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Meta ethics is the area of ethics that seeks to explore and discover the meaning of words used in
o Ethics discusses the nature of ethical statements and whether their useful and valid, such as:
can we understand what good really means?
o meta ethics analyses ethical language and seeks to understand the meaning of moral
Normative ethics is the area of ethics that seeks to discuss whether something is right or wrong/
good or bad.
o They help people understand what is right and moral and what is wrong and immoral, they
tell people what to do and what not to do.
o meta ethics are linked to normative ethics in trying to understand the meanings of terms in
the theories. With meta ethics you have to know what the words mean in order to
understand what is being said, just like a foreign language.
o Some people- ethical statements can be verified or falsified like using observable facts.
o based on empirical evidence, which is information that is gained using sensory data (what we
see, hear, smell, touch).
o However this idea is flawed as it is possible for people to disagree with the a moral
statement by referring to cultural or religious ideas instead of empirical evidence.
Cognitivists are philosophers who believe that ethical language can be meaningful. Cognitive is a
statement that is subject to being T/F.
Non Cognitivists are philosophers who believe that ethical language cannot be meaningful, they
believe that the words cannot be meaningful because they are not subject to being true or false.
They also believe that for a ethical statement to be meaningful it must give observable facts that are
subject to being T/F but ethical statements cannot fit into this category because there are always
changes in opinions.
Philosophers called Vienna Circle developed a theory called logical positivism that wanted to look at
ethical language and religious language from a scientific perspective, rather than naturalistic or
intuitive. They believed ethical statements are not meaningful , since ethical statements cannot be
analytic statements or synthetic statements.
Ludwig Wittgenstein "whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent". " Believed that it
is impossible to even discuss ethical theories at all before, before we know the terminology used.
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2 groups Naturalism and Non Naturalism
both believe lang. is meaningful but differ in working out specifics.
Naturalism-all things are knowable using empirical evidence
o Good can be defined and has real existence
o Good is something that is provable, using empirical evidence.
o Ethical naturalists believe that the statement about genetic research is just as valid because
you can use evidence to support or criticise it, thus since genetic research saves lives by
curing diseases it is right to use it.…read more
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C.L Stevenson looked at emotive meaning of words and how they affect others.
o Easy to use honesty descriptively, but its used to influence other people.
o ethical statements are subjective opinions.
o Give approval or disapproval rather than give an emotive perspective.
Prescriptivism-prescribing a subjective belief or course of action
o R.M Hare-moral statements more than expression of emotions, aimed to influence other
people and suggest that they should apply that same value and follow the same course of
action in a similar circumstance.…read more