Ayer-language, truth, logic. Ayer asks, where do we put ethics?
Ayer looks at definitions of ethics. He categorizes different assertions that
are made in ethics (p. 485 2 collumn). One of those assertions would be a
definition of ethics, an ethical term, one would be a moral judgement. These
are the different kinds of things that can be said in ethics. He says well what
is the logic in these statements? What are we actually asserting or asking?
The grammer of these statements. The meaning of the statements?
o P. 486 1 column, starting with the definitions
o Define concepts by such things as happiness, or appealings of
approval. He would classify this kind of ethics as naturalistic. (similar
to utilitarinism-in terms of happiness, humes-approval). Both of these
involve naturalistic concepts. Happiness is psychological and approval
from the moral sense. Naturalistic ethics. He distinguishes them asn
subjective and utilitarianism. Subjective-hume. Utilitarian-benthem
and mill. What he says about is, hes criticizing the definitions. He
gives an open question style argument to show why these definitions
cant work, utilizing moores technique. Its poiting out it wouldn’t be
self contradictory to say that (p. 486 2 collum) what is generally
approved of is not right. If that’s not self contradictory to say that,
than that definition is not correct. That says that whats right is what
is approved of. That would have to be self contradicoty if it were
definitional. It would be self contradictory to deny it if it were
defenitional. Its not self contradictory to deny it, therefore its not
o Same thng could be done with the greatest happiness. its not
contradictory to say that which produces the greateset happiness is
not right, that’s not contradictory. Who knows if this will turn out to
be true or false, but its not contradictory. And it would be
contradictory if it were definitional.
o Kinda like saying a correct definition of bachelor is unmarried man.
To deny that would say there are some married bachelors. That would
be self contradictory.
o This is his point of arguing against the defenitions: So when you take a
legitimate definition and you consider the negation of it, your getting
a contradiction of it. But your not getting contradictions in these
cases, so these are not legitimate defnitions. In conclusion, he doesn’t
think there is much hope to naturalistic approaches to ethics.
P. 487 absolutist approach to defining ethical terms. This is probably the
intuitionists, Prichard and ross. These are the ones who attempt to do ethics
using the faculty of intuition.
o According to ayer, the problem with this approach is that it is a
method that is not testable. It is not a method that would be
recognized as valid in the scientific relm because its all going on in the
head. Its intuition. We don’t have any way of verifying what somebody
is saying is true by intuition is indeed true. Therefore its not a scientific basis for defining an ethical term. So he rejects the
He says that in conclusion, they are really not terms to define in the first
place. This is a bit of a drastic conclusion. Just because the above definitions
don’t work doesn’t mean there is no definition. he concludes that these
ethical terms are pseudo. Pseudonym: false name. therefore, these are
pseudo concepts, which means they are no factual content. That is his
o P. 488 first column--So for instance, when you say you acted wrongly
in stealing that money, what actually are you asserting content wise?
Ayer says no more than simply saying you stole that money. The
acting wrongly part of this assertion is no more than dressing it up,
conveying that you disapprove. But then if you say stealing money is
wrong, well your really just saying “stealing money”. You’ve just s