Does Moral Subjectivism Rest on a Mistake?

Philippa Foot

in Moral Dilemmas

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780199252848
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597411 | DOI:
Does Moral Subjectivism Rest on a Mistake?

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Foot examines the moral theory known as ‘non‐cognitivism’ (a form of subjectivism). Her central thesis is that all non‐cognitivist moral theories are based on the same serious mistake. This mistake is traced to a distinction taken for granted by non‐cognitivist moral philosophers such as A. J. Ayer (an emotivist) and R. M. Hare (a prescriptivist). Such philosophers wrongly believed that there is a logical gap between ‘descriptive language’ (which states facts) and ‘evaluative language’ (which expresses evaluations). Foot argues that this supposed gap between facts and values, which crucially gives a logical gap between a moral judgement and its grounds, is a chimera.

Keywords: A. J. Ayer; descriptive; emotivism; evaluative; fact; R. M. Hare; moral judgement; moral subjectivism; non‐cognitivism; practical rationality; prescriptivism; value

Chapter.  8144 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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