C) Emotivism



  • Meta-ethical theory: seeks to explore the nature of moral values and terms
  • Proposed by A.J.Ayer (influenced by logical positivism which states that only propositions which can be verified empirically have meaning i.e. analytic/ synthetic statements)
  • Ayer used his verification principle (in 'Langugae, Truth and Logic') to sort out the meaningful from the meaningless
  • Can be seen as a reaction against intuitionism

Moral judgements

  • Ethical terms such as 'good' and 'right' are unanalysable and refer to nothing at all
  • Objective moral laws do not exist
  • Applying the verification principle, moral judgements are therefore meaningless
  • Ayer concludes moral terms are simply expressions of emotions, like saying 'boo' or 'hurrah'
  • Hence, a link could be drawn between emotivism and ethical egoism, which argues people are intrinsically selfish as we decide what is right and wrong for ourselves based on our personal emotional responses
  • This means emotivism is non-cognitive (rejects that ethical terms exist)
  • Emotivism opposes intuitionism by not regarding moral propositions as descriptive
  • Moral terms are designed to influence other people's behaviour by conveying…


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