Ethical Language - Ethical Terms and Emotivism

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  • Ethical Terms and Emotivism
    • meta-ethics
      • examination of what we mean when we say that a thing or action is good, bad, right, wrong, moral or immoral
      • asks whether ethical language can be said to have any meaning
    • 'good'
      • many meanings, not all relating to morality
        • 'i have a good job'
          • descriptive because it is factually based
        • 'giving to charity is good'
          • realist because it can be empirically tested
        • 'a good train service'
          • functional because it fulfills a purpose
        • 'running makes me feel good'
          • non-realist because it cannot be empirically verified
        • Aristotle
          • identified 'good' by claiming that something was good if it fulfilled its telos or purpose
    • naturalistic fallacy
      • committed whenever an attempt is made to prove a claim  by using 'good' as natural property
        • if a description / definition of good leads to a moral prescription telling us what we should do, it turns an 'is' into an 'ought'
          • e.g. giving to charity is good, therefore we ought to give to charity
          • G.E. Moore;wrong to do this because
            • to identify morality with any other concept reduces meaning and significance
            • if we say something is the case, we are making a descriptive statement of how things actually are
              • must not then confuse it with a normative or prescriptive statement which says something ought to be done
            • to move from 'ought' to 'is' means to oblige someone to do something without good reason
              • may be good reason in some circumstances but that is not sufficient to make them a matter of moral obligation
    • Intiutitionism
      • ethical terms cannot be defined
        • can only be known through intuition
      • good is not a matter of opinion
        • something we can all ascertain through reason
      • an inner sense directs humans to know what is right or wrong
      • strengths
        • allows for objective moral values to be identified
          • e.g. giving to charity helps those in need
        • does not propose subjective or emotive approach to ethics
        • allows for moral duties and obligations to apply to all
      • weaknesses
        • people intuit and reason to different conclusions
        • how can we be sure our intuitions are correct?
        • intuition may be considered to be a meaningless concept since it is non-verifiable
    • Emotivism
      • expression of feeling or opinion rather than fact
        • rejected by verification principle
          • meaningless as they cannot be empirically tested
        • e.g. adultery is wrong
      • ethical language can be used to convey what people feel about something
        • Ayer disapproves - what is true for the speaker is different to being true for everyone
        • Bertrand Russell - moral judgements express a wish
        • R B Braithwaite - moral judgements serve to bind the community together
      • strengths
        • argues moral opinions often formed on the basis of gaining others approval
        • acknowledges values and existence of moral diversity
        • history reveals many examples of emotivist methods of expressing moral views e.g. hitler's condemnation of the Jews
      • Weaknesses
        • ethical claims should not change with emotion
        • how can we judge between two people's moral opinions?
        • everyone is free to do what they want irrespective of the opinion of others
    • Absolutism
      • opposite to emotivism
      • morality is following of law
        • ethical claims are fact not opinion
      • strengths
        • moral statements are seen as fact
          • true beyond human question
            • true irrespective of situation and circumstance
      • weaknesses
        • cannot be empirically verified
        • can become outdated
        • cannot easily adapt to changing conditions

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