Denial of Moral truth

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  • Created on: 30-03-13 17:58


Descriptive relativism: moral codes differ from one society to the next

Normative relativism: no objective moral standard independent from what a culture endorses - no objective moral truth for all people - to talk of moral truth only makes sense about a certain culture at a certain time 

Relativism is a form of non-cognitivism at a social level, would say that there is no overall moral truth for everyone but for an individual morality could be what a culture says is moral 

Moral judgements as social conventions to a given social group - differences come from the fact morality is a part of a culture's way of living, people are not trying to get to the truth about ethics

Objection - normative relativism does not follow from descriptive - if disagreements suggest there is no moral truth, agreements e.g. killing is wrong would suggest there is moral truth - different practices reflect different particular conditions in which different cultures are situated but not different principles 

E.g. if Aristotle is right and what is right is a way of living, it would be similar but different depending on culture - problem is e.g. slavery

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Verificationism - Ayer

Ayer - for a statement to be meaningful it has to be verified by sense data or analytiically true
Would suggest against moral truths then you are wrong as morality is based on your feeling about it - no evidence to say that murder is wrong. 

For Ayer no difference in - 'you acted wrongly in stealing the money' and 'you stole money' except in one you are showing disapproval - not making any extra factual claim - adds the same as saying it in a dissapproving tone
Therefore cannot contradict on moral judgements as no facts to contradict on
Ethical words are only used to express feeling or stimulate action
moral judgements have no objective validity - no point asking if it is true as it does not make a factual claim - different to normal subjectivism as actually says they are not making a factual claim

Moore objection - if they were just statements about feeling would be impossible to argue about value
Ayer responds - no one ever disputes over questions of value - argue about the facts not value
Problem - cannot verify verificationism 

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Emotivism - Stevenson

Non-cognitivist - does not describe something objective

For Stevenson the word good attempts to influence other people - it is a persuasive word

Problem with Ayer is that it cannot show why moral language motivates us

Stevenson adds to Ayer by saying moral terms aren't just noises they're loaded words to influence us

Problems - no discussion in moral judgements - however Stevenson argues that you can have discussion if similar moral claims contradict/are inconsistent - moral disagreement can be about the relations between different attitudes - problem for this argument - does not show how we value some things over others

- Does not show origin of moral ideas

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No moral truth but still meaningful

Argues emotivism too simplistic - moral terms have uses as say how one ought to behave

Moral values not facts is/ought - call to action cannot be a logical consequence of fact

moral language is useful with - commands, giving advice - e.g. Mill happiness is desirable = happiness ought be desired - commending happiness as something to be reached

not expression of how I feel but call to action - command is in the statement not the consequences

Universilisation - we do not always use these words to commend e.g. If you weren't so honest we would have got away with that - annoyance not commendation 

Hare - therefore difference between the descriptive meaning and prescriptive - therefore we are free to choose the prescriptions we make

however our ideas have to be universal - I do not have to believe stealing is wrong - but if I do I should believe it is wrong for me to steal from you as well as you from me

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Prescriptivism (2)

Finds place for reason in ethical debate - 'guiding' aspects of ethics as a matter of prescription so ethical discussion is more rational 

We can argue about consistency and relavence e.g. no relavent differences between me stealing from you and vice versa - commited to one unless we find a relavent difference to the other

infer prescriptions from other prescriptions e.g argument from abortion - I value human life, and abortion is taking human life - therefore do not commit abortion - to dis/agree with premises you have to dis/agree with conclusion

Problems - to what extent can we value what we like - does not place limits on what we can approve/disapprove of (related to approval not content)

Anything can be moral judgement - moral judgements should relate to what is good to people/environment not just expressions of approval 

Response - morality made by human nature

though means can't distinguish between moral and aesthetic views

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Problem with non-cognitivism

Is it 'anything goes'?

Denial of moral truth implies tolerance as cannot say something is wrong

Morality has no authority over me - just set of conventions made by my society

Respond that you should not tolerate people who argue that morality does not matter - problem e.g. what if they believe murder is wrong or abortion if you did not

relativists - on a society we should have moral values but should tolerate other soieties 

Problem is that tolerance is a moral value and also that we apply our moralities to everyone including other societies (emotivism/prescriptivism avoid these difficulties as they are about conflicting values) 

Problem for emotivism/prescriptivism though is why should you care about what other people do

Moral progress - appears non-cognitivism does not allow progress/mistakes - progress if more rational, consistent, coherent 

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