Searches That Caught My Attention

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Sometimes it's really boring how people find my blog, but here are some more interesting ways people have gotten here of late:

subjectivism vs emotivism (which is closer to the truth?)
Emotivism is one variety of subjectivism. This is like wondering if something is a dog or an animal (or if something is closer to a dog or an animal).

Berkeley's view of idealism
I tend to think he rather liked it.

rick warren says he's not a christian to larry king
My first thought was, "Yeah, right, you wish." Then it occurred to me how sad it is that people actually want Warren not to be a Christian. For the record, Rick Warren did say the words "He's not a Christian," but he was speaking in the third person about someone else who really isn't a Christian.

Doesn't it depend on who it's with? Even if you think it's wrong to engage in oral sex with your spouse, you couldn't think it's adultery.

current event that happen on february 18,1988
Does 18 years ago really count as current?

statistics on natural disasters being a sign of the end of times
What statistics would those be? How often natural disasters have led to the end of times?


On usual ways of sorting out metaethical theories, emotivism is not a kind of subjectivism. Emotivism is a kind of noncognitivism; subjectivism is a kind of cognitivism. Too roughtly: subjectivists think moral statements are statements about the person speaking, or his society, or something like that; emotivists think that moral 'statements' aren't really statements at all, but rather are mere expressions of emotion.

Ayer presents the view you describe as subjectivism under that name, but then when he goes on to explain his emotivist view he treats it as a more sophisticated version of subjectivism without the downside of such ridiculous truth conditions (because there are no truth conditions). James Rachels does the same thing in his Elements of Moral Philosophy, even more explicitly (by calling the first view Simple Subjectivism as opposed to Emotivism, with both as sub-categories of Subjectivism in general).

I guess you're taking the word to mean that there's some fact of the matter whose truth conditions are determined by something subjectively variable. I don't think that's how Rachels and Ayer are doing it. They're taking there to be some semantic matter in general whose force or sense derives from something subjectively variable. In this more general sense, emotivism is subjectivist. This is a pretty standard usage of the term in the literature.

Here's a link for that last search found over at Happy Mills (and makes a Dispensationalist like me blush)

I wonder how many hours that could have been spent in service of far more important things have been wasted on that thing.

I agree that subjectivism and emotivism are motivated by similar considerations. And I think that the emotivist might very well think of himself as giving the view that the subjectivist really meant, or should've meant, or something like that. But I don't think that it's usual to describe emotivism as a kind of subjectivism.

Your gloss on my use of 'subjectivism' is right -- "there is some fact of the matter whose truth conditions are determined by something subjectively variable". But I do think that's what Ayer has in mind; that's why he's not satisfied with that view.

The Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Ayer ( seems to agree with my interpretation of Ayer and this distinction: This view [emotivism], Ayer was careful to point out, was not that associated with subjectivism, that in making moral claims we are describing our feelings. This latter view would make moral claims truth-evaluable, and Ayer's moral emotivism denied that they were so evaluable.

And the entry on cognitivism v. noncognitivism ( has an extended discussion of differences between noncognitivism and subjectivism.

The way I've always heard it (and the way I taught it to my class this semester), subjectivism is a kind of cognitivism; moral claims are claims about the attitudes of some person or group of culture. Ruth Benedict's subjectivism is based on the (crazy!) premise that "'morally right' is synonymous with 'usual'". This is clearly a cognitivist view.

Maybe I've just been too impaired by Rachels, but I hadn't read Ayer as saying that his view wasn't subjectivist, just that it wasn't the subjectivist view he was criticizing. Rachels clearly does treat it that way, and his book is usually treated as a standard presentation. I hadn't realize that he was out of the mainstream on this issue.

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