Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 98 (2):103–124 (1998)

Alexander Miller
New York University
In chapter VI of Language, Truth, and Logic, A.J. Ayer argues that ethical statements are not literally significant. Unlike metaphysical statements, however, ethical statements are not nonsensical: even though they are not literally significant, Ayer thinks that they possess some other sort of significance. This raises the question: by what principle or criterion can we distinguish, among the class of statements that are not literally significant, between those which are genuinely meaningless and those which possess some other, non-literal form of significance. I suggest that Ayer needs a generalised version of the verification principle in order to answer this question. However, when we formulate the generalised version, it turns out that ethical statements do not satisfy it, so that the emotivist is committed to viewing ethics, like metaphysics, as meaningless verbiage
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DOI 10.1111/1467-9264.00027
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