Presentation on theme: "Meta-Ethics Slavery is evil Honesty is a virtue Abortion is wrong ‘Meta’ from Greek meaning ‘above’ or ‘after’"— Presentation transcript:
Meta-Ethics Slavery is evil Honesty is a virtue Abortion is wrong ‘Meta’ from Greek meaning ‘above’ or ‘after’
What is meta-ethics? Asks whether there are moral facts or not. Discusses what someone is doing when they make a moral claim / judgement. Considers the significance of calling something right or wrong, good or bad….. What meta-ethics is NOT It does NOT recommend ways to act and feel as do Normative theories such as Utilitarianism, Kantianism and Virtue Theory.
Two branches of Meta-ethics COGNITIVISM (REALISM) There are moral facts When we make a moral claim / judgement we are expressing a belief that can be verified (shown to be true or false) NON-COGNITIVISM (IRREALISM) There are no moral facts When we make a moral claim / judgement we are expressing something else i.e., our approval.
The Verification Principle The principle arose from a group of Logical Positivist Philosophers (using science and observation in philosophy) called ‘The Vienna Circle’, in the early 20 th Century. The principle; A proposition only has meaning if it is, in principle, verifiable (if it can be shown true or false through observation - Empiricism). So, excluding possibility of moral facts
Fact–Value distinction [claim about the world] FACTS = Details of situation, revealed through observation e.g, abortion & euthanasia methods, effects on people…. VALUES = Not found in the facts e.g., abortion is wrong, euthanasia is compassionate, honesty is a virtue…. World of facts is free from values & values are just our attitudes to the facts. So, no evaluative conclusions can be drawn from factual premises (reasons). We are free to hold any moral view.
Is-Ought Gap [claim about logic] No ‘ought’ – MORAL - statement can be deduced from ‘is’ – FACTUAL - statements. ‘you ought not kill’, ‘you ought to tell the truth’ Cannot draw a moral evaluative conclusion from factual statements. Irrealism / Non-Cognitivism accepts both the Fact-Value distinction and the Is- Ought gap.
David Hume Influenced the Logical Positivists. Sentiment is the source of right and wrong. If you decide to help someone you do so because you have certain feelings i.e., compassion, it is nothing to do with reason. ‘..when you pronounce any action…to be vicious, you mean nothing, but that..you have a feeling or sentiment of blame…’
Ayer – Meaningful statements must be verified synthetically or analytically. Religious beliefs & moral claims cannot be verified in these ways, so are not meaningful (not facts or knowledge.) When making a moral judgement you are expressing your emotions. You are also trying to get others to feel and act the same way. e.g., ‘It is wrong to steal’ = I feel it is wrong to steal, you should feel the same way and not steal. Non-cognitivism: Emotivism – ‘Boo-Hurrah theory’
Ayer – Moral arguments are simply people expressing their emotions. Some moral statements are like commands [Prescriptivism takes this further] Stevenson – more than expression of emotion Moral arguments are where there is a disagreement in attitude or underlying belief. Moral claims have two parts; - expression of an attitude based on a belief - persuasive element to influence others
Difficulties with Emotivism Ayer’s version; Moral disagreement is impossible,e.g., ‘Diane Pretty was refused euthanasia’, I say ‘boo!’, you say ‘hurrah!’ Just disagree about the emotion expressed. No more than different preferences. Both versions; Rely on fact-value distinction. If this is shown to be untrue the theory collapses. Are we always trying to influence everyone to share our point of view? What about diversity and debate?
Non-cognitivism: PRESCRIPtivism R.M.Hare; Moral statements are prescriptive, they command behaviour and guide action. ‘You ought to keep promises’ = a command to act. [‘Ought’ corresponds to ‘right’] Moral statements as objective. Act on maxims you are prepared to Universalise – would you want everyone to do the same in similar circumstances? [= reason has a role in Prescriptivism, unlike Emotivism] To say something is ‘good’ is to commend it, I am then committed to following this judgement.
Difficulties with Prescriptivism Universalisability. Can any two situations be similar enough to universalise judgements? Commend without commanding. We can think something is good without being compelled to follow it e.g. examples of courage. Hare believes moral principles override all others. In some situations this may be false. Relies on the fact-value distinction.
SUMMARY MORAL CLAIMS… Express emotion Influence others Indicate an underlying belief Prescribe, command action Are objective because they are universalised Emotivism – Ayer Emotivism – Stevenson Prescriptivism - Hare