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Discuss the different ways in which the word "good" is used in meta-ethics.

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Introduction

a) Discuss the different ways in which the word "good" is used in meta-ethics. Meta-ethics is the branch of moral philosophy which looks at the ways in which people use the language or morals, asking questions about what we mean when we call something 'good' or 'wrong'. Meta-ethics is the term we use to describe the language of morality. Meta-ethical philosophers try to work out what we are doing when we use moral language because if there is no agreement about the meaning of ethical language, then ethical debate is pointless and will never achieve anything. Do we know something to be good, or do we believe that it is good? Are we talking about facts or values when we use the language of morals? ...read more.

Middle

Ethical naturalists believe that it is equally possibly to establish morals facts and non-moral facts by looking at the evidence. G.E Moore had a cognitivist view on ethical language. He believed that it is still possible for us to decide whether a moral statement is true or false, even if we cannot use our powers of observation to give us the answers. He said that moral and ethical language cannot be defined through facts, if you want to find the goodness of moral actions you can find it through intuition or 'instinct'. We use our moral intuition and although we cannot explain how we know when something is good, we do still recognise goodness when we see it, we just know it. ...read more.

Conclusion

Where as if Stevenson were to say 'X is good', he would mean, 'I approve of X and would like you to do so, too', indicating that we use persuasive definitions and are not just expressing out feelings, but also persuading the feelings of others. Prescriptivism, still a non-cognitivist view, but is another approach to emotivism. It was developed by R.M Hare, his view declared that when we make moral statements, we a re not only expressing out feelings but are encouraging others to share our attitudes. We are prescribing out opinions, recommending that our listeners adopt our approach. If Hare were to say, 'X is good' he means that, 'I prescribe X to myself and everybody else'. ...read more.

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