Meta Ethics

Brief explanation of Meta ethics

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  • Created by: Amira
  • Created on: 14-05-12 12:54

Meta ethics is quite different to anything else you have done.  It is not concerned with what is right and wrong, but with what those words actually mean.  It is the study of moral language rather than action and it considers what is actually meant when someone states that something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ right or wrong etc.  The main disagreement is on whether moral language states something factual (cognitivists) or not (non-cognitivists) and there are a variety of different views you will need to learn

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i)                    Ethical Naturalism states that morality is factual as the right or wrongness of an action is observable to our senses.  Hedonic naturalists observe the please, theological naturalists observe whether it agrees with the will of God.


ii)                   G.E. Moore was an intuitionist who argued that Naturalism made a fallacy.  He argued that they failed to define ‘good’ and instead only gave examples of things that were good.  He also stated that good was self evident and our intuition told us what was good.  This means that good is indefinable but states something factual.

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i)                    A. J. Ayer was an emotivist who argued that moral language was not factual as it could not be verified analytically or synthetically.  Rather than stating anything factual it stated a person’s feelings towards something.  Because it wasn’t verifiable he said it was meaningless.  C.L. Stevenson argued that although they weren’t factual, moral statements were based on deeply held beliefs, rather than purely a person’s feeling.


ii)                   R. M. Hare agued that moral language was prescriptive and so it commanded action universally. If you state that something is wrong, you are committed to stating it is wrong for all people, all the time, including yourself.

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