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Meta Ethics The Last Module… eeeeek!. Ethical Language Before anyone can begin to establish what is good or bad moral behaviour, we need to establish.

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Presentation on theme: "Meta Ethics The Last Module… eeeeek!. Ethical Language Before anyone can begin to establish what is good or bad moral behaviour, we need to establish."— Presentation transcript:

1 Meta Ethics The Last Module… eeeeek!

2 Ethical Language Before anyone can begin to establish what is good or bad moral behaviour, we need to establish if we can define these words. The branch of moral philosophy which deals with this is meta-ethics – which asks what do words such as good/ bad/ right/ wrong actually mean.

3 Meaning? One main question within meta-ethics is “Can ethical language have any meaning?” If we are unclear about the nature and meaning of words, how can we make authoritative claims about how people should act?

4 Good/ Ought The word good has many meanings and most of them are not used in a moral context: e.g. My computer is good – it fulfils the task I want it to. In the same way ‘ought’ is used in different contexts: e.g. Teachers ‘ought’ to be kind to their students.

5 Subjective/ Objective A key factor in all of this is whether ethical dilemmas are subjective or objective. Are they based on personal preference or on external facts? If moral values are objective then they are true for everyone. If moral values are subjective then there can legitimately be differences of opinion about how to act.

6 Cognitive/ Non-Cognitive If morality is objective then it is also cognitive – cognitive language deals with making propositions about things which can be known and therefore proved true or false = Propositional View. If morality is subjective then it is also non- cognitive – it deals with matters which are not simply resolved by proving they are true or false = Non-Propositional view.

7 Naturalism A key question when trying to reach a definition of morality etc. is the is-ought gap (or the Naturalistic Fallacy). Naturalistic theories of ethics attempt to define good in terms of something that can be identified in the world of human nature – e.g. claiming that which makes us happy, fit or healthy is good.

8 Naturalism If we adopt this approach we effectively turn an ‘is’ into an ‘ought’. G.E. Moore argued that it is not acceptable to identify morality with any other concept, such as happiness, because the comparison will always be inadequate.

9 Naturalism More importantly, if we say that something ‘is’ the case, we are making a descriptive statement of how things actually are. David Hume argued that there was nothing in a descriptive statement that allows us to proceed from what people actually do (a factual statement) to what people ought to do (a value judgement). E.g. If I want to be a concert pianist I ought to practice – does not necessarily mean I will improve enough.

10 Research You need to know about three meta- ethical theories: -Emotivism -Intuitionism -Prescriptivism In groups you need to research these and make an A4 handout on them.

11 Research EmotivismIntuitionismPrescriptivism Key Thinker: G. E. Moore Key Thinker: A. J. Ayer Key Thinker: R. M. Hare Include: Theory, strengths/weaknesses READ: Thompson: p Thompson: p127Thompson: p Bowie: Chapter 7Bowie: Chapter 6Bowie: Chapter 7 Tyler+Reid (h/out) Additional Library Research


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