Why emotivists love inconsistency

Philosophical Studies 104 (1):81 - 108 (2001)
Abstract
Emotivists hold that moral opinions are wishes and desires, and that the function of moral language is to “express” such states. But if moral opinions were but wishes or desires, why would we see certain opinions as inconsistent with, or following from other opinions? And why should our reasoning include complex opinions such as the opinion that a person ought to be blamed only if he has done something wrong? Indeed, why would we think that anything is conditional on his doing something wrong unless “doing something wrong” signifies a real kind of action? Many have believed, and seemingly on good grounds, that these questions lack good answers, and that emotivism is doomed for that very reason. What I will argue, however, is that once emotivism is recognized for what it is, namely an empirical theory about the psychological nature of moral opinions, and once we relate it to a general theory of human reasoning, moral reasoning and intuitions of inconsistency and consequence are only to be expected. Recent objections to earlier emotivist or “expressivist” accounts can thus be met, and the phenomena of inconsistency and consequence fully embraced by emotivists.
Keywords emotivism  expressivism  frege-geach problem
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