Free «Non-Cognitivism» Essay Sample

Non-cognitivism is an ethical claim which describe that a given sentence lacks truth in it. It entails non-cognitive attitudes which outsmart the moral discourse by non-declarative speeches. It is therefore used to interpret the moral claim on a non-declarative speech when they are considered neither true or false. Although some utterances may lack truth or falsity in them, they may have some non-cognitive meaning. There are however many arguments which either support or oppose non-cognitive phrases all which depends on the theories of approach. This paper will specifically seek to analyze the ethical viewpoints of non-cognitivism.

A better definition of non-cognitivism comes by comparing between the cognitive and non-cognitive discourses in life. The cognitive view is mainly shown if the moral statement possesses some truth value in it. But the non-cognitive view tends to defer with this by assuming to seek the psychological state of the statement on whether there is a genuine belief in it. Through non-cognitivists approach one is able to question the validity of some moral statement. It should be known that not very moral statement should have an outright acceptance of its conclusion. However, one can fail to accept the conclusion but still support the premise. According to the non-cognitivists, the moral statements are not meaningful and that they are not used by the speakers to assume meaningful ways. The diversity of positive proposals therefore generates the different varieties on non-cognitivism. Although non-cognitivism was initially developed as a theory, it has continued to be used as a tool of evaluating languages. In general, most of the non-cognitive views are used as evaluative judgments for moral and rational values in our society. Cognitivism on the other hand can be defined as a complete denial of non-cognitivism. The basic motivation of non-cognitivism is rooted in the philosophy of people’s mind. It provides an open question argument which is more synthetic as opposed to the analytic questions. The open question therefore provided independent response which can never be validly deduced as a true or false conclusion of the premise (Gibbard 123-126).

It is important to understand that non-cognitive theories hold that ethical sentences are not objectively and consistently true or force, but they hold an extra meaning in that case. They therefore claim that the principle characteristic of normative sentences assist them to have an illocutionary role. Such sentences are mainly used to utter prescriptions. The utterances however evoke feelings and attitudes to the audience and listeners.  Utterances such as “Don’t steal” can evoke some emotional feeling to a person although it cannot be justified since the actual thing is yet to be done. In actual sense, non-cognitivism is a meta-ethical view that various phrases and sentences fail to express propositions and cannot therefore be quantified as either true or false. It is for this reason that non-cognitive view tend to oppose the cognitive claims in human life. In addition the view defers from normative ethics which investigates the morally upright behaviors that one should adopt. As opposed to the normative ethics which seeks to examine the rightness or wrongness of an action the meta-ethics mainly deals with the moral facts. According to it every action should be justified depending on its nature (Geach 12).

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From ancient times Greek and many other philosophers have continued to get into the bottom of what causes happiness in life. And their main concern has been what good life is? And there has been varying debates on the subject as different philosophers argued differently. Since this sentence cannot be either quantified as a true or false statement, the moral facts revolving it arise. There are those group of philosophers who claim that the pleasures in life is what makes life good, while others view that the fulfillment of your desires in life such as the quest for knowledge and power is what makes up a good life. And looking into these two philosophical viewpoints, neither of the opinion can be considered true or false, since they have meta-ethical aspects. We can therefore say that the ethical non-cognitive views mainly call for a debate since they neither hold truth nor falsity in them.

The consequentialism views that what is a good life is morally bound question and its feedback depends on so many other factors which cannot be ignored in life. They argue that goodness in life is comprised of people’s welfare and happiness. The non-cognitivism theory therefore does not express any moral judgments nor claims that consider the preposition as either true or false. Instead, they make statements that are emotionally triggered or subjective to debate. This viewpoint serves in resolving social disagreements by construction some social cohesions and boundaries rather than describing a factual state of affairs in our society.

Pointing out onto the religion perspective, there has been a hot debate on the existence of God.  The non-cognitivist argues that religious language and statements are meaningless and unverifiable when used in a sophisticated way. It is because of this reason that there has been some continued misunderstanding between the atheist and the theist on the existence of god. The theist will always put it as if the atheist already knows the meaning of the term “god”. While as in some cases this may not be the case. But by forcing the theist to define and explain what “god” is gives the atheist a chance to fully understand what god is. And since the proposition does not have a true value in it, the atheist will not bother questioning it (Gibbard 101-104).

Generally the non-cognitivism or meta-ethical view of proposition mainly comes in when a moral utterance lack truth value in it. And in such a case, it can neither be classified as a true or false statement. Additionally meta-ethical statement are based in a way that no one should know that the statement lack the truth value in it, since it argues that moral truth should not be known.  Non-cognitivism is therefore based on queerness arguments which indicate that ethical properties have no observable effect on the society. In addition, the ethical properties have no actual evidence of their existence. The supporters of this view argue that some statements are merely an expression for approval or disapproval, but are persuasive assertions which are subject to moral beliefs of the people concerned.

There are various doctrines which are used to analyze non-cognitivism view, among them include the emotivism. This doctrine was invented by Stevenson and Ayer and it argues that ethical statements merely express people’s emotions. And that their judgments are mainly determined by the attitudes of the listeners. There is the prescriptivism view which says that moral statements are imperative expressions which can be universalized to all people living under similar circumstances. For instance when one says, “killing is wrong” then it means we should not kill and this apply to all humankind. The expressivism on the other hand argues that the primary purpose of a moral statement is not to assert any matter of fact, but should be an evaluative function since moral sentences should not have a truth condition in it. The Quasi-Realism view on the other hand is developed from an expression that ethical statements are linguistically similar to factual claims and that they should either be termed as true or false statements. This should be so even if there are no ethical facts which support them. The view therefore does not allow the realist perspective as that will deny chances to gradual development of more ethical proposition with time. It also enable the moral statement defer depending with people’s culture and traditions (Harman 34).

There is also a projectivism view which argues that qualities are attributable to the object since they belong to it. The view is therefore more adjoined to the moral relativism. However, this view continues to be considered as controversial since it assumes an orthodoxy perspective which is opposed by many. The view however argues that instead of defining god, one should give some of his functions and powers and that by doing so the definition will also be obtained. The view gained popularity in the 20th century. And finally we have the moral factionalism view which argues that moral statements should not be taken as true or false, rather they should be merely be taken as useful fictions. But view however has led to some falsified claims by some individuals who claim to hold attitudes which they do not actually possess.


Non-cognitivism was initiated in order to explain the characteristics of the moral discourse of some phrases in life. It had a negative claim which tends to defer from the cognitive approach. For instance, it claims that moral statements have no meaningful judgment as they are not known. Although the argument stood, there have been more controversies concerning the basis of non-cognitive theory as many still feels that there should be a moral justification of our actions. However since the arguments are still supported by some philosophical ideas of being contained in people’s minds and beliefs, non-cognitivism will still continue to hold. We can therefore conclude that non-cognitivism provides us with an explanation when some moral statements fail to have a conclusive truth sense in them.


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