Plato and Aristotle -

Plato and Aristotle -

Meta Ethics Meta ethics defined means after or beyond ethics Also referred to as second order moral discourse. It is concerned with the study of and analysis of, and meaning behind, the language that we use when we discuss ethical issues. Rather than detailing a way to make an ethical choice to a given issue like for example euthanasia (normative ethics) meta ethics looks at and evaluates if the language we use in these debates has any real and useful meaning or truth. Some of the approaches that you will study reject there being any meaningful point in discussion right and wrong or good and bad as our ideas, culture and emotions make the use of those terms too vague and shifting to actually have an objective meaning. Others state we can know what is good we can gather empirical data and make an informed choice.

Evaluat e Can there be a definitive answer to what we mean by the term good? Can you think of an examples of why good is subjective?

Does it being relative and subjective make it lack Meta-ethics Does moral language have a special logic? Is it descriptive of a moral fact? Is it prescriptive, strongly urging, prescribing, directing, giving force to the moral ought? Is it a special sort of language, neither analytic (true by definition), nor synthetic (empirically

true or false), but meaningful in terms of its own type of language-game? 2 2 Do Ethical Statements have meaning? COGNITIVISTS Moral statements describe the world . They can be worked out using the senses. E.g. Murder is wrong is stated by observing the effects of the action. Objective (not influenced

by personal feelings) NON-COGNIVITISTS A moral statement is an expression of a feeling. They are not descriptive and cannot be described as true or false. Subjective (based on or influenced by personal feelings) 5 4 Reminder Meta Ethics

Meta-ethics is concerned with what we mean when we use words like good bad right wrong. It is not a normative system of ethics its does not tell us what we can and cant do. Instead, it encourages us to think what do I mean by saying stealing is wrong? What is Naturalism? Are our ethics a real part of our natural existence? Can we give a natural explanation of goodness? Ethical Naturalism This is the view that morals can be defined or explained in natural terms, or supported

through the observation of the world in science. Naturalism states that ethical issues can be cognitively known. Naturalists develop their ideas with nonmoral evidence. If we define goodness as pleasure, we may look at evidence of pleasure and pain in actions. If we say that goodness is whatever God desires, we will look for evidence of Gods purposes in the natural world. Ethics: a natural factor of the world around us? Ethical Non-Naturalism The philosopher G.E. Moore criticised

ethical naturalism for its tendency to associate goodness with varying and often contradictory properties. He believed that defining goodness in terms of natural facts is mistaken, referring to this as the naturalistic fallacy. Moore: Ethical naturalism = bad idea Forms of naturalism Ethical naturalism can take several different forms. A major difficulty is the exact definition of "nature," "natural," and "natural law." Various examples of ethical naturalism are as follows:

Observable data can provide an answer to a moral dilemma. Ethical values are reducible to natural properties; e.g. a good action is an action in conformity with the proper function of a thing as in the Stoic/NL notion of "activities which result from a thing's nature." Ethical values are a distinctive kind property-not reducible to those studied by the physical sciences but possibly studied by the social sciences (e.g. Psychology). 7 7 Examples of naturalism Utilitarianism, good = pleasure or happiness. Natural law, good = natural rational

purpose. Virtue ethics, good = agreed social goal of eudaimonia or flourishing. Task: explain how and why one of the above conforms to the naturalistic stance. 8 8 A straw-man argument Generally speaking, to define ethical naturalism as a doctrine implying that natural actions are right and unnatural actions are wrong is to set up a straw-man argument. It is easy to demonstrate that natural cannot precisely mean good. Think of sexual ethics: I might naturally feel

lustful but that doesnt mean its good to sleep with the first person I meet. Similarly, to be gay may be seen by some to be unnatural, but that doesnt mean being gay is morally wrong. We must be careful how we use natural in naturalism. 9 9 Summary Naturalism Links moral terms with some kind of natural property. Natural in that they are found in the natural world, specifically the natural realms of human psychology and human society. Many modern philosophers, like Alasdair MacIntyre or the utilitarians, are naturalists. Every type of item which is appropriate to call good - including persons and actions - has, as a matter of fact, some specific

purpose or function. To call something good is therefore also to make a factual statement. To call a particular action just or right is to say that it is what a good man would do in this situation; hence this type of statement too is factual...once the notion of essential human purposes disappears from morality, it begins to appear implausible to treat moral statements as factual (After Virtue, 1981:59). Key question: verifiability The key question of the success of ethical naturalism is whether morality is amenable to observational testing. Or is observational evidence irrelevant to moral judgments? The basic issue of observational testing depends upon whether moral principles can be tested and confirmed in the way scientific principles are. For example, suppose we accept the following

statement as an ethical principle: murder is wrong. The empirical question is this situation would this action constitute murder (e.g. think of abortion case by case). 11 11 Naturalistic Fallacy The idea that just because nature acts in a certain way it does not follow that this is how things ought to be. G. E. Moore : 1.We should not confuse good with a factual or natural physical or metaphysical property. 2.We should not presume that good is equal to or the same as a natural or metaphysical property.

David Hume: 1.We cannot deduce an OUGHT from an IS. 2.We cannot move from FACTS to VALUES. Next steps: Research and explain Humes fork in your notes. Read through both articles and write 5 facts about each view in your notes. Top philosopher: What does John Searle say about the Naturalistic Fallacy. Naturalism Criticism: The fact/value problem Text The problem of determining whether values are essentially

different from facts, whether moral assessments are derived from facts, and whether moral statements can be true or false like factual statements. Meta-ethics is used as a type of inquiry to address the factvalue problem. David Hume (18thC) raised the fact/value issue. He argued there was no such thing as a moral fact. AJ Ayer (20thC) later developed this idea. Hume Is (Fact) Ought (value) Moral theories begin by observing some specific facts about the

world, and then they conclude from these some statements about moral obligation. In other words, they move from statements about what is the case to statement about what ought to be the case. Hume was a naturalist himself (morality derives from a natural feeling of sympathy), but is asking us to provide the missing premise. Intuitionism The philosopher G.E. Moore criticised naturalism. Text Instead he said we have an infallible intuitive knowledge of good things. For example: I dont need to observe a

murder to know that killing someone is wrong I just know it is. Intuitionism argues that ethical statements are cognitive as they can be know via our intuition. Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore: best mates Moore set out his ideas about ethics in his book Principia Ethica (1903), taking on the common naturalistic ideas in moral philosophy. Good cannot be defined and philosophers have wasted their time trying. His counter-suggestion was what he

called moral intuitionism. Intuitionism - Cognitive H.A Prichard No definition can be given to the word ought however everyone can recognise when we ought to do a certain action. Two types of thinking 1) reason (looks at the facts in a situation) and 2) intuition (decides what to do). However, due to the fact we have different morals to each other, it is not always appropriate to use intuition to prove intrinsic goodness of any action. Only the obligation in the situation. Peoples morals differed as some people have clear intuitions than others.

Simple v Complex Moore argued that there are simple and complex ideas. Complex = horse can be broken down into animal, mammal, quadruped, equine. Simple = yellow we cant break it down any further. Prima Facie Duties Ross listed the following as prima facie duties: Keeping a promise, Reparation for harm done, Gratitude, Justice, Beneficence, Self-improvement,

Non-maleficence. He acknowledged that this list might not be complete. Moral terms are simple Good Bad Right Wrong Are simple terms: Good is simply good. If I am asked what is good? my answer is that good is good, and thats an end of the matter.there is no intrinsic difficulty in the contention that good denotes a simple and indefinable quality. There are many other instances of such qualities. By far the most valuable things, which we can know or imagine, are certain states of consciousness which may be roughly described

as the pleasures of human intercourse and the enjoyment of beautiful objects G.E. Moore Principia Ethica 1903:6-10, 188 Yellow Metaphor Task: Explain the Yellow metaphor 1.Explain why is good like yellow? Ethically Colour Blind? problem! Task: 1.3 facts about Nietzsche 2.What did he say was a problem with intuitionism?

3.What does he mean by ethically colour blind? 4.Give an example to illustrate a person being ethically colour blind. Vice and Virtue Tasks: 1.Explain Nietzsches concerns about vice and virtue. 2. Which Christian virtues could potentially be a vice? 3. Give a scenario to illustrate the above. W.D. Ross Defense of Intuitionism

Ross accepted Moores version of ethics and also added that in any given situation moral duties or obligations become apparent. A mature mind will recognize them. These are called prima facie duties. Prima facie means at first appearance Text Prima Facie Duties Ross listed the following as prima facie duties:

Keeping a promise, Reparation for harm done, Gratitude, Justice, Beneficence, Self-improvement, Non-maleficence. He acknowledged that this list might not be complete. Emotivism Emotivism is a non cognitive ethical theory. It argues that ethical statements cannot have an objective meaning or absolute definition or truth. Naturalistic

approach and Intuitionism. Emotivism would reject both the A.J. Ayer was a Logical Positivist. He believed that meaningful statements had to be verified synthetically or be true analytically, otherwise they are meaningless. This means that in order to have meaning and be useful statements needed to be evaluated and verified. This was done using their Verification Principle A.J. Ayer - 1910-1989 Emotivism Emotivism is a non-cognitive

theory. It was developed out of the logical positivism that developed in Vienna in the early 20th century. This group known as , the Vienna Circle, rejected the absolutism of the past developed a new philosophy. They believed that the only absolute truths were based on science. They claimed philosophy had become too romantic. They claimed statements were only true if you could verify them and they were based on factual information (analytic and synthetic developed by Kant). If not the

statement was meaningless. Their problem was they believed religious ideas such God to be meaningless. However they struggled to apply there beliefs to morality. Human beings need morals but they are unverifiable. They believed Morality was necessary but is not verifiable. A.J Ayer attempted to solve this problem. Logical Positivism Use Page 206 and 207 to: 1.Explain the background and motivations of the Vienna circle. 2.List the key philosophers involved. 3.Explain the term logical positivist 4.What was the aim and method of the logical positivists/Vienna Circle? 5.What type of statements do Ayer and

the VC say are meaningful? Emotivism non cognitivist Emotivism helps us understand moral statements. ethical terms do not serve only to express feelings, They are calculated also to arouse feeling, and so to stimulate action. Two kinds of meaningful statements analytic (all bachelors are unmarried men) and synthetic (the Battle of Hastings was in 1066). Ethical statements are not verifiable they can only be understood as an expression of feelings. This is known as the

Boo/Hurrah theory. Stretch yourself task: What does James Rachels argue against Ayer? Top philosopher: Find out 5 facts about Ayers verification principle. Influence of Hume Who is Hume? David Hume was born in Edinburgh in 1711, attended the University of Edinburgh from 1723, and died in Edinburgh in 1776, having meanwhile achieved

worldwide fame as an historian and philosopher. He was the most influential thinker of the Scottish Enlightenment and is now recognised as one of the greatest philosophers of all time. He championed empirical thought and influenced thinkers such as Bertrand Russell and the Vienna Circle (Popper, Ayer) Analytic Statements 1+1=2

All triangles have 3 sides All spinsters are unmarried women All of these statements are true in themselves they are true by definition. Synthetic Statements Its snowing Theres a squirrel in that tree That chair is brown These are all synthetic statements - they can be verified by our five senses. Emotivism Task: 1.Explain the different perspectives in the image.

2.Give 2 other examples. Ayer: Moral facts dont exist The presence of an ethical symbol in a proposition adds nothing to its factual content. Thus if I say to someone, you acted wrongly in stealing that money, I am not saying anything more than if I had said simply you stole that money. In adding that this action is wrong I am not making any further statement about it. I am simply evincing my moral disapproval of it. It is as if I said you stole that money in a peculiar tone of horror, or written it with the addition of some special exclamation marks. (Ayer, 1971:142) Analysis: Analyse the above quote. Emotivism Good and Bad

Is good an expression of emotion? A.J. Ayer believed Im not adding anything to the facts of the case when I use good or bad: I am simply evincing a feeling. 1. Write a paragraph to summarise Ayers stance (use page 208-209) 2. Does Ayer have any doubts? 3. How does he address these doubts? 4. What do you think of this revision of his ideas?

Where does that leave us though? The logical positivists may reject God (religious language) but can we reject morality? Or its relevance and need for a place in society? Even if we cannot verify an ethical statement does it become meaningless? At what level would we verify and ethical statement- how much36empirical data and evidence would be required? Stevenson and Wittgenstein 1. How does Ludwig Wittgenstein respond to the issue of morality becoming meaningless? (page 208

Bowie) 2. How does Charles Stevenson respond to Ayes stance? (page 209 Bowie) So what are moral statements? Moral statements cannot be verified synthetically or analytically. Therefore they are not truths or facts. Moral statements are simply expressions of preference, attitude or feeling.

Strengths of command in Ayers Emotivism However, in this theory it is not the case that all emotive statements are equal. Moral statements arouse feelings, but with three different strengths of command. So, implying a duty is the strongest form of statement. Saying that one ought to do something is less strong. Finally, merely stating that something is good/bad is very weak. This is all emotion, but it functions with different intensity.

Problems with emotivism The verification theory of meaning doesn't pass it's own test - its neither analytic nor synthetic. Do we conclude it is meaningless? There is a problem with Ayers view that ethical disagreements are disagreements in attitude. We believe we are disagreeing about facts (such as agreed goals, or a common view of welfare, or the facts of pleasure or pain being caused). Moral Can language seems to say more than merely express emotions.

we reject moral discourse in society? How would we make choices and laws? C. L. Stevenson Stevenson added to Ayers theory by asserting that when we make moral statements we are not only expressing our emotional response to a situation but we are also trying to: persuade others to have the same emotional response.

Criticism of Emotivism: The Removal of Reason The removal of reason is one of the major criticisms of emotivism and intuitionism. James Rachels argues that it is wrong of Ayer to make a connection between the ouch response when you stub your toe and the thats wrong reaction when you see details of a murder on the news. Ayer commits the fallacy of restricting the options: good (argues Ayer) either describes a moral fact, or expresses a moral feeling. Emotivism overlooks a third possibility: moral truths are truths of reason; that is, a moral judgement is true if backed up by better reasons than the alternatives. (Rachels 1993:40)

R.M Hare (1919-2002) Prescriptivism Ethical language is prescriptive. An ethical statement says what ought to be done and these are moral because they are universal. Ethical statements do not state facts and are not true or false, but are expressions of our will or wishes. IF we use the word good in a moral sense we are using a set of standards that apply

to a person or action and we commend that person or action. If we say someone ought to do something, we are saying that we ought to do it as well. Note: Ethical statements are expressions of opinion as well as giving directions as to how we ought to act. Hare states that ethical statements are universalisable but this does not mean they are objective. There is no way of judging one persons preferences over another. Universalisability The universalizability principle states that when an individual prefers one thing to another this implies

that this preference would be good for anybody. If x prefers to care for a sick person rather than go to the pub, this implies that were x to be sick, then x wishes somebody to care for them in the same circumstances. Prescriptivism asserts four basic Prescriptivism asserts four ideas: basic ideas. Can you find

1)Moral sentiment is not sufficient. The out what they are? individuals morality must involve doing 1)what is morally required. 2)The ethical action has to be consistent. It 2)is important in all situations to practice consistent morality. 3)3) Moral belief must be in harmony with others. 4)4)The moral agent cannot be hypocritical. Stretch yourself: Explain in your own words why Prescriptivism is a noncognitive theory. Hare: the importance of moral principles

Principles are central to moral reasoning. Principles serve as major premises in our moral arguments. We acquire or learn a basic set of principles. Then we learn when to use or when to subordinate those principles.

We choose when, where, and why to apply our specific principles but we are committed to them and to universalising them. Hares analogy: driving a car We may illustrate this process of modifying principles from the example already used, that of learning to drive. I am told, for instance, always to draw into the side of the road when I stop the car; but later I am told that this does not apply when I stop before turning into a side-road to the offside -- for then I must stop near the middle of the road until it is possible for me to turn. Still later I learn that in this manoeuvre it is not necessary to stop at all if it is an uncontrolled junction and I can see that there is no traffic which I should obstruct by turning. When I have picked up all these modifications to the rule, and the similar modifications to all the other rules, and practice them habitually as so modified, then I am said to be a good driver, because my car is always in the right place on the road, travelling at the right speed, and so on. The good driver is, among other things, one whose actions are so exactly governed by principles which have become a habit with him, that he normally does not have to think just what to do. But road

conditions are exceedingly various, and therefore it is unwise to let all one's driving become a matter of habit. One can never be certain that one's principles of driving are perfect -- indeed, one can be very sure that they are not; and therefore the good driver not only drives well from habit, but constantly attends to his driving habits, to see whether they might not be improved; he never stops learning. 1 Why might we constantly need to attend to our moral habits to evaluate ourselves rather than relying on habit? What conditions could change? Criticisms of prescriptivism 1. It is too broad and allows for conduct that we typically deem immoral. It permits fanaticism. 2. It permits trivial judgments to count as moral ones as long as we can universalise them. 3. It allows the moral substance in life to slip away from ethical theory. 4. There are no constraints on altering one's principles, as Hare

still maintains there is no objective truth. The idea that ethical language is nonfactual is extremely radical. Are there no moral truths? Your view counts. How can society function without an absolute/objective idea of what good and bad are? Intuitionism and Emotivism are both very different from the normative ethical theories weve looked at: Kant, Natural Law, etc. Which do you think is best? Ideas to Evaluate

What gives a moral statement meaning? To carry weight or to be listened to does it need evidence Is aiming for an objective definition useful? The idea that we just know right or wrong intuitively is really intriguing, but can we agree? Do we have to learn our morals through discussion and reason instead? Are all ethical statements simply a way to influence the actions of others?

49 49 Past Paper Questions To what extent is ethical language meaningful? All ethical language is prescriptive. Discuss To what extent do moral statements have objective meaning? Critically assess the view that the word good has no real meaning.

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