2 Three Types of EthicsMeta-Ethics – examines the language of ethics and moral reasoning.Normative Ethics – seeks to set the content (required actions) of moral behaviour.Descriptive Ethics – statistics and ethical facts
3 Meta - EthicsExamines ethical language such as ‘good’, ‘ought’ and ‘wrong’. In other words, what do we mean when we call something ‘good’ or ‘bad’?
4 Normative EthicsTries to provide a guide for moral behaviour. In seeks to answer the question “What ought I do in situation x?” The moral theories of Kant and Bentham are examples of normative ethics.
5 BACKGROUND TO META-ETHICS A essential factor in ethical problems is whether they are eitherSUBJECTIVEorOBJECTIVE
6 Are they based onpersonal opinionor onexternal facts?
7 “The 2003-2004 Norwich City side is the best of all time.” Subjective (an OPINION – that can’t be tested)“The sun is shining”Objective (a FACT – that can be tested)
8 it can be known and proved Some technical termsIf a thing is objective, then it isCOGNITIVEit can be known and proved
9 If a thing is subjective, then it is NON-COGNITIVEIt can’t be proven
10 Stop chatting at the back and pay attention to me! With it so far?Stop chatting at the back and pay attention to me!
11 Cognitive ethical language Makes propositions that (it claims) can be known to be either true or false.
12 SUCH ASKilling people is wrongBe faithful to your partnerNever tell a lie
13 Why?A cognivtist would claim that we can ‘prove’ such statements to be true.TASK:How could you ‘prove’ that these things are bad, immoral, wicked or evil?
14 Killing people is wrong Be faithful to your partnerNever tell a lie
15 Example Kant was a COGNITIVE ethicist WHY? Because he believed that you could ‘prove’ how people ought to behave.HOW?The Good Will, reason, & universalisablity
17 Non-cognitive ethical language Claims that in ethics we aren’t dealing with things that are resolved by ascertaining the validity or falsification of a statement.To put it another wayYOU CAN’T PROVE IT!
18 Meta-ethics divides into two parts: COGNITIVIST ETHICAL THEORYNON-COGNITIVIST ETHICAL THEORY
19 COGNITIVIST ETHICAL THEORY ETHICAL NATURALISMINTUITIONISM
20 NON-COGNITIVIST ETHICAL THEORY LOGICAL POSITIVISTSEMOTIVISMPRESCRIPTIVISM
21 ETHICAL NATURALISMTreats ethical statements just the same as non-ethical statement – propositions that can be proved or disproved.For example:The statement “acid turns litmus paper red” is true because it can be established using evidence.The statement “murder is wrong” is also true. If we look at the evidence, we see that generally murder makes people unhappy, it is wrong to make people unhappy therefore murder is wrong.
22 CRITICISM OF ETHICAL NATURALISM G. E. Moore (Principa Ethica)The Naturalistic FallacyMoral statements can’t be verified (proved) using empirical evidenceYou can’t turn an ‘is’ – a fact – into an ‘ought’ – what we ought to do
23 ExampleThe world IS in a terrible state – pollution so bad budgies are falling off their perches, rain forests the size of Wales disappear every week just to keep Yanks in burgers, nuclear waste being left all over the place – any terrorist could get their hands on it!The world IS in such a terrible state, we OUGHT to do something about itTherefore pollution, deforestation & nuclear waste ARE WRONG (or evil or bad – pick your own moral term!) and we OUGHT to do something about them.
24 G. E. Moore’s Intuitionism In place of Ethical Naturalism, Moore proposed INTUITIONISM.He said that ‘good’ is indefinable:
25 “We know what ‘yellow’ is and can recognise it whenever it is seen, but we cannot actually define yellow. In the same way, we know what good is but we cannot actually define it.”
26 For Moore,‘Good’ is indefinable;there are objective moral truths;the basic moral truths are self evident to the mature mind.
27 Henry Sidgewick & Intuitionism Believed that there were three self-evident moral truths or principles:Prudence – defer an immediate pleasure for a greater pleasure in the future (e.g. saving up money)Justice – you should not put your own interests in front of those of the communityBenevolence – care for those in need
28 F. H. Bradley & Intuitionism We discover moral obligation from society.Moral obligation is called the concrete universal.Moral activity = find your position in society and do your duties.“Don’t question society”
29 H. A. Prichard & Intuitionism Two types of thinking:General thinking – a moral decision is made relative to the situation at handMoral thinking – rested on immediate intuition and not reason – this is what indicates the right thing to do.
30 H. A. Prichard (Cont)Some have clearer moral intuition that others because their moral thinking has been further developed. This accounts for differences in moral actions.BUT, he didn’t tell us how to ascertain who has the clearer intuition.
31 Greatly influenced by Moore and Prichard But went further and said: W. D. Ross & IntuitionGreatly influenced by Moore and PrichardBut went further and said:‘Right’ and ‘obligatory’ are as indefinable as ‘good’
32 W. D. Ross (Cont)There are two elements in determining what is right:The factual situationHow that situation is viewed
33 W. D. Ross (Cont)The right (good) act is an act which the agent thinks is right in the situation as the agent thinks it is
34 W. D. Ross (Cont)WHY?Because the subjective evaluation of the situation leads to a direct form of individual intuition to access right conduct.
35 “Let conscience be your guide” But!Aquinas has already said this centuries earlier in a slightly different form.He said“Let conscience be your guide”Which leads us very neatly into
36 CRITICISM OF INTUITIONISM How can we be sure that intuitions are correct?Are they just a gut feeling?Voice of God? Conscience?Neurosis? Paranoia?
37 CRITICISM OF INTUITIONISM People who use intuition and those who use reason may reach different conclusions and there is no obvious way to resolve their differences.
38 CRITICISM OF INTUITIONISM Intuited knowledge owes more to social background than any firm basis for morality ~ at least according to Bradley.
39 CRITICISM OF INTUITIONISM According to the logical positivists, since individuals’ intuitions cannot be tested, they aremeaningless.
40 And now for something completely different. . . INTRODUCING (for your pleasure and amusement) . . .THE LOGICAL POSITIVISTS
41 NON COGNITIVIST ETHICAL THEORIES Rejected the idea of certain knowledge about good and badStatements only have meaning if they can be testedMoral statements cannot be tested so logically therefore, they have no meaning
42 EMOTIVISM A. J. Ayer ‘Boo Hurrah Theory’ Moral statements only express personal feelings‘Abortion is wrong” = ‘I don’t like abortion.’moral statements are arbitrary and meaningless.
43 EMOTIVISM C. L. Stevenson modified Ayer’s ideas. Ethical statements = expressions of attitude and opinionNot arbitrary BUTbased on beliefs about the world, the ways it should work, worldly experiences and what we want it to be.
44 CRITICISMS OF EMOTIVISM How can you judge between two people’s moral opinions?Isn’t it just the same as relativism?
45 CRITICISMS OF EMOTIVISM It prescribes complete freedom of action because everyone’s opinion is equally valid. Everyone is free to do what they choose, regardless of the opinion of others.
46 PRESCRIPTIVISM R. H. Hare agrees with Ayer - moral statements are expressions of opinionBut also prescribing our opinions to others.“Murder is wrong” = “You ought not to murder and neither should I”
47 CRITICISMS OF PRESCRIPTIVISM Moral judgements are founded on prescriptions and have no claim to objective truth.
48 In other wordsWe agree the rules and try and stick to them (a sort or ethical gentleman’s agreement!)
49 CRITICISMS OF PRESCRIPTIVISM Doesn’t specify why I should follow your rules rather than mine!(And what if I don’t like the rules - why should I follow them at all - lacks ethical authority!)