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Explain why there maybe problems about the meaning of ethical language

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Introduction

Explain why there maybe problems about the meaning of ethical language. (12) Discuss possible solutions to these problems. (8) Ethical language uses words, terms and phrases from normal language, but they normally do not have the same meaning. Words such as; 'good' have a variety of meanings in the normal everyday use, but also have several different meanings when used in moral philosophy. For example, the dictionary gives the following definitions of the word good; 'having the right or desired qualities, satisfactory, adequate, efficient, competent, reliable, strong, kind, benevolent, morally excellent, virtuous, charitable, well-behaved, enjoyable, agreeable, thorough, considerable.' Then 'good' can be used to mean the following in moral philosophy; an inherent quality which is widely beneficial, the opposite of bad or evil, something one or more persons approves of, useful in that the good action/concept/attitude enriches human life, or God-like or what God wants. The same problem applies to many other words within the English language, however is best illustrated by the word 'good'. ...read more.

Middle

For example, if a woman desperately wanted children but this was impossible except through fertility treatment, many would say that she ought to be offered fertility treatment. In this case the 'is' statement is; a marries woman wants a child, and the 'ought' statement is; she should be offered IVF. G E Moore would argue that the 'ought' statement does not logically follow from the 'is' statement, but there has to be an intermediate statement, however this would also be an 'ought; statement. JR Searle, argues that you can move from an 'is' to an 'ought', his argument is as follows; Jones says, 'I promise to pay you $5 Smith, Jones has, therefore, offered to pay Smith $5, Jones has voluntarily put himself under obligation to pay Smith the money, Jones is, therefore, under obligation to pay, Jones ought to pay Smith $5. In this argument the first four statements are all 'is' statements, and the last is an 'ought' statement. ...read more.

Conclusion

Moreover, there is the Naturalistic Fallacy, which is the is-ought debate; whether it is possible to move from an 'is' statement to an 'ought' statement. Furthermore, according to some people some ethical statements are 'meaningless', it could be argued that this is because of the ethical language used. The only possible solution to there being room for misinterpretation of words because they have many different meanings, is to create new words which have there own specific definition which is agreed on by all. Or just to have agreed on definitions of all words used in ethical language such as 'good', however this is not likely to work. The problem of the naturalistic Fallacy for ethical language cannot be readily solved, the only possibility is, in my opinion, for it to be accepted by all moral philosophers that you cannot move form an 'is' to an 'ought'. The same applies for the 'meaningless' statements, I agree with the logical positivists and see statements which cannot be verified in any way as 'meaningless'. Thomas Taylor ...read more.

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