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Explain what is meant by meta-ethics (33)b) "Words such as 'right' are meaningless". Discuss. (17)

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Ethics Kimberley Moore 12Hr a) Explain what is meant by meta-ethics (33) b) "Words such as 'right' are meaningless". Discuss. (17) a) Meta-ethics explores the meaning and function of moral language. An example of a ethical question is "What do we mean when we say sex before marriage is good? There are three theories which are important to meta-ethics. These are ethical naturalism (or definism), intuitionism (ethical non-naturalism) and emotivism (ethical non-cognitivism). Ethical naturalism is the view ethical terms can be defined or explained using the same 'natural' terms that we would use to define mathematics or science and the morals should be based on the same kind of observation of the world as used in science. Naturalists believe that moral conclusions can be deduced from non-moral premises, or you can discover something is wrong from observation and analysis. ...read more.


In his book he also said that the word "good" cannot be defined. It is a simple idea that cannot be broken down or simplified, unlike horse, which is a complex idea that can be reduced and made further. Moore came up with the "naturalistic fallacy". He said that to define and ethical judgement as a factual one is an error, that to define goodness as the greatest pleasure or the most happiness is to propagate a fallacy. He believed that moral judgements could never be proved empirically (to verify by sense perceptions). The philosopher H.A Prichard furthered this theory. Prichard thought there were two different types of thinking - intuition and reasoning. The difference between the two being reasoning collects the facts and intuition determines which course to follow. For example in deciding whether or not to have an abortion our reason collects all the facts involved and our intuition uses these facts to decide which course of action to follow. ...read more.


Synthetic statements are those that can be identified through sense perceptions ("The book is under the bed") and analytic statements are those that are true by definition ("1+1=2"). Any other facts such as a religious belief are therefore counted as meaningless, as they cannot be proved either analytically or synthetically. Another philosopher called C.L Stevenson developed Ayers ideas, he maintained that moral judgements contain two elements, an expression of attitude based on belief and a persuasive element which seeks to influence others. Stevenson came up with the "hurrah boo" theory to explain this. For example if I am for abortion, I say "HURRAH TO ABORTION" but if I were against it I would say "BOO TO ABORTION". Stevenson's development of the theory gave it more meaning to moral disagreements, which in Ayers view were just noisy shouting matches. b) Words such as right are meaningless because it is a simple idea. Right cannot be broken down into different categories, such as good. Also it cannot be proved analytically or synthetically, making it meaningless. ...read more.

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