Religion and Ethics - Meta-ethics

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What is meta-ethics?
Meta-ethics examines the language behind ethical theories and moral beliefs.
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Give an example of something a meta-ethical philosopher would say:
Instead of asking ''is stealing wrong?" they would ask ''what is meant by saying 'stealing is wrong'?"
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What is meant by the word ''good"?
We don't know what is meant by the word good - it can have lots of different meanings, e.g - that meal was good.
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Can ''good'' be verified?
Good cannot necessarily be verified and therefore limits its worth as a factual claim.
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Give examples of where the word ''good'' comes from:
Time/workings in history, God, emotions (emotivism), free-will, reason, in nature (naturalism), social constructs, cultural constructs, intuition (intuitionism).
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What are the initial problems that arise with meta-ethics?
Is-ought gap (just because something is the way it is - doesn't mean it ought to be. There is a large divide as to whether there are such things as moral facts or not.
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Define moral realism:
There are moral facts in the same way that there are scientific facts (naturalism, intuitionism). Killing is wrong = moral fact.
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Define moral anti-realism:
There are no moral facts - e.g emotivism.
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Define naturalism:
Moral facts emerge from nature (words like good).
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Define intuitionism:
Words like good come from our intuition (moral facts).
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Define emotivism:
A moral statement (e.g killing is wrong) is no more than an emotive response to something: there are no moral facts.
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Define descriptive ethics:
Factual statements about ethical subjects, e.g 75% of women in Eire disagree with abortion.
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Define normative ethics:
Ethical judgements within ethics e.g abortion is wrong.
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How does Aquinas define goodness?
Natural - goodness is found in the world (naturalism).
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How does Kant define goodness?
Through duty - carrying out duty through good-will (naturalism).
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How does Bentham define goodness?
Pleasure (naturalism).
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How does Mill define goodness?
Happiness (naturalism).
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How does Fletcher define goodness?
Agape/love.
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If an exam question has words such as ''good/nature/fact" - which meta-ethical theory do they apply to?
Naturalism
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If an exam question has words such as ''just know" - which meta-ethical theory is this?
Intuitionism.
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If an exam question has the phrase ''ethical terms are meaningless" - which meta-ethical theory does it apply to?
Emotivism.
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Who is naturalism associated with?
F.H Bradley
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Who is intuitionism associated with?
G.E Moore, W.D Ross, H.A Prichard, Henry Sidgwick.
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Who is emotivism associated with?
A.J Ayer, C.L Stevenson.
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What is meant by naturalism?
Moral facts emerge from nature - they are found empirically through observations about the world. Natural law governs the universe. Natural facts have the potential to be moral facts.
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Gives examples of naturalism:
Plato's Form of the Good, Natural Law, Utilitarianism/Hedonism.
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Give some strengths of naturalism:
Moral objectivism - can be true/false and also discussed rationally. Allows for moral progress/conclusion of moral facts - if you see someone in pain - ? it's wrong. Easily + universally understood - evidence in nature.
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Give some weaknesses of naturalism:
Hume's ''is/ought'' gap - science and tech mean nature X applicable. Moore's Naturalistic Fallacy - error of assuming good = natural quality. Prevents solid moral guidelines that can be followed in every sit. Impossible to agree - def. of good + evil
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What is the Naturalistic Fallacy?
Moore's term for the alleged error of assuming that good is some sort of natural quality.
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What is the Open Question Argument?
Moore's view that we can say something has a natural quality such as pleasure, yet we can still significantly ask whether something is good.
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Define intuitionism:
Moral truths are known through intuition. Words like good are understood through intuition.
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What is a non-natural quality?
Something immaterial and therefore cannot be a part of nature, e.g good.
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What is intuition?
The ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.
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What is a priori?
A statement knowable without the need for sense experience.
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What are the three main concepts in intuitionism?
1) Real objective moral truths, independent of human nature, 2) We can only compare these truths to other moral truths, 3) We can discover these truths using our intuition.
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What is intuitionism an argument against?
Naturalism.
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What did the founder of intuitionism (G.E Moore) say most ethical theories were derived from?
Hume's is-ought gap.
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What did Moore say about the word good?
It is NOT a natural property.
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What did he compare ''good'' to?
The colour yellow.
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Why did Moore compare good and yellow?
While we cannot define yellow or compare it to other things/colours - we can point to things which are yellow in order to illustrate our point.
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What did Moore famously remark about the word good?
''Good is good and that is the end of the matter.''
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Give an example of a descriptive statement:
''Oranges are a good source of Vitamin C"
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Give an example of a prescriptive/normative statement:
''You ought to eat oranges".
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What does Hume's is-ought gap say about descriptive and normative statements?
A descriptive statement should not necessarily be followed by a prescriptive/normative statement. In other words - is doesn't imply ought.
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What is the difference between simple and complex ideas?
Complex ideas can be broken down further whereas simple ideas cannot be broken down.
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Give an example of a complex idea:
Horse - can be broken down: animal, mammal, four legged, equine etc.
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Give an example of a simple idea:
The colour yellow (previously mentioned). We cannot break it down any further.
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Are moral terms simple or complex ideas?
Simple.
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Why can't moral judgements be concluded empirically?
We cannot compare pleasure and good synonymously. We cannot look at something which derives pleasure and call it good because we cannot define the word good. We only know the meaning instinctively.
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What did W.D Ross say about morality?
We know moral truths instinctively and with these come moral duties.
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What did Ross call these duties?
''Prima facie'' (at first appearance).
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Give examples of ''prima facie'' duties:
Keeping a promise, gratitude, justice etc.
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What did H.A Prichard say about intuitionism?
Prichard said there were two kinds of thinking: reason brought together by facts about a situation and intuition perceived the right thing to do.
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Explain Prichard's viewpoint in more detail:
One we know the external facts regarding a moral situation we can use our intuition to work out what is right and what is wrong.
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Give some strengths of intuitionism:
Allows for objective moral truths to be identified. Not subjective/emotive. Can be associated with idea of conscience as moral guide. Appeals to human nature. Avoids complex debate about good - cannot be defined.
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Give some weaknesses of intuitionism:
Moral truths must exist for this to work. Difficult to address why some things are wrong - we just know. If it worked properly - everyone would have the same moral conclusions. Allows anyone to get away with anything.
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What is Nietzsche's criticism of intuitionism?
He said that comparing good with yellow was ''ethical blindness'' because people have different opinions on what is good.
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What is emotivism?
Ethical terms are meaningless - they are simple an expression of emotion concerning the topic.
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What is an analytic statement? (give an example)
1 + 1 = 2, all triangles have three sides. An analytic statement is something that does not need external verification and is true by definition.
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What is a synthetic statement? (give an example)
It's snowing outside, that chair is brown. A synthetic statement can be true or false but is verifiable by the five senses.
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What is a moral statement (according the A.J Ayer)?
Moral statements cannot be verified synthetically or analytically. They are not true or false.
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What is emotivism known as?
The hurrah/boo theory.
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What am I really saying when I say ''murder is wrong"?
Murder... booooooo.
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What am I saying when I say ''giving to charity is good"?
Charity.... hurrah!
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Define non-cognitive:
Makes no assertions - cannot be true or false.
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What is C.L Stevenson's approach to emotivism?
Moral statements aren't just expressions of emotion - we are also trying to persuade others to adopt the same emotional response.
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What did Rudolph Carnap say about emotivism?
Moral statements aren't just emotive - they are commands, especially if we interpret them as being from God (allows religious view).
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What does R.B Braithwaite say about emotivism?
Moral judgements serves to bind a community together.
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What are some strengths of emotivism?
Subjective nature allows all opinions to be valid. Culturally aware/relative, e.g arranged marriage can be good/bad depending on culture. Resolves the argument that moral disputes can never be resolved. Moral language - reciprocal (esp. in childhood)
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What is the main weakness of emotivism?
It belittles our ability to reason.
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Who are the main scholars who criticised emotivism?
James Rachels, Mel Thompson, Peter Vardy and Alasdair McIntyre.
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What did James Rachels say about emotivism?
It is wrong of Ayer to make the ''ouch'' when you stub your toe, equal to saying ''that's wrong'' when you see a murder.
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What did Mel Thompson famously say about emotivism?
''You cannot reduce morality to a set of cheers and boos''
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What did Peter Vardy say about emotivism?
''Emotivism is hot air and nothing else''.
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What did Alasdair MacIntyre argue about emotivism?
Emotivism wrongly places child carers and paedophiles as equals.
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Give an example of something a meta-ethical philosopher would say:

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Instead of asking ''is stealing wrong?" they would ask ''what is meant by saying 'stealing is wrong'?"

Card 3

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What is meant by the word ''good"?

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Card 4

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Can ''good'' be verified?

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Card 5

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Give examples of where the word ''good'' comes from:

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