R. M. Hare

in Sorting Out Ethics

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780198250326
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597602 | DOI:

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The thesis of Emotivism, a species of non‐descriptivism, is that there is more to the meaning of moral statements than syntax and truth conditions; in particular, moral statements have an expressive, and a causative aspect. Drawing upon J. L. Austin's distinction between illocutionary and perlocutionary acts, Hare argues that emotivists try to explain the meaning of moral statements, which they assimilate to imperatives, in terms of their perlocutionary effect. The difficulty with this is that, firstly, the emotivists hold a false theory of imperatives, and secondly, perlocutionary effect cannot explain meaning. Furthermore, emotivists deny the possibility of rational moral argument, and therefore embrace irrationalism. Towards the end of this chapter, Hare identifies six essential features of moral language, and its logic, that must be recognized and accounted for by an adequate moral theory: (1) Neutrality, (2) Practicality, (3) Incompatibility, (4) Logicality, (5) Arguability, and (6) Conciliation.

Keywords: Emotivism; illocutionary acts; imperatives; irrationalism; meaning; non‐descriptivism; perlocutionary acts; perlocutionary effect

Chapter.  9364 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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