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In Language, Truth, and Logic Ayer took the surprising position that ethical judgments, exhortations, and descriptions are neither true nor false, but are emotive statements. While his argumentation was in support of the logical positivist position, it suggests a novel method for computational systems to recognize utterances regarding ethics. Namely, expressions of emotion can be likened to "boos" or "hoorays" issued from a metaphorical crowd in moral response. This paper presents a simple natural language processing system that searches for terms and categorizes the text accompanying these terms as a "boo" or "hooray," making use of a list of emotional terms compiled by Cowie et al. and orientations recorded by Whissel and Plutchik. The system uses this bag-of- words and a search engine to assign emotive scores to terms of the user's choosing. The contribution of this work is a primitive technique for computers to ethically evaluate textual queries.

Boo-hooray is presented as an example of a system which explores a method for identification and analysis of statements regarding ethics. The system should viewed as a philosophical experiment or conversation piece, an artifact around which criticism and debate regarding the nature of ethics can take place.

Flowchart of BooHooray system.


  1. Reynolds, C. (2006) Boo-Hooray and Affective Approaches to Ethical Textual Analysis. Computers and Philosophy, an International Conference, May 3 - 5, 2006, Laval, France. [ PDF]
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