“I Find Myself Incapable Of Believing That All That Is Wrong With Wanton Cruelty Is That I Don’t Like It” (Russell) To What Extent If At All Is Expressivism Exposed To This Worry?

2404 words - 10 pages

“I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don’t like it” (Russell) To what extent if at all is expressivism exposed to this worry?

Throughout this essay I will discuss how expressivism attempts to move on from mackie’s error theory and subjectivism, to show that their can be moral truths. However I will show how there are many flaws in the arguments, and in actual fact does not lead us much closer to a knowledge of moral truths at all.

The expressivists view of morality stems from emotivism, defended by philosophers such as A. J. Ayer. The theories claim that ethical statements serve solely to express emotion, and it is commonly referred ...view middle of the document...

"quasi-realism…tries to earn... the features of moral language... which tempt people to realism."

Questions were asked of this theory. Asking whether the quasi-realist simply talks ‘as if’ there were any moral rules, however there aren’t any really. However Blackburns response to these critics are that quasi-realism is not saying that we are talking ‘as if’ cruelty is wrong, when it actually isn’t. We are saying that it is wrong. The problem I see with this theory is that it doesn’t appear to lead us to any actual moral truths. It just seems to reiterate the thought that x thinks cruelty is wrong. By saying one is not talking ‘as if’ it were wrong, but actually stating that it is wrong, is just expressing their disapproval for cruelty but maybe slightly more intensely, “I really disapprove of cruelty”. However this I think is what Ayer and expressivists see to be true.

“If I say to someone ‘You acted wrongly in steeling that money’ I am not stating anything more than if I had simply said ‘You stole that money’.”

It is like saying ‘you stole that money’, but in an intense tone, or perhaps with an exclamation mark after it. The aim of expressivism, is to show that moral judgments is, to express attitudes, which can arouse feelings and stimulate different actions.

Our projection of our emotions onto the world and our talking of ethics ‘as if’ for Mackie is an error. Where as Blackburn disagrees in the way that he thinks it to be legitimate to talk as if being realists without actually being realists. For Blackburn quasi-realism does not elapse into error theory because it takes moral commitments to be identified as desires or emotions, not as beliefs. So although it is still fine to say “ I believe that murdering children is wrong”, this state of mind is not to be understood as a belief. It is to be understood as the attitude towards the murder of children.

Expressivism is very much separate from subjectivism, which is important to note as they are easily confused. For a subjectivist any moral claims are truth apt and have truth conditions which are relativized to each individual speaker. However expressivism is talking of expressing my attitudes towards moral sentences, rather than simply stateing that something is bad becausei a disapprove of it. . This is where Russells quote and the mind independence problem comes into criticize the quasi-realist stance on ethics.

“I find myself incapable of believing that all that is wrong with wanton cruelty is that I don’t like it”

Now here it becomes obvious how the subjectivist falls short of this problem. As they literally argue for that the statement ‘murder is wrong’ means simply ‘I don’t approve of murder’, which means ‘I don’t like murder’. However Blackburn agrees with Russell, in that it is not the disliking of wanton cruelty that makes it bad. The problem here is that for anti realist theories, such as expressivism, that x’s values are not supposed to be mind...

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