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non-cognitivism


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A common but potentially misleading title for projectivist, expressivist, emotive, or prescriptive theories of ethics. A state of mind is non-cognitive if it involves no cognition or knowledge of any kind. A pure example might be a sensation such as a tickle, or a mood such as elation. Doctrines such as expressivism deny that ethical commitments represent features in their objects; instead they express attitudes of their possessors. Hence, it is supposed, there is nothing ethical to know, for knowledge aims to track or represent independent truths about things. This justifies labelling such doctrines as non-cognitive. But the question whether such views can tolerate or explain ordinary claims to ethical knowledge should not be prejudged. Someone claiming to know that killing innocents is wrong may be interpreted quite charitably by the expressivist; roughly, they hold the attitude condemning killing innocents, and we and they are confident that no improvement in their natures would undermine this attitude. See also quasi-realism.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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