Animal Rights Encyclopedia entries
  1. Absolutism
  2. Altruism
  3. Animal Ethics
  4. Animal Rights - see 'Rights'
  5. Animal Rights History
  6. Animal Rights Motto
  7. Animal Rights vs Animal Ethics
  8. Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare
  9. Animal Rights vs Conservation
  10. Anthropocentrism
  11. Anthropocentrism, Enlightened
  12. Anthropomorphism
  13. Aquinas, Thomas
  14. Aristotle

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  1. Bearskin Hats
  2. Beef Cattle Statistics
  3. Bestiality - see 'Zoophilia'
  4. Behaviourism
  5. Bentham, Jeremy
  6. Brain, Milestones of Understanding
  7. Bushmeat

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  1. Cat Traffic Training
  2. Chickens - Broiler Hens
  3. Chickens - Egg-laying Hens
  4. Chickens Statistics
  5. Clever Hans the Counting Horse
  6. Consciousness
  7. Consequence Ethics (Consequentialism)
  8. Consideration, Equal
  9. Contractarianism
  10. Copernicus, Nicolaus
  11. Creature Harmony
  12. Cruelty

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  1. Darwin, Charles
  2. Deep Ecology
  3. Descartes
  4. Dogs - Communication & Control
  5. Duty Ethics (Deontology)

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  1. Emotivism
  2. Environmental Ethics / Environmentalism
  3. Ethical Egoism
  4. Ethical Theories & Animal Rights
  5. Euphemisms
  6. Expanding the Circle
  7. Experimental Animals - see 'Laboratory-Experimental Animals'

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  1. Factory Farming
  2. Fish Statistics
  3. Five Freedoms
  4. Foxhunting with Hounds
  5. Fur Animal Statistics
  6. Fur Brushes & Bows
  7. Fur Farming
  8. Fur Marketing
  9. Fur Morality
  10. Fur Species
  11. Fur Trapping

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  1. Golden Rule
  2. Goldfish Bowls
  3. Great Apes

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  1. Han means He or She
  2. Human Overpopulation
  3. Human Superiority

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  1. Interests
  2. Interests - see Consideration, Equal
  3. Intrinsic Value
  4. Is Ought Fallacy
  5. It - Stop Calling Animals It

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  1. Laboratory-Experimental Animals
  2. Legalism

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  1. Meat Statistics
  2. Mirror Test of Animal Consciousness
  3. Moral Agents & Patients
  4. Moral Autonomy
  5. Moral Status or Standing
  6. Moral Theory Choice
  7. Moral Values & Judgements
  8. Mutilation of Farm Animals

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  1. Naturalistic Fallacy
  2. Natural Selection
  3. New Welfarism - see 'Welfarism, New'
  4. Number Fallacy

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  1. Painism
  2. Passenger Pigeon
  3. Pigs / Hogs Statistics
  4. Predation

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  1. Reciprocal Morality
  2. Religious Tradition
  3. Rights

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  1. Sheep & Goats Statistics
  2. Soul
  3. Subjectivism
  4. Subject of a Life

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  1. Terrorism
  2. Therianthropy

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  1. Universal Declaration on Animals
  2. Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
  3. Utilitarianism

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  1. Vegetarianism
  2. Vermin
  3. Virtue Ethics

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  1. Welfarism, New
  2. Wolf Ethics

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  1. Zoophilia
  2. Zoos



Emotivism  Are people's utterances about animal rights meaningful? Opponents of factory farming say it is wrong to keep calves in tiny crates to prevent them exercising in order to make their meat light and tender for gourmets. This is an evaluation about a situation, a moral judgement. Emotivism is a philosophical theory that says moral judgements are not statements of fact but merely expressions of our feelings and amount to nothing more.

An alternative name for Emotivism is Non-cognitivism, meaning 'not about thinking'.
Emotivists claim that nobody's moral judgement is ever right or wrong. Nor are any moral judgements true or false, because they are entirely about the feelings of the people who utter them - they are only emotions. If you say eating animals is wrong (or right) , you are only giving vent to your emotional feelings. You might just as well shout down (or up) with eating animals, which likewise expresses your passion. Furthermore, claim emotivists, since people see the world in different emotional colours and since moral disputants are only expressing their feelings, then people will forever disagree with each other. If people are morally rational at all it is only to rationalise their emotional preferences.

Wheel of emotions

Some people distinguish a subtle difference between Emotivism and the similar Subjectivism (that morality depends only on your attitude). In Emotivism you are being emotive, whereas in Subjectivism you are also telling others to do things or are implying commands or recommendations. Thus if you say we should not abuse animals, according to Emotivism you are making a statement about your feelings. On the other hand, according to Subjectivism you are telling others that we should stop abusing animals.

Antagonists of Emotivism, however, point out that we do seem able to argue logically and rationally and do sometimes base ethical decisions on rational thought, so Emotivism might be false. Discussing treatment for your dog's heart ailment, for instance, your vet may want a thorough cardiac investigation. But you may decide it would be too much stress for your dog and would be better off as he is.

Emotivists would counter this by claiming that you are making your decision on gut feelings and then rationalising them. Emotivists would say that even when you are apparently debating ethics you are really only engaged in such things as defining terms or discussing scientific ideas, and that being able to rationalise does not prove Emotivism is false. We can rationalise about many things that have no basis, such as how many fairies can dance on a pinhead.

Ethicists closely identify Emotivism with philosophers A J Ayer (1910 - 1988) and Charles Stevenson (1908 - 1979) of the mid-20th century, the period when Emotivism was widely promoted.



Page revised Nov 2010.
Web site established Nov 2009.