“Ethical Language Is No More Than Expressions of Emotion.” Discuss.

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Ethical statements could be said to be no more than expressions of emotion depending on whether you take a cognitive approach to meta-ethics or a non-cognitive approach, and which branch of that approach you believe in.

Ayer was an emotivist and therefore took the non-cognitive approach to meta-ethics. He believed that ethical language is subjective and not objective. He said that ethical statements are merely expressions of liking or disliking a certain action, so if you say that ‘Murder is wrong’, you are simply saying ‘I don’t like murder’. He called this approach the hurrah-boo theory and claimed that any expression of emotion was the same as saying ‘ouch’; it is meaningless. He said that as ethical statements are neither
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Naturalists also think that ethical statements are more than expressions of emotions, as they believe that ethical language is objective as it can be verified in the same way that scientific statements can. For example, they say that when you witness a murder, you see who was killed, how they were killed but also that it was wrong. There are two types of naturalists, theological like Thomas Aquinas, and hedonistic. They both claim that either pleasure (if you are a hedonist) or the word of God (if you are a theological naturalist) are evidence of goodness or rightness. Therefore by examining pleasure or the Bible you could verify ethical statements.

G. E. Moore, however, argued that this is a naturalistic fallacy, as it is illogical to assume pleasure or God’s word is evidence, as you cannot identify something as ‘good’ and ‘pleasurable’, and therefore claim good is pleasure. Not all things that are good are also pleasurable, and not all pleasurable things are good! Furthermore, naturalists could be said to be wrong in claiming ethical statements are verifiable as in science, as in science things are objectively measured, but there is no way to do this with ethical language and statements. Therefore, the argument against expressions being more than emotions is flawed.

Overall, I agree with Ayer’s hurrah-boo theory, that ethical statements are merely

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