The emotive ethic in contemporary British and American philosophy
Sahakian, William Sahak
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THE PROBLEM The problem of this dissertation is to examine the basis of the ground of the emotive theory of ethics of contemporary logical positivists. It inquires into the problem of the validity of value judgments and the existence of obligation in moral experience. The emotive theory of ethics has been called by various names as: analytic value theory, ethical skepticism, value-nominalism, disagreement in attitude thesis, the non-cognitive theory of ethics, value expression as ejaculatory, interjectional analysis, logical positivism ethics, and the ethics of the "Vienna Circle." TYPES OF ETHICAL EMOTIVISM Emotivistic thinking in ethics may be broken down into the following types: 1. Radical emotivism. Radical emotivists are skeptics in ethics. These emotivists seek to maintain that ethics has no cognitive meaning. There are neither value judgments nor obligations. The most that one can say about what persons have been calling ethics is that it is an evincing or an ejaculation. It is not even a statement about one's emotions. Among this school of thought may be classified Carnap, Ayer, Russell and the like. 2. Psychological emotivism. These emotivists seek to make the claim that ethics is a matter of psychological science. One's motives or attitudes constitutes ethical behavior. Psychological emotivists are of two kinds: (a) naturalists or hedonists, and (b) subjectivists or relativists. Schlick is a representative of the former, where as Feigl is an adherent of the latter. 3. Moderate emotivism. Moderate emotivists maintain that ethics does have cognitive meaning. Debate and discussion on ethical issues is a matter of attitude. However , objective values are denied. Stevenson is one of the representatives of this school of thought. 4. Liberal emotivism. Liberal emotivists insist that moral values have cognitive meaning and that objective values exist. Moral values are emotive in nature. The existence of the fact of obligation is not taken into consideration in this school of ethical thinking. Britton is classified as the outstanding proponent of this school. 5. Personalistic emotivism. Personalistic emotivism is the position maintained in this dissertation. It holds that moral values are personal in nature. Ethics has cognitive meaning, i.e ., value judgements are genuine propositions. Ethical values are a matter of attitude, e.g., kindness, good-will, love, etc. Reverence for personality is the ground of ethics. There is in emotivistic thinking a logical progression from the skepticism of the radical emotivists to personalistic emotivism. This progression is a coherent one which takes more and more of the facts of moral experience into account and finds an adequate place for them. Although each succeeding school of emotivism is found to be more inclusive and coherent than the preceding, only personal emotivism is found to be the most coherent with all the facts of experience. THE CASE AGAINST EMOTIVISM Only personal emotivism escapes the serious critical arguments which are directed against the other schools of emotivism. The defects of emotivism, except personalistic emotivism, fall chiefly under the following heads: 1. Practical consequences and the implications of emotivism. Emotivism is self-refuting. The proponents of emotivism do not carry out into practice their ethical theory for it would lead to disaster both personally and socially. Emotivism is impracticable. 2. Logical positivists as the self-appointed guardians of science. Logical positivists have taken upon themselves the questionable task of protecting science and attacking other philosophies on behalf of science; yet they are unscientific. 3. Value iudgments. The emotivists fail to take into consideration some of the facts of moral experience which validate the fact of the genuineness of value judgments, such as the possibility of predicting value experiences, obligation as erlebt, the non-factual nature of the valuable not implying meaninglessness, and the ability of the valuable to direct and redirect human action. 4. Emotivism--a philosophy of declaration and denial. Logical positivists present their philosophy without sufficient grounds. They present it as a belief without proof. The facts of moral experience which are not coherent with the positivistic ethic are denied as valid data. 5. The problem of obligation. Even by way of the syntactical analysis of the logical positivists, obligation is shown to be a genuine fact of moral experience. 6. The emotivist's criterion of truth. Their criterion of truth is not only inadequate but self-refuting. The principles of logical positivism are inconsistent with the positivist's criterion of truth, for the principles of positivism cannot be substantiated by sense experience. 7. Internal criticisms. By its own criteria, emotivistic ethics falls short. The emotivism of the logical positivists is in the realm of introspective experience and is not open to public observation or rules which they require. Personalistic emotivism is the most coherent form of ethical emotivism for it does not omit from consideration any of the facts of moral experience. Personalistic emotivism teaches that moral value is genuine and personal. Outside of persons there is no moral value. Moral value is in and for persons. Moral value is one of attitude. Consequences have instrumental value. Attitudes of moral value are kindness, love, good-will, etc. Obligation is genuine in that one is obligated to cultivate good or moral attitudes. Value judgments are also genuine. CONCLUSIONS This dissertation leads one to the following conclusions: 1. There is a wide range of discrepancy in the ethical thinking of the logical positivists. This discrepancy varies from an absolute skepticism in moral value theory to the belief that there are genuine value judgments and an objectivity in values. Logical positivistic thinking in ethics is in a logical progress away from skepticism. 2. The outstanding proponents of the emotive theory of values have offered no or too few grounds for their position. The ethical theories of the logical positivists are, for the most part, presented as declarations of belief, a creed, as it were, rather than a philosophical examination and defence. 3. Logical positivistic emotivists do not commit themselves to their ethical theories, thus contradicting themselves 4. Logical positivism is self-contradictory. It is founded on principles that cannot be verified by sense experience. 5. The implications of the emotive theory of values are self-refuting. The results of committing oneself to such an ethic would lead to disaster, both to the individual and to society. 6. The emotivists' criterion of truth is inadequate. Logical positivism is internally at fault; it is condemned by its own criteria. Emotivism is not open to public observation. 7. Personalistic emotivism is the only coherent conclusion of the emotivistic theory of moral value. Personalistic emotivism maintains that value judgments are genuine and that objective moral values exist. Ethical value is a matter of attitude; and obligation is a fact of moral experience. One is obligated to have a moral (good) attitude. One is obligated to improve his personality so as to acquire good attitudes. Only persons have moral significance. Outside of personality there is no moral value. Consequences have no moral value apart from persons. Moral good pertains only to persons. Reverence for the worth of man is one's purpose for being moral. Dignity and the intrinsic worth of human personality are the raison d'etre of morality.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University