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Meta-ethics is about the ways in which people understand how moral language is used, rather than about finding answers to moral issues. Discuss.

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Lucy Holloway 16/11/03 Meta-ethics is about the ways in which people understand how moral language is used, rather than about finding answers to moral issues. Discuss. Meta-ethics can be defined simply as the analysis of ethical language. Meta-ethics looks at the meaning of moral judgements and analyses the reasoning behind ethical systems. Meta-ethics includes discussion of what moral language is all about and how it can be justified. Instead of asking the question "is it right?" scholars of Meta-ethics ask "what am I doing when I make that sort of statement?" or "what does it actually mean to say something is right or wrong? Meta-ethics developed throughout the twentieth century, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States, in an attempt to discover what people really did mean when they argued about things being right or wrong. Meta-ethics is a totally different way of thinking about ethics. Usually, in the study of ethics involves the endeavour to arrive at acceptable principals of obligation and general judgements of value, in order to determine what is morally right or wrong and hence what or who is morally good or bad. Meta-ethics however does not propound any moral principals or goals for action as it consists merely of philosophical analysis, in terms of clarifying and understanding moral language. ...read more.


However, in some cases desire can easily be thought of as something evil as opposed to something good. Therefore in this theory care must be taken to maintain that the desires of a person that were being satisfied were competent decisions and that the person deciding was a morally competent adult with a sincere and serious desire. There is no objective scale of values that can be used to define what a sincere desire is and therefore good cannot be measured accurately. Ethical non-naturalism, or intuitionism is a theory produced by G.E Moore, and sprung up as an attack at ethical naturalism. He argued that ethical naturalism defined more moral terms by using too open questions and therefore coherent answers could not be achieved. In Moore's theory of Intuitionism he distinguished between complex and simple things. Complex things being capable of analysis, simple things were not. For example he said that; "If one were trying to describe an object as "yellow" one is quite clear what one can see. If we are asked to analyse it so that someone else can understand what we are seeing, we cannot do this in words, all we can do is show them colour for themselves. ...read more.


For example, the statement "Euthanasia is wrong" should really read "I do not agree with Euthanasia". However, there are problems with this as sometimes the truth however depends on the speaker. For example the statement "I am allergic to strawberries" said by one person may not be true for another person. C.L Stevenson, in his book Ethics and language states that "there are conflicts of belief and attitude. If one doctor says "operate!" and another says "drug therapy", they are in moral agreement,-there is no dispute over trying to cure the patient. Therefore the vast majority of disagreement about what is right is in fact disagreement about belief, and not moral disagreements at all" (c). A.J.Ayer states that; "Moral judgements are not propositions at all-they are not true or false. They do not describe anything, not even the feeling of the speaker. They are more like exclamations". (a) Moral prepositions are still prepositions, but they are only true or false in relations to the person speaking. However, exclamations are still ways of communicating feelings, and they can also be used to mislead. Therefore the non-cognitivist theory, proposes that moral judgements lie between descriptions and exclamations, and have characteristics of both. The three main variations on Meta-ethics all follow the same fundamental principal - Meta-ethics is the philosophical analysis of language and does not aim to propound any principals or goals. ...read more.

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