I'm not sure what the difference between Emotivism and Quasi-realism are. According to Wikipedia, Emotivism is '...a meta-ethical view that claims that ethical sentences do not express propositions but emotional attitudes'. Wikipedia says that Quasi-realism is '... the meta-ethical view which claims that: Ethical sentences do not express propositions.

Instead, ethical sentences project emotional attitudes as though they were real properties.'

They seem to be the same to me, but according to Wikipedia they stand in opposition to each other.

1 Answer 1


One way to put the difference is that Emotivism and Quasi-Realism differ in how a reasonable person should interpret the moral claims of others, like "stealing is wrong."

If Jill says "stealing is wrong," a reasonable person should, according to:

  • an Emotivist, treat that statement as merely an expression of Jill's feelings about stealing, comparable to "booo, stealing" or "yuck, stealing." It is not a sentence with the same grammatical structure as "snow is cold," which expresses a potential fact. Instead it is linguistically more akin to a moan or a snarl.
  • a Quasi-Realist, treat that statement as if it were a claim Jill is making about the objectionableness of stealing. It attributes the property of wrongness to the activity of stealing, just as Jill might attribute coldness to snow. However, the Quasi-Realist, and perhaps even Jill herself and the reasonable interpreter, realize(s) that wrongness is not a real property of things.

Emotivists like Stevenson and Gibbard and Quasi-Realists like Blackburn are somewhat more sophisticated than this, but those are the basic positions.

  • So upon realising that wrongness isn't a real property, does the Quasi-realist not begin to hold the same view as the Emotivist?
    – Gabs
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 13:50
  • No, a typical quasi-realist view — I think this is approximately Blackburn's position — is that ethics is really important as an individual and social activity, such that there is strong justification for treating claims like "Stealing is wrong" in just the same way as we treat factual descriptions, even while meta-ethically or linguistically-speaking, we realize they have a different form. You might compare this with money. We treat ink on paper as currency, and because we treat it that way, it really functions as currency. One makes a mistake if he says "but it's just ink on paper!" Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 15:26
  • Ohh okay, thank you so much, it had really been annoying me. Thanks again!
    – Gabs
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 16:00

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