Ethical Language Is Subjective

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“Ethical Language is Subjective”. Discuss. (35) Subjectivity or Objectivity in the way that ethical language is used is considered within the broader study of meta-ethics, often described as a second order moral discourse, which considers the meaning of ethical terms such as good, bad, right or wrong. To say that ethical language is subjective is to suggest that there does not exist an objective or universally accepted understanding of, for example, goodness and that is merely reflects an individual’s opinion or viewpoint. AJ Ayer in his book “language, truth and Logic” outlines what is commonly called the “emotivist” approach to ethical language. This approach supports the idea that ethical language is subjective. Ayer suggests that unless propositions and use of language is analytic or synthetic, such propositions carry no cognitive meaning. This approach to philosophical and ethical language (the concern of Analytic philosophy) was called the “verification principle” and was a development of David Hume’s work, “Hume’s fork”. Ethical statements, Ayer said, cannot be verified analytically or synthetically so the truth of such phrases is unknowable and the language used is non-cognitive. Instead, ethical propositions can be no more that the expression of an emotion which will always be personal or subjective. For example to say “Abortion is good” is to express a subjective opinion about the moral issue of Abortion. For Ayer such statements can be no more than an expression of subjective emotion – leading some to label this approach to ethical language as the “boo hooray” theory. But does this strictly subjective understanding of ethical language and statements accurately reflect what is going on when we use such language? C.L. Stevenson recognised that whilst ethical statements could not be proven or “verified”, when we use ethical terms we do so

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