What did A. J. Ayer said about the word Ethics?



According to A.J. Ayer, the propositions of ethics are not based on any facts. These are rather expressions of one's feelings, emotions, attitudes and interests. Ayer propounds emotive theory of morals according to which the basis of morality is not facts but, emotional attitudes.

Therefore, morals have no real basis in the nature of things. Morality is not an expression of the nature of things but, the nature of our emotional reactions, our likes and dislikes. For example, the moral rule "Killing is bad" does not mean that in nature of things there is anything wrong with Killing.

However, we condemn killing because, if killing were permissible there would be no sense of security and life would become unbearable. Thus, it accords without interest that killing should not be permitted.

According to A.J. Ayer, the moral propositions are of three kinds:

1. The first type of propositions defines or elucidates the moral terms. These are the real subject matter of ethics.

2. The second type of propositions describes the moral experiences or explains their causes.

3. The third type of propositions consists of moral imperative. According to Ayer these propositions are neither the part of philosophy nor that of science.


Ayer does not have any faith in metaphysics. According to him metaphysical propositions are meaningless. Therefore, Ayer does not believe in God. Ayer says, "Our view is that all utterances about the nature of God are nonsensical.

"Like other logical positivists, Ayer gives credence to only knowledge having its source in experience and in as much as God and his attributes are not the matter of experience, no knowledge about God is trustworthy.

Briefly, all propositions about God are metaphysical and all metaphysical statements are meaningless, therefore, all propositions about God are meaningless.


Regarding soul, the views of Ayer are very close to that of David Hume. Like Hume, Ayer does not believe in the existence of any spiritual substance called soul nor does he believe that we can have any experience of soul.

The status of soul for Ayer is the same as that of God. Both are metaphysical concepts and in as much as all metaphysical concepts is nonsense the concept of soul is nonsense.


Though, Ayer has diluted and modified the principle of verification, it nonetheless excludes: metaphysics. But, to insist on direct or indirect, practical or possible empirical verification, is to reject where can be other means of knowledge besides sense experience. But, as Carnap has told us, there are two types of language: the object-language and the metalanguage.

If experience is the object language, a theory about experience is metalanguage. As we know the metalanguage cannot explained by object language. Thus, the theory about the nature of meaning and experience cannot be verified by experience. Therefore, the principle of verification is itself not provable.