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Logical positivism embraced a scientific method for verifying knowledge – a process of verification – which excluded the possibility of moral facts. This shows the influence of David Hume (1711-1776), who believed that sentiment was the source of right and wrong. If you decide to help someone in need, you do so because you have feelings, not because you have reason. Hume believed in a common feeling for each other’s welfare. We all have a capacity for compassion, but it has nothing to do with reason. You can’t go from a factual statement (an ‘is’) to a moral one (an ‘ought). Logical positivism acknowledged that moral facts were not like scientific ones, but went on to conclude that they were not facts at
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One cannot say that one is right and the other wrong, because there are no facts that separate them, one can only accept that each is using moral judgements to express his or her emotional response to that set of facts.
People may reject Ayer’s theory – suggesting a whole variety of causes for their moral beliefs, which they believe justify their view. I might say that murder is wrong because Jesus taught against it in the NT and because it disrupts civilised society. Ayer explains this as an attempt to find other things that appeal to my emotions.
C.L.STEVENSON (1908-1979)
Ayer’s approach was taken and developed by C. L. Stevenson in his Ethics and Language (1945).While Ayer thought that arguments were people simply expressing their emotions towards each other, Stevenson maintained there was actually a disagreement in attitudes.
Stevenson argued that moral judgements contain 2 elements:
a. An expression of an attitude based on a belief
b. A persuasive element which seeks to influence others
To say ‘this is good’ means ‘I approve of this, you should as well’. Moral statements are not just expressions of emotion, but are the result of attitudes based on fundamental beliefs. If I say ‘capital punishment is wrong’, it’s because I have an attitude opposed to capital punishment which is formed by my fundamental beliefs about capital punishment – be they religious, moral or political. Ayer
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