What was the emotivist theory of ethics?

According to the logical positivists, statements had meaning only if it could be said what would verify or falsify them, in terms of descriptions of sensory experience. Because both moral and aesthetic statements could not meet this test, they were considered not to have empirical meaning but to be expressive of how the person uttering them felt. So, to say, "This is right," would be equal to saying, "I like this."

The novelist and feminist essayist Virginia Woolf was part of the Bloomsbury group (AP).

The novelist and feminist essayist Virginia Woolf was part of the Bloomsbury group (AP).

What was the Bloomsbury group?

The Bloomsbury group was a loose group of friends, the men of which were Cambridge graduates. They met in the evenings for drink and talk at the house of author Virginia Woolf's sister, Vanessa Bell. (The house was in the Bloomsbury district of London, and hence this name.) Its initial members, before 1910, were: the novelists E.M. Forster, Mary MacCarthy, and Virginia Woolf; economist John Maynard Keynes; the novelist, biographer, and critic Lytton Strachey; and the painters Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, and Roger Fry. All were close or intimate friends long before they individually became famous.

G.E. Moore (1873-1958) served as an intellectual ideal and mentor to the group. He was particularly revered by the others for his Principia Ethica (1903), and the model of clarity he provided for all intellectual work. Above all, the Bloomsbury members were inspired by Moore's idea that art and friendship have intrinsic value—they're good in themselves and serve no "higher purpose."

A.J. Ayer (1910-1989) put forth this view in Language, Truth and Logic (1936). A more comprehensive account was given by Charles L. Stevenson (1908-1979) in Ethics and Language (1944). Stevenson argued that moral judgments do not have cognitive meaning, but rather emotive meaning. He meant that moral judgments are not factual in nature, but are rather emotional reactions to facts, which are sometimes meant to influence others. If the facts or other circumstances changed, so could the moral judgment.

What is ethical subjectivism?

Ethical subjectivism is either the same as ethical emotivism, or the view that ethical judgments express our shared emotions, or else it refers to an individual's private moral views as the meaning of morality, so that in principle there could be as many moral systems as there are individuals.

How were virtue ethics rediscovered in analytic philosophy?

Aristotelian virtue ethics, mainly as expressed in Aristotle's (384-322 b.c.e.) Nicomachean Ethics, were revisited in analytic philosophy to create rationalist moral systems. According to Aristotle, we develop our individual virtues through a rational process of deliberating and then choosing what to do in action. The revival of Aristotelian ethics was sometimes pursued in opposition to other prominent moral systems and moral theories. Philippa Foot (1920-) and Alasdair MacIntyre (1929-) are noteworthy twentieth century virtue ethicists.

What was Philippa Foot's contribution to virtue ethics?

Phillippa Ruth Foot (1920-), who is the granddaughter of U.S. President Grover Cleveland, opposes subjectivism or emotivism in ethics and insists on a connection between morality and rationality. She has tried to undermine a fact/value divide in claiming that moral judgments are determined by facts about our lives and nature. In this sense, she is a "moral naturalist." Moral naturalism is the view that what is morally good is not some distinct and special quality but ordinary things and actions that have been rationally chosen as best in a particular set of circumstances.

Overall, Foot has consistently supported virtues as conducive to self-interest. Her main publications are Virtues and Vices and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy (1978), Natural Goodness (2001), and Moral Dilemmas: And Other Topics in Moral Philosophy(2002).

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