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Unformatted text preview: Philosophy 2410 Notes T.H. Irwin DRAFT, NOT FOR PUBLICATION. DO NOT QUOTE, CITE, COPY, OR CIRCULATE WITHOUT PERMISSON V: META-ETHICS ISSUES IN META-ETHICS 'Meta- ethics' marks a contrast with normative ethics or moral theory. In moral theory we try to work out the most reasonable account of what is morally right (and for that purpose we examine, for instance, utilitarian and Kantian normative theories). In meta- ethics we do not ask questions within ethics, as we have been doing. We ask questions about ethics. We ask what sorts of judgments we make when we make moral judgments, and what we are talking about. Discussion of relativism already some meta- ethical questions, in so far as it raises a general issue about the objectivity of moral judgments. The same general issue could be raised by asking how far moral judgments are like or unlike scientific judgments. 1 Our normal view of physical science and of our common sense beliefs about the world is that they give us knowledge of objective facts and of objective reality. They tell us about things that exist independently of us and of our beliefs; and they tell us facts about them that are independent of our beliefs and theories. Our believing something does not make our belief true. It is not obvious that we can treat ethics in the same way. In some areas there is persistent moral disagreement. We might try to explain this disagreement by saying that moral judgments do not tell us about objective facts at all, but are more like expressions of our tastes or sentiments. With expressions of taste, persistent disagreement does not surprise us. Why not think of moral judgments in that way? 2 Some of the different questions that arise in meta- ethics are these: 1. SEMANTIC QUESTIONS. What do moral judgments mean? How should we understand them? More specifically - are they meant as statements, or are they more like expressions of emotion, or commands? The choice is between a descriptive theory and various sorts of non- descriptive theory. 2. EPISTEMOLOGICAL QUESTIONS. How, if at all, do we know that moral judgments are true? Can we claim to know the truth of a moral judgment in the way we can claim to know the truth of, say, a scientific judgment? This is often put as a question about how we can get from facts to values, or about how we can get from an 'is' to an 'ought'. The choice is between from facts to values, or about how we can get from an 'is' to an 'ought'....
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This note was uploaded on 04/27/2011 for the course PHIL 2400 taught by Professor Walker during the Spring '11 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).
- Spring '11