Friday, February 24, 2012

Meta-Ethics: Express Version

I. Questions about Moral Questions

Normative ethics asks, "What makes 'murder is wrong' a true statement? Happiness for the greatest number of people? Sense of duty?"

In contrast, meta-ethics asks, "What kind of statement is 'murder is wrong?' Does it even express a fact at all, or just a grunt of personal emotion?"

II.  "Murder is wrong" expresses a true (or false) fact

If moral statements express true or false statements, then this theory is called cognitivism. Cognitivism further splits into:
  • Moral realism: Moral statements express facts about the world, independent of anyone's opinion or any group or societal opinion.
  • Moral non-realism: While moral statements do express facts, they are just made true by subjective opinions of people, either at the individual or societal level.
III. "Murder is wrong" does not express a fact at all

Moral statements are just expressions of emotion, or of commands. This theory is called non-cognitivism. "Murder is wrong" really means "Blech! Murder!" or "Don't murder!" Note how neither one of these statements can be true or false.

For more details, please see the full article.

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