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Explain how Meta-Ethics differs from Normative Ethics.

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1. Explain how Meta-Ethics differs from Normative Ethics Meta Ethics can also be called philosophical ethics and is a twentieth century concept. This section of ethics explores the meaning of moral language. The most common passage explored in meta-ethics is the meaning of the words; 'good, bad, right or wrong'. When deciding what a meta-ethical question is, its best to look for the use of those words. An example of a meta-ethical question would be, 'What do we mean when we say that euthanasia is wrong?' There are two main branches of meta-ethics. One being ethical non-naturalism (also known as intuitionism) and non-cognitivism (which is also know as emotivism). Normative Ethics was dominant up until the end of the nineteenth century, now it is commonly replaced by meta-ethics. The theory begins by establishing what things are good and what things are bad. It also decides how people ought to act and behave, as well as how a person makes moral choices. These choices are based on a person's culture or religion and form a traditional way of doing ethics. An example of a normative ethical question would be, 'Is Capital Punishment right?' There are two further branches of normative ethics; Deontological and Teleological. Deontological theories are concerned with the acts themselves, which are intrinsically right or wrong. ...read more.


He also argued that moral principles wouldn't be absolute. W.D Ross believed that duties should be judged on first appearances. Therefore when faced with a moral dilemma, the duties and obligations are apparent. These are called 'prima facie' duties. There are seven different first appearance duties; keeping promises, amendments made for harm done, gratitude, justice and self-improvement. When making a moral decision our intuition identifies the duties even though our actual isn't obvious. W.D Ross believed that things that are right to do and things that are good to do, differed depending on a person's intention or reason for doing it. He did allow a solution when a person's duties conflicted. He said that a personal nature of duty and a feeling of obligation to our parents, could overrule the need to provide greater good. The criticisms of intuitionism, changes corresponding to the people who have analysed the theory and developed it themselves. G.E. Moore declared many things about good and how it couldn't be defined but he never actually proved his case. H.A Pritchard's main weakness was that he didn't discriminate enough between the conclusions when our intuitions differ. Finally, W.D Ross doesn't seem to take into account the rights of people, even in life/death situations. People also argue that, who knows what is and isn't a 'prima facie', and how can people be sure that what W.D Ross says is correct. ...read more.


Prescriptivism is the view that sincere moral judgements necessarily express the judger's overriding commitment about how to act. For example, suppose you say that you think one ought to do something, but you are not committed to doing it in the relevant circumstances, or to having it done to you in those circumstances. The developer of Prescriptivism, R.M. Hare thought that what made moral prescriptions different from non-moral ones was that any moral judgment about what a particular individual ought to do in some set of circumstances entails a universal judgment about what anyone with that person's characteristics ought to do in those circumstances. Hare rejected subjective idea of morality in emotivism. He believed that moral statements did more than describe behaviour or expressing attitudes. Hare argued that moral statements had a prescriptive quality because they commanded behaviour, guiding our actions. Moral statements are made to guide choices, both of our own and other people's. When someone says that abortion is wrong, a person is trying to prescribe an attitude and say that you would like somebody to come round to your way of thinking. Hare made a case for moral statements having universal and prescriptive qualities, while he also accounts for the work done by A.J Ayer and C.L Stevenson. R.M Hare's development of a meta-ethical theory retains objective moral norms presents an alternative to traditional normative ethics. Sian Chesher Ethics - October 2003 1 ...read more.

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