Charles Leslie Stevenson (1908 - 1979)
An American philosopher who is known for his work in ethics and aesthetics, Stevenson taught at Yale University from 1939 to 1946 and at the University of Michigan from 1946 to 1977. In England, he studied with G. E. Moore and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
In the 1930s, he wrote papers on the emotive meaning of ethical terms and presented the theory, according to the of Birmingham's Nicholas Dent, that moral judgments do not describe properties of people or actions but express approval or disapproval and seek also to influence the feelings of approval and disapproval of others. This he wrote about in Ethics and Language (1944).
Because of the wholly unwarranted idea that his theory encourages or implies immorality, he was not given tenure at Yale. About this, Arthur A. Burks, in "Preface," to Values and Morals, edited by Alvin I. Goldman and Jaegwon Kim (1978), observed,
- "At that time, positivism was unpopular among most traditional American philosophers, including some of Steve's senior colleagues at Yale. Positivism in ethics was especially unpalatable to the traditionalists. Some even felt that Steve's ethics could corrupt morality by removing its objective basis. One declared that Stevenson had "committed positivism"!
Subsequently, Stevenson taught at the University of Michigan for 31 years. He was an accomplished pianist and cellist. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study of Behavioral Science, he one served as President of the Western Division of the American Philosophical Association.