Philosophy 25 (95):316 - 325 (1950)

I propose to examine what I take to be the point at issue between subjectivist and objectivist theories of ethics and to explain that the controversy between them is unreal. It springs from a misunderstanding of the nature of appraisal sentences. What I hope to show is that if such sentences were really analysable in the way in which the critics and many of the supporters of subjectivist theories suppose, then those theories would indeed, as it is sometimes put “fail to do justice to the facts of moral experience.” But it seems to me that objectivist theories are no better off. They make exactly the same mistake though in a more sophisticated way. I therefore propose to see whether any useful results can be achieved by construing appraisal sentences on rather different lines. By appraisal sentences I mean sentences of the form “I approve of …, I think well of …, I commend …, etc.” I shall call these simple appraisals, sentences of the form “… is good, … is meritorious, … is praiseworthy, etc.” I shall call these moral appraisals. In these terms, subjectivist theories assert that moral appraisals can always be expressed without change of meaning by simple appraisals, though perhaps the addition of an imperative sentence of some kind is required to complete the translation. Objectivist theories deny this possibility and claim that moral appraisals assert truths about the independent world and not psychological facts about the speaker
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100045988
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