Presentation on theme: "Michael Lacewing firstname.lastname@example.org Emotivism Michael Lacewing email@example.com."— Presentation transcript:
1 Michael Lacewing firstname.lastname@example.org EmotivismMichael Lacewing
2 Cognitivism v. non-cognitivism What are we doing when we make moral judgments?Cognitivism: moral judgments, e.g. ‘Murder is wrong’Aim to describe how the world isCan be true or falseExpress beliefs that the claim is trueNon-cognitivism: moral judgmentsDo not aim to describe the worldCannot be true or falseExpress attitudes towards the world
3 Subjectivism Moral judgements assert or report approval or disapproval E.g. ‘X is wrong’ means ‘Most people disapprove of X’This is a cognitivist theoryObj: racism is wrong, even though, historically, most people have approved of it
4 Speaker subjectivism ‘X is wrong’ means ‘I disapprove of X’ Again, cognitivismObj: (if we know what we think) we cannot make moral mistakesWhy deliberate?Emotivism: Moral judgments cannot be true or false‘X is wrong’ expresses disapproval of X
5 Ayer’s emotivismThe verification principle: a statement only has meaning if it is either analytic or empirically verifiableMoral judgments are not analytic and cannot be shown to be true or false by empirical verificationTherefore, they are literally meaningless, stating neither truth nor falsehood
6 Ayer’s emotivism‘If I say to someone, “You acted wrongly in stealing that money” … 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’.Moral language expresses our feelings and arouses feelings in others to influence their action
7 Rejecting the verification principle According the verification principle, the principle itself is meaningless.‘a statement only has meaning if it is analytic or can be verified empirically’ is not analyticand cannot be verified empirically.If the principle is meaningless, it is not true.If it is not true, it cannot show that religious language is meaningless.
8 Ayer’s response The principle is intended as a definition Whether it is the right definition of ‘meaning’ is established by arguments about its implicationsObjection: If we are not convinced by the implications, we will not accept it as a definitionThe principle provides no independent support for thinking that moral judgments are non-cognitive
9 Stevenson On beliefs and attitudes Descriptive and emotive meaning Beliefs: mind-to-world direction of fitAttitudes: world-to-mind direction of fitDescriptive and emotive meaningCentral terms (good, bad, right, wrong) are only emotiveOthers, e.g. ‘lie’, ‘respect’, have both meanings
10 StevensonEmotive meaning is connected to use: the purpose is not to state facts, but to influence other people’s behaviourObj: but much emotive language is not about morality, e.g. advertisingWhat makes emotive language moral?If we appeal to distinct emotions expressed, e.g. disapproval, what makes moral disapproval moral (rather than aesthetic)?
11 The limits of valueNon-cognitivism doesn’t identify any limits to morality, because it equates morality with approval or disapprovalIf what we value isn’t restricted by what is objectively valuable, it seems we could approve or disapprove of anything.But morality isn’t about just anything, but about sympathy, courage, happiness, etc. – it is about what is good for people.
12 On ethical languageEthical language doesn’t always function to influence othersEthical language isn’t always emotiveReply: The purpose of ethical language is to influence others, and this provides its core meaningBut this is compatible with some non-influential uses and some non-emotive uses
13 Moral argumentIf moral judgments are just expressions of attitude, then the attempt to influence others is not rationalAyer: moral argument is only ever argument over factsThere can be no argument over valuesStevenson: moral argument is a disagreement in attitudeAttitudes have implications for other attitudes
14 Moral argumentBut there is no rational process of deciding which attitudes to keepWhat reason do we have to change our minds?If the purpose of moral judgment is to influence others, any argument that is effective will be a ‘good’ argumentThere is no rational criterionWorse: an argument is valid if the conclusion must be true if the premises areBut if moral judgments are never true (or false), no moral arguments are valid!