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  • Created by: Chloe
  • Created on: 06-01-15 14:26

Meta-Ethics differs from normative ethics which looks at what is good and bag, providing us with a guide for moral behaviour. Meta-Ethics is about normative ethics but attemots to make sense of the terms and concepts used. The ultimate question that philosophers of Meta-Ethics try to answer is whether our ethical statements have any meaning?

Ethical Naturalism/Cognitivism: A theory that moral values can be derived fom sense experience - they describe the world. Ethical statements are objectively either true or false.

Ethical Non-Naturalism/Non-Cognitivism: A theory that ethical statements cannot be derived from sense experience, they simply express the individual's feelings or are telling someone what to do. They are subjectively either true or false.

Meta-Ethics is not concerned with whats right or wrong, but what it means to be moral.

Cognitive Theories of Meta-Ethics:

Believe that ethical statements are about facts and can be proven right or wrong.

  1. Ethical Naturalism:
  • Cognitive and Objective
  • Ethical and Non-Ethical statements are the same - they are all factual in their own right
  • Ethical statements can be verified or falsified

      Criticisms of Ethical Naturalism:

  • G.E.Moore argued that to identify goodness with a natural quality was a mistake. Also, to claim that statements can be verified or falsified using evidence is to commit the naturalistic fallacy (the claim that good cannot be defined)

       2.  Intuitionism:


  • Said that 'good' is a simple, unanalysable property just as a primary colour is. He adapted a version of utilitarianism, stating that the right acts are the ones that produced the most good, but he stated that goodness cannot be identified with some natural property such as pleasure - it is indefinable.
  • "What is good? Good is good and that is the end of the matter" (Moore, Principa Ethica)
  • We cannot use our senses to tell whether something is good but we can use our 'moral intuition' - we know goodness when we see it (its a 'simple notion')
  • There are objective moral truths which we know by intuition.


  • discusses the moral claim 'ought' by saying that no definition can be given to this word, but like Moore's idea of 'good' we all recognise its properties - everyone recognises when we ought…


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