Use of the Word 'False' in Ethical Nihilism

I try to understand all I can about science and philosophy. And as I understand it, many philosophers are moral nihilists. (I once assumed most were. But someone on these boards once pointed out actually most philosophers are moral realists.) In any event, a large number are, let’s just say.

Anyways, I have known of moral nihilism for some time now. I was exposed to the idea of emotivism and noncognitivism about 30 years ago. I think they both express the view that many philosophers (and scientists) are just neutral towards ethics, because they find ethical statements neither true nor false. I can grasp that concept (I don’t entirely agree with it, but that’s another matter).

But if you read that Wikipedia article about it, you will see some philosophers and scientists find moral statements absolutely false. Now, that I don’t understand. And for a simple reason.

The word ‘false’ implies there is a truth that replaces it. For example, if I told a scientist ‘the moon is made of blue cheese’, he or she would reply, ‘no, it isn’t, it’s made or moon rock [or whatever]’.

So if the statement ‘torture is wrong’ is false, what then is the true statement? Or am I misunderstanding the use of the word ‘false’? Is there in fact no true statement to contradict it? And if that is so, please explain how.

Thank you in advance for your helpful replies :slight_smile: .

“The moon is made of blue cheese” is not a statement of moral.

My interpretation of the statement in the Wikipedia article is that it’s a fancy way of saying morals just aren’t a thing.

" J. L. Mackie argues that moral assertions are only true if there are moral properties, but because there are none, all such claims are false."

If you want to examine a similar statement then, that isn’t about morals, it would be something like: The moon is crebstacular. Crebstacular here is something that has crebstacular properties, and I contend crestacular properties simply don’t exist. So any statement describing something as crebstacular are false.

Nope. A statement can just be false, without a “truth” replacing it other than in the most banal way. “Live unicorns exist on Earth” is a false statement, but no truth replaces it other than the statement of negation.