Short Essay on Ethical Non-cognitivism Theory of Meta Ethics

This is another analysis of ethical sentences. According to this theory the ethical sentences do not express propositions at all. When we say, ‘Dogs are quadruped’, ‘Ram is tall’ we assert something. But the ethical sentence ‘X is good’ ‘Lying in wrong.’ Though look like assertions do not express any proposition at all because they do not assert anything.

One can speak of ethical sentences do not express proposition, what is their function? Their function is to express the speakers’ feelings and attitudes. If I say, you acted wrongly in stealing the book; I am not stating anything more than if I had said ‘you stole that book.’ adding that this action is wrong. I am not making any further statement about it. I am simple expressing my moral disapproval of it.

According to non-cognitivists the ethical utterances evoke feelings and attitudes in the listeners e.g. when the mother says to her child, ‘Telling lies is wrong’. Ethical sentences are used as commands, e.g., ‘Don’t Steal’. It is difficult to deny that ethical sentences are used to express the speaker’s attitude, to evoke feelings in the hearers to educate children and adult.

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When a child learns how to use ethical words and sentences he does not learn anything about the properties of the thing X that is called good or bad, right or wrong. He knows only that is called ‘bad’ is something he is not supposed to do. Whether one is non-cognitivist or not depends not on believers that ethical sentences are used expressively or evocatively at all, but on whether one believes that noncognitive function is primary.

According to R.M. Hare, the primary function on the sentences, ‘X is good’ is to commend. When we hear somebody utters the sentence ‘x is good’ we do not know anything about the properties of X, bout we know that the speaker is commending X.

This commends meaning of good which is seen in dictionaries in the primary one. When we are using it, we are always commending the thing we call good. But the thing we commend his certain properties and in virtue of these features we commend it saying that X is good, means(i)commending X (part is cognitive), and (2) Saying that has certain properties (this part is cognitive). But the first one is primary. We may later commend Y rather than X.

The descriptive cognitive meaning of good thus varies from case of while evaluative. When we call a picture, a pen, a motor car good, we are commending all of them. But because we are commending all of them, for different reasons the descriptive meaning is different in all cases. We have knowledge of the evaluate meaning of good from our earliest years, but we are constantly learning to use it in new descriptive meanings. The non-cognitivist part (commending) remains constant even while the cognitive part (descriptive).

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