Presentation on theme: "A. J. Ayer and Emotivism Jon Sanders. Sir Alfred Jules “Freddie” Ayer 1910 – 1989 Language, Truth and Logic (1936) Educated: Eton; Christ Church, Oxford."— Presentation transcript:
Sir Alfred Jules “Freddie” Ayer 1910 – 1989 Language, Truth and Logic (1936) Educated: Eton; Christ Church, Oxford Supporter of Tottenham Hotspur F.C. Notable friends: Graham Greene, George Orwell, ee cummings, Bertrand Russell, W. H. Auden, Isaiah Berlin, Alan Bennett, Iris Murdoch. Later renounced his beliefs in logical positivism. At a party held by fashion designer Fernando Sanchez, Ayer, then 77, confronted Mike Tyson harassing Naomi Campbell. When Ayer demanded that Tyson stop, the boxer said: "Do you know who the fuck I am? I'm the heavyweight champion of the world," to which Ayer replied: "And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men".
Logical Positivism and the Verification Principle Interested in science; sceptical of theology and metaphysics. The verification principle: a statement is only meaningful if there is a conclusive procedure determining whether it is true or false. Therefore, ‘God exists’ is a meaningless statement. Types of meaningful statement: analytic (true by definition) and synthetic (true by evidence) (LTAL)
A Brief Criticism of Logical Positivism The verification principle itself cannot be verified. Counter-argument: Logical Positivism is a philosophy of science, not an axiomatic system that can prove its own consistency (cf. Gödel’s incompleteness theorem).
Emotivism Ethical non-cognitivism: no ethical knowledge is possible, because ethical statements cannot be proved true or false. Moral utterances function primarily to express emotions (and perhaps arouse similar emotions in others). Nicknamed the ‘boo/hurrah theory’ – not exactly accurate. Ethical statements are expressions of approval/disapproval, not assertions (e.g. ‘Theft is wrong’ ≠‘I disapprove of theft’).
Quote from LTAL “The presence of an ethical symbol in a proposition adds nothing to its factual content. Thus if I say to someone, ‘You acted wrongly in stealing that money,’ I am not saying anything more than if I had simply said, ‘You stole that money’. In adding that this action is wrong I am not making any further statement about it. I am simply evincing my moral disapproval of it. It is as if I had said, ‘You stole that money,’ in a peculiar tone of horror, or written it with the addition of some special exclamation marks.”
Criticisms Different opinions arise from our differing perceptions of predicates. Brandt: People who change their moral views see previous views not as simply different, but mistaken. Facts and reason are involved in moral judgements. Counter-argument: Ayer does not specifically reject this. Approval/Disapproval is partly based on reason. Rachels: Leads to unruly subjectivism, since no one is right. Similarly, it could be seen to allow complete freedom of action. Counter-arguments: i) Although he argues that ethical statements have no factual content, Ayer does not say that they have no meaningful function. ii) Emotivism is not a normative theory, so the second criticism does not apply.