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The Ethical Goodness or Badness about an Action
To make a statement on the ethical goodness or badness about some action can be neither true nor false due to the fact that this statement is merely an opinion of mine and not actually based on facts. This opinion is an extension of my expression that this action performed is wrong. I can express my opinion in many different ways such as body language or speech but none of these will make the opinion I have, or in this case the statement I make, true or false. There are also those statements in which we express our moral standards to others.
A large part of morality involves assessing people’s conduct and pronouncing judgments, such as “Ted is a good person,” “Bob did the right thing,” and “Feed the starving.” When we make these assessments, we rely on key terms such as “good,” “right,” “ought,” and “should.” Sometimes we use language to describe things, such as “the door is brown.” Other times we use language to accomplish something, such as “get away from that hot stove!” This is also the case with moral utterances such as “We should all feed the starving” which attempts to describe the notion of giving, and also attempts to accomplish something, such as to motivate us to feed the starving.
Lets say for example I see a homeless person on the street and the friend I am walking with tosses him a dollar. I turn to my friend and say, ” it is right to feed the starving”. By making this statement I am implying two things: 1. I am expressing my personal feelings of approval that it is ethically right to feed the starving, 2. That others ought to feed the starving. ,” you are describing the starving being fed as a good thing. You might also be describing feeding as the kind of act that makes people happy, or that increases the quality of your life. In either case, though, you are describing feeding by linking it to some quality.
This view is that of a subjectivist. “Subjectivity” is a term used to denote that the truth of some class of statements depends on the mental state or reactions of the person making the statement. In this case my opinion on the starving. When applied to ethics, subjectivism is the view that statements about a person’s character or their actions are not reports of objective qualities inherent in those things. Instead we are either reporting our own inner feelings and attitudes (by speech) or we are merely expressing our feelings (body language, tone of voice). Ethical judgments, such as “We should all feed the starving,” then, are mixtures of both descriptive (cognitive) and accomplishment-oriented (noncognitive) components.
Accomplishment-oriented or noncognitivism is the view that moral statements are neither true nor false statements about the world. They are, instead, expressions of feelings or emotions we possess at the time the statement is made. The key to noncognitivism is distinguishing between two types of statements: propositional statements, and nonpropositional statements. Propositional statements are either true or false statements about the world, such as the following:
· The dog is brown
· The truck is on fire
To test for whether the statement “the door is brown” is propositional, we need only to ask, “Is it true or false that ‘the door is brown?’” Since this question is intelligible, then the statement, “the door is brown” is propositional. Nonpropositional sentences, are statements which are not propositional. Examples of these are,
· What time is it?
· Oh, my aching head!