• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

What is Meta-ethics?

Extracts from this document...


(a) What is Meta-ethics? Meta-ethics is a branch of moral philosophy, which looks at the ways in which people use ethical language. 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 useless and will never accomplish anything. We all use ethical language when we talk about what is right or wrong, but are we all using it in the same way? What do we mean when we call an action 'right'? This essay will establish different views about Meta-ethics and how we should or shouldn't use ethical language. A name which is often used in discussions about Meta-ethics is David Hume. He was an eighteenth century Scottish philosopher, who was keen to show the potentiality and boundaries of logical argument. Hume asked whether there could be such a thing as moral Knowledge. He was a radical empiricist and a sceptic; he believed that all knowledge had to come through our senses. In his book 'a treatise of human nature' Hume asked what a statement like 'murder is wrong' actually means. He concludes that this statement can not be a fact, although we may be able to see a victim's blood and hear their cries for help, we can't just see the wrongness of the murder. ...read more.


There is still room for people's opinions. But Moore believed that we could make moral judgements, even though we could not do it by using our senses, he believed that we could by using our intuition. Another group who agree with Hume and Moore are emotivists. Emotivists like Ayer believe that when we make moral statements such as 'stealing is wrong' we are merely expressing our emotions about the matter. This view is sometimes described as the 'Boo- Hurrah theory'3 because all we are saying is Boo to stealing and Hurrah to respect for people's property. But emotivism has many criticisms. They say that it does not have enough substance to it because our uses of ethical language could change from one day to the next according to how we are feeling. This makes a statement such as 'murder is wrong' no more important than 'eating too many sweets is wrong'. C.L Stevenson modified Ayer's ideas. He took a similar view but he went on to argue that our ethical statements are not just random, based on the mood of the day, they are based on our beliefs about the world and how it should work. For example, we do not agree with the Holocaust murders not just because they were not to our taste but because we have firm beliefs about human dignity and worth. ...read more.


believed that you could never get an ought from an is, he said that sometimes instead of moving from one step to the next, people often made a great leap and claimed to have proved a point. He called this mistake the 'Naturalistic Fallacy'4, and this comes from the viewpoint of all Intuitionists. Another Intuitionalist; Moore, believed that it is still possible for us to decide whether a moral statement is true or false, even if we cannot use our five senses. He believed that we could use our 'moral intuition' and said "If I am asked 'what is good?' my answer is that good is good, and that is the end of the matter". 5 So Ethical Naturalists and Intuitionalists both believe that goodness is something that can be known. It is not just a matter of opinion, but something which we can be certain about which I agree with. However, emotivists and prescriptivists both disagree with this and say that we cannot have certain knowledge about good and bad things. They argue that moral language is not objective; it goes no further than expressing the preferences and feelings of the person making the statement, or recommending that other people follow their advice. I think that prescriptivism and emotivism have several faults. First of all I believe emotivism doesn't have enough substance to it. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Practical Questions section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Practical Questions essays

  1. Religious Language cannot be proved, therefore it is meaningless

    Therefore we are using analogies. He argued there is a relationship between the world and God. God created the world and sustains it so there is a clear comparison. He went on to develop two forms of analogy to talk about God. Analogy of proportion and analogy of attribution.

  2. In this essay I will be looking at Ethics and the importance of using ...

    * Continue with the counselling but only with the full support and backing of your supervisor. If you as a counsellor are able continue then this would be an excellent learning curve and personal development. * If our attraction towards the client was too influential then we would have to refer the client to another counsellor.

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

    G.E.Moore criticised naturalism, as he believed that moral judgements are based on intuitive knowledge of good things. Moore argued that things that are essentially good couldn't be defined or analysed, they are simply good, and good is an idea not a fact.

  2. 'Euthanasia should be legalised. Agree or Disagree?'

    the patient who is requesting euthanasia and that the patient is fully aware of the situation.

  1. "Religious ethics are not the best approach to environmental issues". Discuss.

    this richness and diversity [of the Earth's life forms] except to satisfy vital needs." On the surface Deep Ecology appears to be a useful approach to environmental issues as it respects the natural world and instructs humans to tread lightly on the earth, causing as little damage as possible.

  2. Business Ethics

    > Intentional amoral managers * Simply believe that ethical considerations are for our private lives, not for business. There are people who reject the idea that business and ethics should mix. Believe that business activity resides outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply.

  1. Religious Ethics are not the best approach to environmental ethics'. Discuss.

    the measure of extent or duration of happiness but instead on the satisfaction of desires or preferences. Singer measures the importance of an individual or being, not on their possession of a soul or reason, but on their ability to suffer.

  2. The Ethical Debate Concerning Cloning.

    According to one Jewish scholar, a clone would be unique by her mode of birth. However, in dealing with this 'uniqueness' she will have experiences that will make her a better person. On the contrary, in an article in U.S.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work