Meta-Ethics

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  • META-ETHICS
    • What is meta-ethics?
      • The study of underlying ethical ideas/ethical language
        • What is the meaning of goodness (if any)??
      • Can be contrasted with normative ethics (the attempt to work out which actions are right/wrong)
      • Wittgenstein
        • words resemble each other so we have a tendency to think that they all do the same thing
          • The meaning of words are governed by the way we happen to ude them.-- isolated from context they become meaningless.
        • Language isn't necessarily meaningless because we don't understand it
    • Naturalism
      • morals can be defined in natural terms/observation of the world in science.
      • They develop there ideas with non-moral evidence
        • E.g. if we look at pleasure defining goodness we may look at the evidence of pleasure and pain in actions
      • COGNITIVIST
    • Non-naturalism
      • Bradley-- goodness is a natural aspect of society, people reach self realisation in their communities
        • The problem of this there is a narrow account of it
      • Moore--criticised it for being contradictory- he believed that defining goodness in terms of natural facts is wrong, referring to this as a 'naturalistic fallacy'
    • The 'is ought' debate
      • Hume-- we cannot move logically from a statement about the way the world 'IS' to a statement about how we 'OUGHT' to act.
      • Naturalism
        • morals can be defined in natural terms/observation of the world in science.
        • They develop there ideas with non-moral evidence
          • E.g. if we look at pleasure defining goodness we may look at the evidence of pleasure and pain in actions
        • COGNITIVIST
    • Moore and Intuitionism
      • Strengths
        • clear account of the meaning of good
        • intuitionism is flexible -- it allows that our intuition may be wrong
        • the 'naturalistic fallacy' seems persuasive
      • Weaknesses
        • Have failed to agree on what moral good is
        • highly individualistic approach- does not give us concrete ethical behaviours - all it claims is that goodness is indefinable.
        • Does not help us to resolve moral disputes- does not set out a clear decision making process.
      • 'Good is good and that is the end of the matter'
      • good is indefinable and a completely simple term
        • compares this to yellow- yellow is a simple term- cannot be broken down any further we cannot explain it.
          • Good is the same - it cannot be explained any further.
      • we have an intuitive sense of right/wrong- instinct
      • COGNITIVIST- ethical statements are about facts and empirical support.
    • Emotivism
      • Strengths
        • based on observation of behaviour rather than a God or timeless forms.
        • it is easy to think of ideas which link with emotivism
        • Stevenson- able to explain complex meanings of ethical terms because he emphasises underlying beliefs and definitions.
      • Weaknesses
        • it removes reason from moral judgements
        • in situations like terrible crimes it seems inadequate to say its 'just emotion'
        • Vardy- an 'ethical non-theory' because it only discusses emotion and does not really deal with the idea of actions being ethical.
      • morals can be purely understood as emotional responses
      • Ayer- V Principle language is only meaningful when verifiable either analytically/synthetically
        • Ayer did not think this applied to religious beleifs
      • NON-COGNITIVIST-morals are simply personal choice
      • NON-COGNITIVIST
    • The nature of ethical language
      • Ayer - ethical language expresses our feelings
        • 'Boo-hooray' theory
      • Emotivism
        • Strengths
          • based on observation of behaviour rather than a God or timeless forms.
          • it is easy to think of ideas which link with emotivism
          • Stevenson- able to explain complex meanings of ethical terms because he emphasises underlying beliefs and definitions.
        • Weaknesses
          • it removes reason from moral judgements
          • in situations like terrible crimes it seems inadequate to say its 'just emotion'
          • Vardy- an 'ethical non-theory' because it only discusses emotion and does not really deal with the idea of actions being ethical.
        • morals can be purely understood as emotional responses
        • Ayer- V Principle language is only meaningful when verifiable either analytically/synthetically
          • Ayer did not think this applied to religious beleifs
        • NON-COGNITIVIST-morals are simply personal choice
        • NON-COGNITIVIST
    • Stevenson
      • similar to Ayer- he emphasised that attitudes are based on beliefs.
        • e.g.. if I say 'capital punishment is wrong' then I have an attitude based on my beliefs.
        • Not just different emotions like Ayer says but differences in underlying convictions and Values.
    • Prescriptivsm
      • HARE- goodness comes from the desire for others to have the same moral values as us.
      • Arguesd for universalization - that if you state something is good then it must be good for everyone.
        • 1. morals need to be about doing not thinking 2.ethical action has to be consistent 3. moral beliefs must be in harmony with others 4. cannot be a hypocrite
      • NON-COGNITIVIST
    • Ross- and intuitionism
      • moral principles cannot be absolute- they can contradict one another
      • he said that we have Prima Facie (at first appearance) duties:: such as fidelity and gratitude
        • Intuition identifies our prima facie duties, but when they conflict we use our own judgement to decide where our duty/obligation lies.
      • Moore and Intuitionism
        • Strengths
          • clear account of the meaning of good
          • intuitionism is flexible -- it allows that our intuition may be wrong
          • the 'naturalistic fallacy' seems persuasive
        • Weaknesses
          • Have failed to agree on what moral good is
          • highly individualistic approach- does not give us concrete ethical behaviours - all it claims is that goodness is indefinable.
          • Does not help us to resolve moral disputes- does not set out a clear decision making process.
        • 'Good is good and that is the end of the matter'
        • good is indefinable and a completely simple term
          • compares this to yellow- yellow is a simple term- cannot be broken down any further we cannot explain it.
            • Good is the same - it cannot be explained any further.
        • we have an intuitive sense of right/wrong- instinct
        • COGNITIVIST- ethical statements are about facts and empirical support.

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