Metaethics

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  • Strictly, these are two rather different questions, something we see when we begin to look at the so-called “queerness” objections. Former is ontological; later epistemic?
  • Metaethics

    1. 1. (“What about Everything”, Carbon Leaf)
    2. 2. Please only use the “play” button toadvance the slide showor you’ll missanimated content & movies
    3. 3. Glossary Φ : “philosophy” or “philosophical” NB : nota bene (Latin) for “Please Note” cf. : “compare” e.g. : exempli gratiā (Latin) for “for example” etc. : et cetera (Latin) for “and so forth” ∀ : “Universal” or “for all” ∃ : “there exists” or “for (at least) some”  : “Necessary” or “necessity”  : “Possible” or “possibility” ~x : “not x”∴​ : “Therefore”
    4. 4. Agenda Ethics & Philosophy Metaphysics Epistemology Logic Normative Ethics vs. Metaethics Cf. Applied Ethics Our Metaethical Question:Are there – or could there be – moral facts?
    5. 5. Upshot To be able to distinguish moral accountsthat are subtly different in kind, specifically Moral Relativism “Subjectivism” Getting on to the same page Despite the diversity of the rest of class Each moral position differs (mainly) not evenon what’s morally so, but why it is so and nototherwise
    6. 6. Previously, we “brainstormed” what one might think– pre-theoretically – ethics is all about:
    7. 7. Pre-theoretical Considerations “Right” & “wrong”? “Good” & “bad”? “Evil”? “Ought”? “Should”? Actions? Constraints? Principles? Some guide or guidance? Character? Virtues &Vices ? Values? Origin? Culture? Society? Family? God? Religion? Conscience? A “feeling”? Responsibility? Agency? Evaluation & judgment? Praise & blame? Justification, excuse, &mitigationEtc.
    8. 8. Philosophy (Φ) Itself a philosophical question Traditionally, not distinct from science By analogy with artist, “scientist” coined in1834 by the Rev. William Whewell (1794–1866) Previously, “natural philosopher”; cf. “moralphilosophy” Latter included all of modern Φ sub-disciplines (seebelow)
    9. 9. Philosophy (Φ) Many overly simplistic answers, including: φιλοσοφία; “love of wisdom” “Thinking about thinking” “The study of Big questions” or “of general andfundamental problems” Etc. I prefer: the systematic study of the nature of theworld (widely construed, meaning all possible, inaddition to actual, reality) in all the ways that itis immune to empirical study
    10. 10. Philosophy
    11. 11. E.g. Ontology What is it to be? What is it to be a thing (∃x) at all? As opposed to nothing (~∃x)? Is there a difference between a possible (x) but not real thing (~∃x)and something that is impossible (~x)? and could never be (~x)? (~x ?)
    12. 12. Consider … Swiss CheeseWhat – exactly – are you counting when youcount the “eyes” in a piece of Swiss Cheese?
    13. 13. “Known knowns, …” USDefenseSecretaryDonaldRumsfeld WhiteHouseBriefing,February12, 2002
    14. 14. Normative EthicsStudy of particular moral accounts.Each, roughly … Argues for its own ethical norms. (hence the adjective ‘normative’) A particular understanding of terms such as“right” & “wrong”, “good” & “bad”, etc (Perhaps?) action-guiding – i.e. that by which weought to live
    15. 15. Normative EthicsSubstantive moral principles we ought to follow? Norms as values?But maybe most importantly, each argues why ethics must have its structure and notsome other.NB, the vast bulk of this course
    16. 16. Possibility of Disagreement NB that the mere possibility ofdisagreement between or amongstnormative accounts does not by itselfsuggest that there isn’t a single correct moralaccount! Disagreement ≠ ~∃ moral facts! (Epistemology vs. ontology/metaphysics)
    17. 17. Cf. Applied Ethics Application of one or a variety of normativeaccounts to specific problems, disciplines,endeavors, or cases. Unusual features of a particularly troublingmoral problem E.g. abortion; genetic engineering
    18. 18. Cf. Applied Ethics Special concerns and anxieties of a profession E.g. Medical or bioethics; business ethics Unconcerned with which moral account is right Or why it is right Or how each account is distinct from the other Or how their (observed) convergence orconsensus or moral conclusions affects theseparticular areas of concern
    19. 19. Philosophy to Metaethics
    20. 20. MetaethicsAgain, roughly, … Kinds of normative accounts there evencould be Exploring the logical space of morality The  &  structures and features of suchaccounts Why each account is so and not otherwise And how we could know this
    21. 21. Metaethics How purported moral properties or terms must work Theory independent E.g. What do (or could) terms like “good”, “right”,“ought”, or “obligation” mean in general? Whenspecifically moral? What is the epistemic status of moral claims? Are moral judgments different from other kinds ofjudgments? If so, how? Etc. NB, all adequate normative accounts will havetheir own metaethical answers to such questions But, one might still do metaethics independently ofnormative ethics
    22. 22. Consider “ought” Moral ought You ought to x, even – perhaps especially – whenyou don’t want to. Prudential ought You ought to y because it’s in your best interest E.g., “if you want to pass this class, you ought toparticipate early an often.” Expectational ought According to the schedule, the bus ought to be herein 5 minutes.
    23. 23. Consider “ought”Not always clear which we mean:“Given the inclement and dangerous weather,UML ought to close by 2pm today.”
    24. 24. Normative vs. MetaethicsNormative Metaethics “what is right, what iswrong, and why?” Particular moral claims Particular moraljudgments re moraltruths “what could we mean by ‘right’,what could we mean by‘wrong’, and what could be aproper kind of answer to thequestion, ‘why is that right?’” What is the metaphysicalstatus of moral claims? Whatcould they mean? What istheir ultimate nature? Are there moral truths? Whatmakes something a moraltruth? How would we knowmoral truths?
    25. 25. Our Metaethical QuestionAre there– or could there be –moral facts?
    26. 26. – or –Can Moral Claim be True or False?
    27. 27. Are there Moral Facts?Can Moral Claim be True or False?Yes No Cognitivism Moral Realism Natrualism vs. Non-naturalism Vast bulk of ourclass NB Relativism Non-cognitivism Moral Anti-realism Subjectivism Moral Skepticism Error-Theory Emotivism &Prescriptivism
    28. 28. Are there Moral Facts?Can Moral Claims be True or False?NaturalismYes NoAre there Moral Facts?Can Moral Claims be True or False?Are moral claims fact-type claims? Do moralclaims at least seem like they could be trueCognitivism(a.k.a. Moral Realism;Objective Moral Theories)What kind of moral facts?Non-NaturalismNon-Cognitivism(a.k.a. Moral Anti-Realism;“Subjective” Moral Theories)NoSocial Contract (?)KantMoralSkepticismFurther, we ‘ought’ to(but in what sense?!)eschew moral language…MoralNihilismSimple“Subjectivism”Emotivism(Ayer, Stevenson)Prescriptivism(Norm-Expressivism) (Hare)Language is more thaninformative – ethical “talk”expresses something:CulturalRelativismCulture determinesMoral TruthsError-Theory(Projectivism;quasi-realism (?))YesIndividuals determineMoral TruthsExistentialism(individualism)Ethics is “Queer”i.e., incoherentYes, but really “about”attitudes, not normsNaturalistic Fallacy?(Is/Ought? Fact/Value??)DCT (?);Natural Law,Plato, Aristotle,Utilitarianism (?)
    29. 29. NaturalismYes NoAre there Moral Facts?Can Moral Claims be True or False?Are moral claims fact-type claims? Do moralclaims at least seem like they could be trueCognitivism(a.k.a. Moral Realism;Objective Moral Theories)What kind of moral facts?Non-NaturalismNon-Cognitivism(a.k.a. Moral Anti-Realism;“Subjective” Moral Theories)NoSocial Contract (?)KantMoralSkepticismFurther, we ‘ought’ to(but in what sense?!)eschew moral language…MoralNihilismSimple“Subjectivism”Emotivism(Ayer, Stevenson)Prescriptivism(Norm-Expressivism) (Hare)Language is more thaninformative – ethical “talk”expresses something:CulturalRelativismCulture determinesMoral TruthsError-Theory(Projectivism;quasi-realism (?))YesIndividuals determineMoral TruthsExistentialism(individualism)Ethics is “Queer”i.e., incoherentYes, but really “about”attitudes, not normsNaturalistic Fallacy?(Is/Ought? Fact/Value??)DCT (?);Natural Law,Plato, Aristotle,Utilitarianism (?)
    30. 30. Read:• Bernard Williams “Amoralist, Subjectivist,Relativist”Review:• Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” (Denis, 119-125)• Rachels Chs.3 & 2• Sartre, “Existentialism is a Humanism”(Blackboard link)

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