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Explain and discuss the four major theories of meta-ethics; Naturalism, Emotivism, Intuitionism and Prescriptivism.

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Introduction

3 November 2003 Explain and discuss the four major theories of meta-ethics; Naturalism, Emotivism, Intuitionism and Prescriptivism. Meta-ethics is the debate of ethical language. Discussions about whether ethics is relative and whether we always act from self-interest are examples of meta-ethical debates. In fact, evaluating the hypothetical difference between Meta-ethics, Normative Ethics, and Applied Ethics is a "meta-ethical analysis" itself. "Meta" means after or beyond, and so meta-ethics involves a removed view of the entire project. Naturalism is the idea that ethical values can be proven in the same way that scientific values are. It is the idea that morals are facts, and they are facts because they can be proven like scientific facts can be by experiments, hypothesise, observation and analysis. Ethical naturalism tries to connect the way we reason morally to the way we reason scientifically and states that they are similar. Naturalism states that the ethical terms we use can be defined using the same "natural" terms that we would use to define studies like mathematics. Naturalists come to a conclusion that something is either wrong or right by observation and analysis, and they also state that moral facts are not opinions or views, likes or dislikes, and neither are they based on intuitive sense or spiritual, i.e. ...read more.

Middle

H.A. Prichard, another intuitionist thought that there were two kinds of thinking - intuition and reasoning and that reasoning assembled the acts concerned and that intuition determined which course of action to follow. The main message in intuitionism is that morals are our own intuitions, that are either based upon our own experiences, or experiences shared though some other form, and that not all people clearly perceive the moral truth, as people's morals differ, and also that our intuitions don't all reach the same degree of moral enlightenment. There are also criticisms with intuitionism, for instance that not everyone would agree on their intuition, past experiences may alter how they think or react in certain situations, causing them to do either the right or wrong thing. But also, nobody actually really knows what is the right or wrong thing, for example, serial killers may believe that murder is right, whereas others think it is completely wrong, people may do a completely immoral act because they believe it was an act of God, and therefore it must be good as God is good, so human morals differ from person to person. ...read more.

Conclusion

Prescriptivism is the last major meta-ethics theory, and seeks to make moral statements objective. R.M. Hare thought that morals were both prescriptive and universal, and the only coherent way to behave morally was to act on judgements that you're prepared to universalise. He believed that moral statements did more than describe behaviour or express attitudes, and said that they had a "prescriptive" quality due to there commanding behaviour which guided our actions, they are to guide choices. Prescriptivism is trying to enlighten people, or even enforce your own opinion and way of thinking onto people, and to make them come round to that way of thinking. However, some reject the idea that morals are universal, and that your own ideas and needs are different to everyone else's so the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have done to yourself" is incorrect as you and another person will have different objectives and thoughts. Also different situations will require another way of thinking, and a different solution, so the moral rules for a similar situation may differ. R.M. Hare's expansion of prescriptivism, submits a distinct alternative to traditional normative ethics. Laura North 12M2 AS Level Religious Education Metaethics Ms Methorst 1 ...read more.

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