2M E T A H I C S Wittgenstein Russell David Hume G.E. .Moore G.J. WarnockA.J.AyerW.D.RossR.M. Hare
3Metaethics Prescriptivism Normative Ethics First-order moral discourse AquinasG.E MooreFirst-order moral discourseApplication of ethical theoriese.g. Natural law, Utilitarianism, Kant.What one ought to do…Second-order moral discourseBeyond or after ethicsAnalyses ethical language, structure, meaning.In what sense are statements true?Is there a foundation for ethical language?BenthamA.J. AyerWittgensteinJ.S. MillKantR.M. Hare
4Analysis of Meta-Ethics Cognitive(moral judgements can be known)Non-cognitive(moral judgements cannot be known)NaturalismNon-naturalism(Intuitionism)EmotivismPrescriptivismNon-definablepropertyCommendsUniversal actionEmpiricalYah / Boo
5Ethical Naturalism George was elected War against Empirical Assessment Aquinas Kant Bentham MillEthics can be understood like other empirical statementsEmpirical AssessmentGeorge waselectedPresidentof the USA.War againstterrorismis good.Both statements can be proven to be eithertrue or false through observation or evidence
6Socrates says...Ethical naturalism may argue that, on utilitarian grounds, it can be proven that war against terrorism produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number.Or, on Kantian grounds, war against terrorism is in accordance with upholding international law and order, (cf. United Nations) and so can be universalised.J. S. MillKant
7Problem of Ethical Naturalism: Commits the Naturalistic Fallacy Cannot deduce an OUGHT from an IS.Cannot move from FACTS to VALUESCannot move from EPISTEMOLOGY (knowledge) to ETHICS(G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica)
8According to GE Moore a definition of the Naturalistic Fallacy is: “Confusing`Good’ with anaturalormetaphysicalpropertyCommittingthe naturalisticfallacy meansone is either:or holding itto be identicalwith such aproperty.”(Source: C. Lewy, G.E. Moore on the Naturalistic Fallacy, p.297)
9Ethical Theories which Commit the Naturalistic Fallacy: Divine Command Theory – God is the sourceof morality, so whatever God wills is good.` ` God is good’ is analytically true - by definition.Natural Law: As nature has been created byGod it has within it laws which ought to befollowed. This will lead to human happiness.Utilitarianism considered by analysing humannature it is possible to prove, scientifically, thatpeople psychologically desire pleasure.Kant claimed that our categorical duties area priori, and being grounded in reason followfrom logical considerations.
10Naturalist Fallacy Vulnerable To The OPEN Question War against terrorismupholds internationallawGeorge isa brotherStatementsare soundIFthey arenot vulnerableto anOPENquestionIs war againstterrorism good?Is Georgemale?MeaningfulQuestionMeaninglessQuestionOriginal statementis soundOriginal statementis unsound
11THINK! THINK! THINK! THINK! THINK! THINK! THINK! IF Ethical Naturalism were true it would not make any sense to ask an `Open Question’. The conclusion would already have been proven. For example the question, `George is a brother, but is George male?’ is meaningless.However, ethical naturalism is not proven as an open question may be put, and such a question is meaningful. For example, a utilitarian may think war against terror provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number. However, the question may still be asked, “Even if war against terror provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number, is it still good?” And, crucially, such a question is meaningful.
12With the removal of an objective foundation for Sartre’s Existentialism rejected Ethical Naturalism’s viewthat there is any one given view of human nature.Divine CommandRejectedRejectedUtilitarianismRejected DutyRejectedNatural LawWith the removal of an objective foundation forhuman nature there is no basis on which EthicalNaturalism can assert an ethic to be right or wrong.Ethical Naturalism istherefore false, as there isno objective, natural viewof what it is to be human.It is up to the individualto use their freedomto choose theirown values.For Sartre Ethical Naturalism is a self-deceptionof our responsibility to choose.
13Non-Naturalism (Intuitionism) G.E. Moore W.D. RossG.E. Moore, Principia Ethica 1903“Good is a non-definable property”“We know what`yellow’ is, andcan recognise itwhenever it is seen, butwe cannot actuallydefine it.”(GE Moore)“In the same way weknow what`good’ means but cannotdefine it.”(GE Moore)Like the colourYellowGoodness is like beautyA quality found in thingsBut which cannot be defined.
14Non-Naturalism (Intuitionism) G.E. Moore“Good means GoodSelf-evident.”“A Simple idea:cannot be broken downinto simplerIdeas.”Certain words in the dictionary are non-definablee.g. `not’ – a simple word; cannot be definedfurther than the simple building block we useit to define other ideas.
15G.E. Moore’s Intuitionism According to Philippa Foot, G.E. Moore’s central thesis was that “goodness is a non-definable property discovered by intuition.”
16Problems of Moore’s Intuitionism G.E. MooreWhat if one is ethically colour blind? (Yellow is Green or Good is evil?)Lacks an authoritative foundation for ethics.Was G.E. Moore himself an intuitionist or an Ideal Utilitarian?What to do when intuitions conflict? e.g. do not lie, protect innocent life?
17Intuitionism lacks an objective assessment for right and wrong What if one is ethically colour blind? (Yellow is Green or Good is Evil?)Virtue is Vice?Christian virtues of humility and obedience are detrimental to the human spirit, individuality and the intuitive evolutionary need for self-assertion.Vice is VirtueThe vice of pride, condemned by St Paul, is to be regarded as a virtue - otherwise humanity will remain subservient.Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, argued that what is good may be evil and what is evil may be thought to be good.Intuitionism lacks an objective assessment for right and wrong
18Intuitionism Lacks an Authoritative Foundation for Ethics Rejects“Man is the measure of all things.” (Protagoras)Divine CommandJean Paul SartreProtagorasMagisteriumOffers the individual too much freedom.May suffer from anti-nomianproblems, similar to those ofSartre’s Existentialism?Duty
19An Intuitionist or an Ideal Utilitarian? G.E. Moore is famous for his analysis of ethical language in Principia Ethica, 1903, where he famously asserted that: Good is a non-definable property. This led to Moore being labelled an intuitionist, as “We know what`yellow’ is, and can recognise it whenever it is seen, but we cannot actually define it. In the same way we know what `good’ means but cannot define it.” (Ethica, 1903)However, closer analysis reveals that, “it seems selfevident that our duty is to do what will produce the best effects upon the whole, no matter how bad the effectsupon ourselves may be and no matter how much we ourselves may lose by it.” (Ethica, p.143)As an Ideal utilitarian Moore suggests that there arethree intrinsic goods: Pleasure, Friendship, Aestheticappreciation – and so right actions are those which increase / promote these in the world for the most people.G.E. Moore( )
20W.D Ross: Prima Facie Duties Prima Facie duties “at first glance” which the mature person recognises intuitively through reasonWhat should one do when intuitions conflict? For example:Do you lie to a gunman to protect the intended innocent victim?Protect innocentlife.Do not lieW.D. RossPrima Facie Duties are conditional, not absolute, and may change depending on the situation.
21W.D. Ross was an intuitionist who argued that the mature person intuitively knows what is good. “Morals, like the principles of mathematics, are self-evident, to the mature mind….. The moral order expressed in propositions is just as much part of the fundamental nature of the universe as is the spatial or numerical structure expressed in the axioms of geometry or arithmetic.” (Ross)Morality is objective, but morals are conditional – whether they should be followed depends on which is one’s over-riding duty in the particular situation.When a conflict between duties arise one should follow the over-riding duty.W.D. Ross
22W.D. Ross Six Prima Facie Duties (Duties one ought to follow, intuitivelyin the absence of an over-riding duty)Fidelity – faithful to promises made.Gratitude – appreciation for support offered.Justice – impartial, equal treatment of others and distribution of pleasureBeneficience – help for others.Self-improvement – self-fulfilmentNon-malificence - avoid harming others.Ross does not rankthese duties in orderof importance.The mature personintuitively knowsthese prima facie duties are true and may follow the appropriate duty given the demands of the particular situation.
23i.e. ethical statements are neither true or false. EmotivismEthical statements merely express a person’s emotions. They have no cognitive, knowledge content.i.e. ethical statements are neither true or false.e.g. “Torture is good.”Boo!Hooray!Desmond TutuSaddam Hussein
24EmotivismBecame popular through the work of Alfred Ayer and Logical Positivists.Ethical Statements simply express an individual’s emotion.Yah – Boo theory of ethicsImportance of David Hume.A.J. Ayer
25“Take any action allowed to be vicious: wilful murder, for instance “Take any action allowed to be vicious: wilful murder, for instance. Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. In which ever way you take it, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions, thoughts. There is no other matter of fact in the case. The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object.You will never find it, till you turn your reflection into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, towards this action. It lies in yourself, not in the object. So that when you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing, but that from the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from the contemplation of it.” (Hume)
26Hume - Sentiment Morality cannot be proven empirically. Rather, it is a question of personal sentiment.“Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions.”Justification for such thinking lies in Hume’s analysis of language; known as “Hume’s fork”
27Hume’s Fork Analytic or Synthetic statements Analytic Statements Hume categorised two kinds of knowledge as being eitherAnalytic or Synthetic statementsAnalytic Statements(Tautologies)Explain `relation of ideas’Formal, abstract knowledgee.g. Mathematics2 + 2 = 4, and LogicSynthetic statements(Empirical statements)Explain `matters of fact’Derived from the fivesense - empiricalknowledge based onimpressions from senseexperience.
28Verification Principle (Criterion for meaningful statements) A.J. Ayer, “A statements is either analytic or synthetic to be meaningful”Tautologies(Analytic)True by definitione.g. Maths, GrammarTwo Types of StatementEmpirical(Synthetic)Sense experienceScientific observationLogical Positivists(20th century)VerificationPrincipleEthical statements:Neither True or False according to Verification Principle, therefore meaningless
30Verification Principle does not pass its own test! Verification Principle determines whetherstatements are meaningfulMeaningful statements are either tautologicalor empiricalVerification Principle is neither tautological orempiricalTherefore the verification principle is itselfMEANINGLESS
31Emotions Influence Knowledge Claims With regards to the abortion debate it is interesting to notethat the contentious issue, “Is the foetus a life withpotential or a potential life.”The difficulty arises in so far as people’s emotions colour their interpretation of the evidence.Peter Singer believes the foetus is of little moral value, lacking personhood.Whilst the Pope believes it is an innocent human being from the moment of conception.
32Challenges to Emotivism Emotions: based on Beliefs Philippa Foot G.J. WarnockG.J. WarnockEthics is not concerned with emotions but whether claims are valid; can be supported by reasoned argument.Philippa FootEmotions are basedon beliefs.If one can showbeliefs are inaccurateit is possible tochange emotions.EmotionsBased onBeliefs or Reasonso emotionscan change
33Emotions Based on Beliefs (Open to Rational Challenge?) When Osama Bin Laden claims he is killing innocent people because he believes it is the will of Allah…One might rationally ague against this by appealing to the writing of the Koran which condemns the killing of innocent life.If it can be shown that emotions are based on incorrect beliefs such emotions should be abandoned.
34PRESCRIPTIVISM (Non-cognitive) R.M. HareRejectedINSTEADEmotivismEthical language expresses the subjective individual’s emotionsDescriptivismEthical language simply describes choices people make.PRESCRIPTIVISMMust have a logical, syllogistic, structureNo objective right or wrong, butEthical language is action guidingUniversalise moral principles
35Prescriptivism – A Kantian Influence Hare’s idea of universalising moral maxims can beseen to have its roots in Kant’s categorical imperative.At the heart of prescriptivism is the importance of logicand consistency within ethics.For Hare it is inconsistent to advocate a moral approachand yet not be prepared to assert that others in a similarsituation should not act in a similar fashion. Reason andlogic would suggest that universal application is centralto ethics.
36Problems of Prescriptivism Too General…allows for universal evils? As with Kant’s categorical imperative it is possible forprescriptivism to universalise moral maxims which areintrinsically evil.For example, Hitler’s desire to universalise the genocideof the Jews would be logically acceptable for those whosupport prescriptivism.Hare recognises the importance of putting oneself in theother’s position, so being able to universalise one’smoral maxims. However, if one is fanatical it might beassumed that one would think the particular groupdeserved to be punished.
37? A Possible Way Forward Naturalism Intuitionism Emotivism PrescriptivismGeoffreyWarnock
38Entropy / Anti-Entropy Hobbes G.J. WarnockEntropy Principle of Social RelationsThis theory points to the limitations of resources, intelligence, knowledge, rationality and sympathy. As a consequence the social fabric tends to fall apart, producing a state of nature in which chaos reigns; classically outlined by Thomas Hobbes.Geoffrey Warnock considered that it was the role of ethics do offer an anti-entropic response, to offer order and structure within society.
39Entropy / Anti-Entropy Hobbes G.J. WarnockEthics is Anti-entropicG.J. Warnock counteracts limited sympathies by upholding virtues which help make for an ordered society:1. Non-maleficience: non harm2. Beneficience: social cooperation3. Impartiality: upholding justice4. Truthfulness: so avoiding self-deceptionSuch principles offer a vision for human flourishing.For Warnock whilst morality is not absolute, it is objective.