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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The logical status of value theories Wheatley, Jon James

Abstract

The aim in this thesis is to investigate the logical status of meta-ethical theories which attempt to analyse ethical sentences in terms of other types of sentences or other types of human activity. That is, an investigation of the logic of statements like "Value judgements are simply expressions of emotion", "Value judgements are (disguised) commands", "Ethical statements are (peculiar) descriptions" is presented. To do this, one such theory, the Emotive Theory, is considered in some detail. This theory was chosen above the others for more detailed treatment as it has proved the most influential in the development of contemporary philosophy since the 1930s when it was first presented. It is here shown that in its historically important presentation, the Emotive Theory is literally false, although it can be made true by suitable re-definition. It can then be seen that the process of making the theory true by re-definition removes it from the type of theory which it is the aim of this thesis to investigate for the theory then ceases to analyse ethical sentences in terms of other types of sentences or other types of human activity. Thus there is no lengthy investigation of the theory when it involves new definition for this falls outside the scope of the thesis. Having presented a detailed refutation of the Emotive Theory as an attempt to analyse ethical sentences in terms of other types of sentences or other types of human activity, a general refutation of all such attempts is developed. It is shown that such statements as "Value judgements are simply expressions of emotion", "Value judgements are (disguised) commands", "Ethical statements are (peculiar) descriptions" are all literally false however much they may point up important facts. This is followed by a short discussion of the implications of the thesis in respect to philosophical investigations of the logic of ethical statements.

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