Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

Emotivism

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

I want to try a tricky argument out on you guys. To motivate Rorty's anti-representalism, I mentioned a position called "emotivism" which is now called non-cognitivism. Here are the two positions:

Non-cognitivism is the view that moral judgments are neither truth nor false; they express disapproval or approval (roughly). 
Cognitivism is the view that moral judgments are true or false; they represent the world as having certain moral properties. 

For a non-cognitivist, "Government shutdowns are morally wrong," is simply expressing disapproval of government shutdowns. For a non-cogntivist, "Government shutdowns are morally wrong" is representing government shutdowns as having a moral property wrongness. Hence, for non-cognitivists, moral judgments are not representing facts but expressing emotions, commitments, or feelings. The most common argument against non-cognitivism is called the Frege-Geach  problem since Gottlob Frege and Peter Geach co-discovered it. The problem is this; consider the following argument:  

  1. If government shutdowns are wrong, then the US government shutdown is morally wrong. 
  2. Government shutdowns are wrong.  
  3. Therefore, the US government shutdown is morally wrong.  

 (3) doesn't follow from (1) and (2) though it would for a cognitivist. Why? Because (1) doesn't express disapproval it is merely hypothetical. If it is merely hypothetical, then not all moral claims express disapproval since (1) doesn't. 

Question: What do you think about this argument?