Moral Judgements Do Not Describe Reality

‘Moral judgements do not describe reality.’ Asses this claim with reference to either emotivism or prescriptivism

The title statement is depicting a non-cognitivist viewpoint as they believe moral propositions don’t refer to the real world and as such are neither true nor false. Emotivism is a form of Non-Cognitivism which states that moral terms are simply expression of emotions or feelings.

Ayer seemed to give the strongest statement of emotivism. He developed the verification principle to determine if sentences were genuinely meaningful. The verification principle states that:
A sentence is only meaningful if and only if
Either a) it is a tautology (true by definition)
Or       b) it is verifiable through sense experience
What the principle is saying is that in order to say something meaningful we must know what makes our statement true. Moral statements are therefore unanalysable as they don’t fall into either criterion. For example ‘it is wrong to kill’ doesn’t fulfil either criteria as it isn’t a tautology nor empirically verifiable. It is therefore meaningless or a ‘pseudo concept’ as it refers to nothing. If this is the case then why does moralised language feature so frequently in our everyday language? Ayer would respond that moral terms are simply expressions of emotions or feelings, like going ‘boo!’ or ‘hooray’. So when I say ‘murder is wrong’ I produce a sentence with no factual meaning it is as if I had written ‘Murder!!’ where the shape and thickness of the moral disapproval is just the feeling which is being expressed. Therefore emotivism claims that moral statements simply express emotions or attitudes rather than having any degree of moral truth.

A serious criticism of Ayer theory is that it fails its own verification principle. The idea of a sentence only being meaningful if it is ‘either a tautology or empirically verifiable’ is in itself neither a tautology nor empirically verifiable. Therefore Ayers own theory is flawed and according to...