Evaluating Meta-Ethics

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Naturalistic fallacy: if claims that good cannot be defined and that attempting to provide ethical conclusions from natural facts is wrong.

Evaluating naturalism

  • If the meaning of ethical statements is solely based on empirical evidence, we have some problems.
  • If all ethical statements are the same as non-ethical statements, then they must stand up to scrutiny.
  • However, they don't stand up to critcisms as they suggest that we know what is right based on what our sensory experience tells us, because they can be verified or falsified.
  • Moore - by classing ethical statements and non-ethical statements together, naturalism was guilty of committing what he called the naturalistic fallacy.
  • He said that people cannot be talking about facts and then switch into talking about moral values.
  • What we 'ought' to do cannot be based on the facts of what 'is'.
  • Moore based his teaching on the naturalistic fallacy on the work of Hume who thought that to derive an 'ought' from an 'is' would be logicaly wrong.
  • All too often according to Moore we are talking about facts and then slip into speaking about ethical or moral values without making clear the basis of how we did so, because we ascribe natural properties to morality, which is fallacious.
  • Good cannot be defined in any simpler way, yet moral values about that is good are applied to the facts but are not dicoverable among the facts like naturalism would suggest.
  • Moore said attempting to define good using natural terms committed the naturalistc fallacy, he believed that it could be approached using the Open Question Argument.
  • Suppose I believe that the natural quality of pleasure is the good.
  • Now suppose I said 'I find hurting people pleasant'.
  • It makes, most of us would say, perfect sense to ask, 'But is it good?'.
  • But if pleasure = good, then it makes no sense to ask the question, because it would mean, 'Hurting people is good (=pleasant), but is it good?
  • As…

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