Tells us what things are right and wrong- helps us understand what is moral and immoral
What it means to claim something is right or wrong
What do cognitivists say about ethical language?
It has true meaning
What do non cognitivists say about ethical language?
Cannot have true meaning because it is subjective and not objective
Stems from the Vienna Circle in the 1920/30s. Ethical statements aren't analytic or synthetic and so cannot be verified or falsified. It is therefore meaningless.
'Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent'. It is impossible to discuss ethical theories before we understand the terminology involved.
Says that 'good' can be defined as it is provable via empirical evidence- its the same as saying something is factually correct or incorrect. Uses observation, just like science.
Aquinas: goodness is linked to the will of God. Something is good because God says it is. i.e. the ten commandments.
Perry: Goodness is the amount of pleasure/happiness received.
Morality comes from observing your place in society. He rejects hedonism and Kant's idea of duty. A good person= knowing your station in society and the duties that go with it.
G.E.Moore: 'good' cannot be defined. It isn't something that is found in things but used to describe an object. Good is a simple word and is proven so by the Open Question Argument- good is like describing the word yellow.
We understand basic moral principles using our moral intuition. Moore says we instinctively know it is good.
Two different types of thinking: intuition and reasoning. Reasoning collects the fact and intuition determines which course to follow. Obligations present themselves to our intuition. Everyone's intuition is different- some are more developed than others. In a clash of obligations we should choose the greater obligation.
Agreed with Pritchard when saying 'good' and 'obligations' are intrinsically indefineable. Suggested we have prima-facie (at first appearance) duties that our intuition decides from. These are apparant and must be followed unless there is a greater obligation but are in no order.
Prima facie duties
Promise keeping, Reparation for harm done, Gratitiude, Justice, Beneficence, Self improvement and Non malifence.
Ethical statements are an expression of emotion. 'Boo-Hurrah' theory. There are no claims of truth in any moral statements.
Ethical statements are subjective opinions that are there to influence others. Moral judgements therefore contain an expression of attitude and a persuavive element.
Moral statements are more than an expression of emotion. Ethical language is intrinsically prescriptive (implies what ought to be done) and thus the statements command behaviour and guide actions. They are also universal.
Evaluation of naturalism
- Simplistic account
- If ethical statements are based empically they should stand to scrutiny and they don't
- Moore: classifying ethical and non ethical statements together commits the naturalistic fallacy. Based on Hume- to derive an ought from an is is wrong.
Evaluation of intuitionism
- Intuitionists don't agree on the moral principles they say are self evident.
- Intuition is never fully explained
- How do we know whos intuition is correct when there are disagreements?
Evaluation of emotivism
- James Rachels: There are more to statements than just feelings- moral judgements should apply to reason.
- Whats the point in moral debates?
Evaluation of prescriptivism
- J.L.Mackie: morals are not universal- preferences differ