Contemporary Western Moral Theories Madison Meiss
Critique of Ethics and Theology: A.J. Ayer 1/18/16
A.J. Ayer spent the chapter discussing moral judgments, claiming that they cannot be verified (42). In making this assertion, he relied on the belief that you cannot explain moral judgments by observation or experimentation; rather they are only translated into ethical terms. He argued this conclusion by presenting us with a realistic proposition scenario about money. You can say, “he stole your money” or you can say “him stealing your money was rude.” However, both propositions express exactly the same thing. Defining something as rude is a matter or personal opinion and therefore is ignored when considering facts. When you express a moral approval or disapproval towards someone, you are producing a sentence with no factual meaning (43).
in this he agrees with ethical intuitionists. But he differs from intuitionists by discarding appeals to intuition as "worthless" for determining moral truths, since the intuition of one person often contradicts that of another. Instead, Ayer concludes that ethical concepts are "mere pseudo-concepts": a notion that is sometimes treated as a concept, though it cannot be properly conceptualized or grasped by the mind.
Ayer agrees with subjectivists in saying that ethical statements are necessarily related to individual attitudes, but he says they lack truth value because they cannot be properly understood as propositions about those attitudes; Ayer thinks ethical sentences are expressions, not assertions, of approval. While an assertion of approval may always be accompanied by an expression of approval, expressions can be made without making assertions; Ayer's example is boredom, which can be expressed through the stated assertion "I am bored" or through non-assertions including tone of voice, body language, and various other verbal statements. He sees ethical statements as expressions of the latter sort, so the...