a persuasive element which seeks to influence others (prescriptivism)
  • Instead of describing properties of people, moral judgements ecpress approval or disapproval
  • To say 'this is good' is to say 'I approve of this, do so as well'
  • Moral statements therefore are not simply expressions of an emotion but the result of attitudes based on fundamental belief
  • A moral statement tells us about someones beliefs rather than just being a shouting match.
  • many moral disagreements are not that- doctorsmay disagree about how to treat a patient but they are disagreeing about the best course of action, not the act itself
  • real moral disputes are when a person considers an act wrong on the moral principle
  • gave more meaning to moral disputes whereas ayer saw them as shouting matches however moral judgements didnt imply any objective truth or fact
  • Moral statements are the result of subjective opinion, views or beliefs
  • Unlike normative theories, naturalism or intuitionism, there is no universal truth or absolute right or wrong
3 of 5

Strengths of emotivism

  • Highlights why moral disputes are impossible to resolve
  • History shows many examples of emotivist ways of expressing moral opinions eg. hitler and WBC
  • It acknowledges moral and cultural diversity
4 of 5

Problems of Emotivism

  • Even when moral statement are favoured by the public that doesnt give them reason to be followed or make them right.
  • Prescribes complete freedom of expression on the basis that every opinion is equally valid therefore you can do what you want irrespective of others
  • Emotional force behind a statement is no recommendation of its value
5 of 5


No comments have yet been made

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »See all Morality resources »