Theories about what makes a moral statement true (or false). If we say "murder is wrong", then why is it wrong? What specifically makes it so? Why ought we not do it?
II. Three Main Theories
- Consequentialism (utilitarianism): Moral statements are defined by what brings the most happiness (or pleasure, etc) to the largest number of people. It focuses on the consequences of the act, rather than the act itself.
- Deontology: Moral statements are defined by the act itself, regardless of the consequences. So murder might still be wrong, even if it saves the lives of a very large number of people.
- Virtue ethics: Rather than specific rules like the above theories, virtue ethics theorizes that good habits of character determine morality, with an emphasis on moderation. E.g., too little courage results in a cowardly act, but too much courage results in rash behavior.