Emotivism

Emotivism is the meta-ethical theory that holds that moral statements, like a great deal of everyday conversation, are in actual fact meaningless. They bear no relation to the world of facts whatsoever. The presentation below describes and examines the arguments of Ayer and Stevenson:

Alistair MacIntyre once remarked that it was most satisfactory to regard emotivism as a rejection of a ‘certain sort’ of moral theorising. To help students understand this claim I prepared the following presentation outlining the history of Western moral philosophy following the classical utilitarians and leading to Ayer’s publication of Language, Truth & Logic:

In addition to the criticisms outlined in the presentations, it is well worth remembering that Kant [role of reason], Utilitarians [naturalistic fallacy] and MacIntyre’s own account of virtue ethics all function as critics of this position [if, of course, you agree with them]. Midgley, in Heart and Mind, also adds weight to the standard objection about the role of moral discourse by noting that we would think it ludicrous for a foreigner to indite our culture after one day in it. And of course, we would not feel we had the ability to judge theirs after the same period of time. This, she correctly infers, indicates the importance of understanding when judging. And this does not sit well with the immediacy of the “yum/yuk” response that Ayer claims is the source of moral expression.

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