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Explain what scholars mean when they say that ethical statements are no more than expressions of opinion.

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Introduction

Elena Solaro 12E 1. Explain what scholars mean when they say that ethical statements are no more than expressions of opinion. As its name suggests, emotivism is an ethical theory based on people's emotional responses to situations and events in the world around them. However, unlike most moral theories, it is not concerned with 'what is right', and 'what is wrong', instead, emotivism explores the way in which human beings use language to convey what we think is good or bad, right or wrong. In this way, emotivism could be characterised as a moral 'non-theory'. In the nineteen twenties, a group of philosophers, known as the Vienna Circle, were working in Austria, trying to discover how we use language as a means of conveying knowledge. They did not want to know how we gain this knowledge, but simply the method by which we can attempt to explain it. This idea became known 'Logical Positivism', and its fundamental argument was that only propositions or statements which can be verified empirically (using the senses) have meaning. The logical positivists only accepted two types of verifiable language. These were firstly, 'analytic' or 'a priori' propositions. ...read more.

Middle

Hurrah!' In conclusion, according to the logical positivists, establishing language as the means by which the truth or falsehood or certain propositions can be demonstrated is the whole point of philosophy. Strictly speaking, if a statement is neither logical nor empirical, in philosophical terms it must be meaningless. Moral statements, which cannot be proved or disproved must therefore be meaningless, and this is where the logical positivists claimed that morality was little more than a matter of like or dislike, 'boo!' or 'hurrah!' 2. How far do you consider these views to be justified? For the most part, emotivism seems like a fairly straightforward idea: each person devises a set of moral guidelines according to their personal opinions and preferences. But is it really this simple? As with all ethical theories, emotivism has been criticised and hotly disputed for a number of reasons. One of the principle problems with emotivism is that if we accept it to be a correct analysis of moral discourse, then all ethical debate is reduced to little more than hot air. We may provide reasons to support our beliefs until we are blue in the face, but in reality, what we are saying will have absolutely no meaning. ...read more.

Conclusion

If this is the case, why then do we have to live by a set of laws and rules. It is impossible to say that statements like "murder is wrong" are a matter of opinion, because if they were, and our society was divided into a group of people who said "murder-Boo!", and a group who said "murder-Hurrah!", then our current laws would not be able to stay in place. We would live in a totally lawless society, where everyone acted as they pleased, without fear of social or legal constraint. I am sure most people would agree with me in saying that the idea in itself is totally ridiculous. In conclusion, I find the views of emotrivism justified only to a small extent. There are numerous criticisms of emotivism, as I have demonstrated. The theory often neglects to take certain facts into account, which we can provide as evidence to support our claims. It also ignores the fact that as humans, we have some sense of what is morally acceptable, even if it is only slight, and completely unexplainable. Although it is often true that we make moral statements according to our personal opinions, and our own experiences may colour our views somewhat, however, this does not mean that our beliefs are meaningless. The human ability to think and argue rationally renders this impossible. ...read more.

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