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RE: [Ethics-Philosophyl-Group-of-East-Portla­nd] Ethical Philosophy Meetup...Sunday, 10:30, Purist Cafe...Emotivism

From: Richard M.
Sent on: Friday, September 9, 2011 1:34 PM

Hmm, I never noticed that.  Of course I don’t’ care, I do all that for me.  Whoever shows up enlightens me.  If no one showed up, I will have a meeting and just be less enlightend.


So put your bells on.




From: [address removed] [mailto:[address removed]] On Behalf Of James Tarabilda
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 7:59 AM
To: [address removed]
Subject: Re: [Ethics-Philosophyl-Group-of-East-Portland] Ethical Philosophy Meetup...Sunday, 10:30, Purist Cafe...Emotivism


There doesn't seem a prompt to the website for an RSVP, so hope this will do, Richard. I'll be there (with bells on?).



----- Original Message -----

From: Richard Mohley

To: [address removed]

Sent: Friday, September 09,[masked]:24 AM

Subject: [Ethics-Philosophyl-Group-of-East-Portland] Ethical Philosophy Meetup...Sunday, 10:30, Purist Cafe...Emotivism



Emotivism says that no moral assertion can be proven, therefore it all just noise in the air, statements of personal preference like Hurrah / Boo!


What do you think?


Now, prove it.


I've written a little synopsis of it in the files section.










No ethical statement (X is moral, Y is wrong, etc.) can ever be proven true or false because


They are only extrapolations from what the person values as good  (Mother Teresa valued loving god as “good” so she let babies die of simple diseases because they don’t matter, loving god matters.   Gandhi valued not having sex so he slept with teenage girls to practice with, Pius XII valued more power to the pope so he supported Hitler, MLK, Jr. valued equal rights for black people so he advocated breaking laws, Hitler valued his own personal power so he killed millions who threatened it, etc.     


What a person values as good cannot be proven or disproven; it is just his values, his personal way of being which is totally outside of any reason and evidence.  (Have you ever tried convincing someone to stop drinking, become an atheist or Mormon, prefer the color green over red, become gay?)


All ethical statements are only expressions of personal emotion (Hurrah – I approve, Boo! – I disapprove)


A.J. Ayer started this ball rolling in 1948 with Language, Truth and Logic



So…all ethical concepts are pseudo-concepts and are no more provable or disprovable or enlightening than “I like the color blue.”


Ayer gives credit to G. E. Moore’s observation (called the “naturalistic fallacy”) which is that “good” itself can be rationally determined.  Instead, even the idea of a “good” is indefinable and unanalyzable.  Moore gave credit to Henry Sidgwick for the observation.



G. E. Moore published Principa Ethica in 1903 which stated the “Naturalistic Fallacy” but he gave credit to the utilitarian philosopher Henry Sidgwick [masked]) for the insight.




Ayer’s Refreshing Clarity  


In Language, Truth and Logic, Ayer addressed some pretty fundamental issues.  He said that if philosophy is worthwhile at all, it is for finding truth.   Regrettably, much of it is nonsense (not wrong, just meaningless blather, noise in the air.)  Metaphysics (the object of which is to find some truth beyond our physical experience) is just such blather.  If a proposition cannot possibly be tested with empirical evidence, then what’s the point of it?  How can you disprove my favorite musical proposition “do-wa-do-wa-diddi?”


Much such muddle-headed blather comes from the structure of our language.  For example, “unicorns have only one horn” and “unicorns exist” sound like similar statements but aren’t.  You can say that the dictionary definition of a unicorn is a horse with one horn, but you cannot say that because the word exists that a unicorn exists.  You can’t verify the dictionary accuracy until you find a unicorn.  Not one has ever been found, so you are free to say anything you want about unicorns, God, God’s moral laws, ethics, your favorite color, etc.  But it’s pointless for intelligent people to listen. 


Interestingly, both the atheist and the agnostic misspeak.  The atheist says there is no god, the agnostic says there is no evidence so I don’t know.  The thoughtful person quips do-wa-do-wa-diddi.”  (my example)  


But then you might ask, what about black holes?  We can’t go there, can never go there.  But our ideas about black holes are based empirical observations of surrounding bodies and mathematics from those observations.  So those ideas are empirical, there is sense data about them that can be verified by others. 


Ethical assertions (X is right, Y is wrong) are like the number of horns on a unicorn.  If a single philosopher could produce unicorn droppings or fossilized unicorn horns or a creature that eats only unicorn meat, then we would have something to work with, talk of unicorns would not be blather.       


Consider this, in the past 1,000 years, even 100 years most theories explain-ing the universe are no longer discussed.  We no longer search for ether between the stars or black bile causing disease or the stars stuck in crystal spheres.  Why?  Because we have good explanations now and the old one’s are discarded. 


But with ethics, nothing ever goes away.  We just add more theories piled on earlier theories because no one can resolve anything.  They are unverifiable, in other words, ethics is blather.


So, there we have it, the end of ethics in the philosophy department.  Discussing it does have a psychological effect, it should be in the psychology department.


Discussing ethics has an effect of reducing a person’s normal state of muddle-headedness.   No small thing that.


What do you think?


Richard Mohley

2011 September 6





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