Philosophisch-ethische Rezensionen
(Erscheinungsdatum der rezensierten Bücher: 20. und 21. Jahrhundert)

Ayer and ethics

According to Ayer the ethical objection is that our speculative knowledge would be of 2 kinds: That which relates to empirical questions and that which relates to values. The latter would be not used to predict the course of our sensations. It is Ayers opinion that as far as statements of value are significant they are scientific statements and when they are not significant they are simply expressions of emotion which are neither true nor false. Ethics as science is for Ayer only that branch of ethics which is dealing with propositions which expresses definitions of ethical terms or judgements about the legitmacy or possibility of certain definitions. Propositions which describe moral experiences belongs, to his mind, only to the science of psychology or sociology, exhortations of moral kind to no science at all, but are mere commands or ejaculations to provoke a reaction from the listener. A strictly philosophical treatise on ethics should make no ethical pronouncement at all, but is free to analyse moral terms and categorize these terms. Ayer emphasizes that only normative symbols, but not descriptive symbols are held by him to be indefineable in factual terms. Normative concepts are irreducible to empirical concepts, such ethical statements are not verifiable. They are genuine synthetic propositions. Fundamental ethical theories are not analysable because, to Ayer's mind, there is no empiric criterion by which one can prove its validity, they are just pseudo-concepts. An example: Assuming somebody says: "You acted wrongly in stealing that money!" Than he is, according to Ayer, no more stating than: "You stole that money!" The moral disapprovement is nothing but an expression of emotion, it serves only to express the feeling of the speaker. And nothing can be said if this emotion will point to something true or false. Mereley moral sentiments are expressed, it is just emotive. In the course of a moral discussion with such a structure no one of the opponents is neiter wrong nor right. No real assertions about certain objects are made. Ethical judgements have no objective validity whatsoever and that's the reason why it is impossible to find a criterion for determining a validity.

Jürgen Czogalla