• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"Describe and evaluate Emotivism, showing knowledge of its key thinkers and critics?"

Extracts from this document...


"Describe and evaluate Emotivism, showing knowledge of its key thinkers and critics?" Emotivism is where moral judgements are used to express our feelings. It is an ethical theory which philosophers such as Hume, Stevenson and Ayer have varying views on. In order to be able to understand Emotivism the theories of these individual philosophers must be analysed. This accompanied with the main concepts of Emotivism will enable a good understanding of the theory. Emotivism stems back to the Vienna Circle, who were a group of philosophers and scientists who met periodically for discussions in Vienna, Austria, during the 1920s and 1930s. They proposed controversial conception of scientific philosophy. They began to question how meaningful statements were. As such they believed that no statement is meaningful unless it can be tested by sense experience. This then linked to the creation of logical positivism, which is the theory of which these emotivists adopted. Logical positivism primarily assesses the meaningfulness of a statement. It is considered non cognitive, which means that a factual truth claim is not expressed. ...read more.


Examples of these statements are ones which involve our sense perceptions such as touch, taste smell etc. The other moral statements are analytic statements. These statements are ones which do not need any factual knowledge or reason to prove their truth. An example is 1+1 = 2. The name Emotivism was derived from Ayer, so in theory you could argue his theories are the most reliable and his arguments are the most solid. The Philosopher David Hume has a contribution to Emotivism. The idea of verification revolves around his influence. He believed that when we make a moral decision we do it out of sentiments. This is due to the feelings that we have. We all have different levels of compassion which influences the decisions we make. Regardless of this, there is no relation to reason when considering moral statements. This leads to the fact that the decisions we make are in the spare of the moment, without any consideration of the consequences and outcomes, there is no reason only our emotions telling us that something is right. ...read more.


Hume believed that the statements we make are just exclamations through sentiment, although it may be meaningless, it provides the speaker with the security that they are doing the right thing, and as such bringing them closer to being a virtuous person. Another response to Emotivism is that of James Rachel's, who criticised the emotive theory. He states that reason is always a factor, and as such disagrees with Ayer. He says that Ayer is wrong to draw parallels with the "ouch" reaction from stubbing your toe, and the "that's wrong" reaction to moral statement. He maintains that there is a lot more to a moral statement then simply a feeling. He believes that moral judgement relies on reason. For example, if you say euthanasia is wrong requires reason otherwise it is an arbitrary statement. In conclusion, Emotivism is a theory where moral judgements are used to express our emotions. Many philosophers feel differently about why we make moral statements, and in essence a statement is not meaningful, unless it can be verified by our sense perceptions. By analysing the views and opinions of the philosophers, a sound and concise evaluation has been produced. ?? ?? ?? ?? Jonathan Welch 08/05/2007 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Ethics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Ethics essays

  1. Explain what Scholars means when they say ethical statements are no more than expressions ...

    'Steal' is in both examples but it is in two different contexts: descriptive and prescriptive. The significance of this example shows that words that command and describe interlink with each other. Another example is the prescriptive statement 'you ought not to murder' implies 'boo to murder' in the Boo/Hurrah theory.

  2. How can you or your society decide ethically which knowledge should or should not ...

    "How could the masses be made to desire their own repression?"8 Examples of this are the Nazis, and the movie called "The Wave", which both shows how mankind easily bends and accepts that there is someone in charge of them.

  1. Discuss whether moral judgments are subjective or objective

    However to then state: 'euthanasia is justified', is neither true by its definition, nor can this be demonstrated. Consequently moral facts cannot be meaningful, and therefore cannot be deemed true or false. Like utilitarianism, emotivism has received considerable criticism, on the grounds that in many cases statements can become meaningless, as they are deemed true by definition or by observation.

  2. which are the best ways to achieve knowledge?

    Many philosophers argue that there is knowledge that can only be achieved by logical thinking. For example, we know that Catholic priests are unmarried, and we know it by definition. If we think of a priest we think of someone devoted to religion and distanced from carnal desires.

  1. Different religious and philosophical views on controversial topics.

    Also the sixth commandment states that "Thou shalt not kill." and allowing people to die by not taking action is, in the eyes of the lord, murder. However the Bible also says that God gave the planet to humans for them to use to develop themselves and use its resources

  2. Clarify and explain the key concepts of situational ethics

    The final theory is situational ethics. The situationist makes a moral decision by basically combining the ethics, rules and principles of his or her community or tradition. However, the situationist is willing to set aside the rules and regulations if love seems better served by doing so.

  1. Compare and contrast Plato and Aristotle on the acquisition of ethical understanding.

    As he is a teleologist, he saw justice as a foundation for a good life in a person and agreed that justice was important because it promoted the ideals that he would want in his perfect state, which doesn't necessarily mean that every action is inherently good or bad in itself.

  2. The boundaries between ethics and science are very controversial. Many scientists have the attitude ...

    The objective of science is to further the knowledge of mankind; to understand more how the world works? Why would someone be so apt to gain knowledge about the H-bomb, with the goal of advancing the knowledge of mankind, and at the same time not care about the affects it has on mankind?

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work