W. Anderson Park
Dr. Gregory Brooks
17 Apr. 2019
Expressivist Language Versus Ethics
Expressivist views are unique in ethics. Expressivism is not as much an actual theory of ethics or morality. It is more concerned about the actual language that we use to describe ethics. Expressivism says that no statement of morality has objectivity, instead, it posits that all forms of ethical language are simply opinion or an “expression” of someone’s thoughts or beliefs. This creates a strange relationship between it and many ethical theories, as the purpose of those theories is to determine what we can use to describe morality.
Ethical Objectivism is one such theory. Ethical Objectivism is a theory that says that there is an objective moral which is solely based on moral values and virtues that possess intrinsic value, or a value not tethered to any outside entity. Expressivism does not concern itself with how something incurs its meaning, as it says that any attempt to determine an objective morality is impossible. It says this because all proclamations of morality like “Murder is wrong because we value life!” are nothing more than a statement of interest more along the lines of “I don’t like murder, so don’t do it!” This expression is simply an opinion, and therefore cannot be a completely objective virtue. Yet, there is still a place for Expressivism, as it does allow for more free discussion about the objective morality that Objectivism attempts to find.
Relativism, another theory that Expressivism has something in common with, is a theory about how morality can be determined. Relativism says that morality is completely dependent on the culture or people around us. It says that if something is right around you, for instance jaywalking, then it is moral to do it. This can also allow cultures that normalize slavery or ritualized murder to be considered moral. This means that everyone has an equally valuable opinion and that almost any act can be considered moral if the culture approves of said action. Expressivism would combat this theory in some of Relativism's aspects. Expressivism says that, while all these opinions would be valid ones, they are just that, opinions. This means that Relativism cannot be true if you imply the Expressivist point of view. Whether or not Relativism can accept any part is debatable, however. Expressivism does allow for an almost completely tolerant society due to the validity of all arguments, allowing Expressivism to take some hold on Relativism.
Nihilism is the final theory that Expressivism has a strange relationship with. Nihilism is a theory where all meaning ceases to exist from a moral or ethical perspective. This means that all actions are permitted due to this lack of moral rightness or wrongness. While, at a glance,...