13lecture1 - 1 LECTURE 1-PHI LOSOPHY 13 "Abortion is...

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1 LECTURE 1------PHILOSOPHY 13 "Abortion is morally wrong." "Abortion is not morally wrong." --What sort of disagreement is this? When we speak of ethical or moral claims, what are we talking about? This question could prompt an empirical inquiry. A social scientist might observe what ethical and moral claims people make in various circumstances and the degree to which their behavior conforms to the norms they profess. She could try to figure out what causes people to exhibit these verbal behavior and conduct. These are perfectly reasonable questions, but in this class we are not seeking empirical description or explanation. Moral claims belong in the category of evaluations, which are distinct and separate from the category of empirical (factual) claims. Empirical claims, from common sense judgments such as "there is a crow now on the roof" to sophisticated assertions of theoretical science, are confirmed by observation. They rest on the evidence of our senses. Evaluations are different. The category of evaluations includes aesthetic judgments and judgments about what is good and bad, desirable and undesirable, and much else. An empirical claim like "the cat is on the mat" is true just in case the cat is on the mat, but what in the world would make it true or false that abortion is morally OK? Two views about evaluations, morals included: Noncognitivism : Evaluative claims are not genuine assertions, they cannot be true or false, correct or incorrect. Cognitivism: Evaluations are genuine assertions, they can be true or false, correct or incorrect. (Our main course authors, Mill and Locke, go for cognitivism.) (On their face, evaluative claims have the form of assertions. But someone might hold this is systematically misleading. Our ordinary language of moral talk contains the assumption that moral claims are genuine assertions, but this assumption is systematically false. No moral claim can be shown to be true or false. On this view, when people use ordinary moral concepts and make ordinary moral claims, they are massively in error. This “error theory” about moral claims does not fit into either the cognitivist or the noncognitivist category as characterized in the preceding paragraph.) One example of a noncognitivist view about ethics: emotivism. The emotivist holds that ethical judgments don't make assertions but instead express the pro and con attitudes of the speaker. Thus, saying "abortion is wrong" is roughly equivalent to "Boo on abortion!" and "abortion is morally OK" is roughly equivalent to "Yeah for abortion!"--this is according to the emotivist. Another noncognitivist view: prescriptivism : moral evaluations are in the same category as orders and commands. A moral evaluation expresses the speaker’s demand that something be done. So, “you ought to shut the door” might be paraphrased as, “Let it be the case that you shut the door!”. This is close to “Shut the door!”. (Some identify moral claims with universal prescriptions—prescriptions that the speaker wills for everyone in
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This note was uploaded on 09/07/2011 for the course PHIL 13 taught by Professor Arneson during the Spring '08 term at UCSD.

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13lecture1 - 1 LECTURE 1-PHI LOSOPHY 13 "Abortion is...

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