Lecture 5

By Jason Hunt,2014-07-03 09:58
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Lecture 5

    Lecture 5-6


    1. The Metaethical Landscape

    First-order questions on morality

Second-order questions on morality:

     metaphysical, epistemological, semantic, and psychological issues in morality

What do we mean by ethical or moral terms of “good”, “bad” or “evil”, “right”,

    and “wrong”?

     Metaphysical issue: Do “moral facts” or “properties” exist? If so, what is the

    nature of them?

     Moral psychology: Is there any relationship between moral judgments and

    motivations to act on them?

    Different positions in terms of answers to each of the questions above To (1):

    Moral cognitivism vs. non-cognitivism

    (descriptivism vs. expressivism)

    2. Moral cognitivism

    Moral claims or discourse function to state beliefs or propositions about the world (moral facts); truth-apt

    The term „cognitive‟ is used to convey the sense of truth-aptness. (cognitive


    3. Moral non-cognitivism

     Moral non-cogitivism denies the truth-aptness of moral talk because they insist that moral discourse functions primarily to express our sentiments like

    emotions, attitudes, feelings, etc.

    Historical Forerunners

    David Hume (1711-1776)

    Hume is often grouped with John Locke, George Berkeley, and a handful of others as a British Empiricist.

    Major Works:

     A Treatise of Human Nature 人性论

     An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding(1748)

    An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals(1751)

    His Influence

    Immanuel Kant credited Hume with awakening him from "dogmatic slumbers"

    According to Schopenhauer, "there is more to be learned from each page of David Hume than from the collected philosophical works of Hegel, Herbart and Schleiermacher taken together"

    A. J. Ayer (1936), introducing his classic exposition of logical positivism, claimed: "the views which are put forward in this treatise derive from the logical outcome of the empiricism of Berkeley and Hume".

    Albert Einstein (1915) wrote that he was inspired by Hume's positivism when formulating his Special Theory of Relativity

    Hume's Problem of Induction was also of fundamental importance to the philosophy of Karl Popper.

    "I approached the problem of induction through Hume. Hume, I felt, was perfectly right in pointing out that induction cannot be logically justified".

    Sub-positions of non-cognitivism

    3.1 Emotivism

    A.J. Ayer (1910-1989) in Language, Truth, and Logic.

    Unlike propositions, sentiments do not give

    any kind of factual knowledge ;

    moral statements are not factual but


Its historical roots: Logical Positivism

    Wittgenstein (1921): the basic function of language

    The Vienna Circle, who met in the 1920s: logical positivism; a statement could be count as literally significant or meaningful by (1) being analytic-being true

    by definition;

     (2) being synthetic, or being true or false by reference to sense experience Projectivism

     Projectivism is a doctrine that moral judgments are “projections” of our emotions onto the world.

    Daily moral talks- “moral facts”; property of goodness

    Projectivism denies this: our own feelings make goodness

     Problems for emotivism

    Problem 1. Challenge of moral disagreement

    Problem 2. Unnecessary moral teaching

    Problem 3. Challenge of unasserted contexts

Is lying wrong?

    I wonder whether lying is wrong.

    It is true that lying is wrong.

    I believe that lying is wrong.

    If lying is wrong, then getting your little brother to lie is wrong.

    Especially, seems unable to make sense of the validness of moral inference.

     (1) Lying is wrong.

     (2) If Lying is wrong, then getting your little brother to lie is wrong.

     (3) Therefore, getting your little brother to lie is wrong.

     Emotivism has trouble accounting for this valid inference without the charge

    of equivocation.

     This problem is known as the Frege-Geach problem named after Peter


3.2 Prescriptivism

     as a response to problems 1 and 2

    prescriptivism maintains that they are prescriptions or imperatives for course of action.

    “lying is wrong”=“do not lie!”

     Like emotivism, it is a version of non-cognitivism.

    According to R. M. Hare (1919-2002), ethical claims are universalizable prescriptions (but not truth claims).

    The universality principle makes moral teaching necessary and justifiable.

3.3 Quasi-realism

    the challenges of the Frege-Geach problem, Simon Blackburn

    moral discourse in unasserted contexts seems to justify the existence of moral properties like “goodness‟.

    quasi-realism has an ontological stance that moral facts or properties do not exist.

distinction between the surface form of a discourse and the deep form of a


    justifies the validity of the Frege-Geach type inference:

imagine that English language contains a „hooray!‟ operator and a „boo!‟ operator

    (H!, B!).

    H! (mercy) is equivalent to “mercy is right” and the deep form. B! (murder)

     (1) Lying is wrong.

     (2) If Lying is wrong, then getting your little brother to lie is wrong.

     (3) Therefore, getting your little brother to lie is wrong.

     (1‟) B! (lying)

     (2‟) H![ [B! (lying)]; [B! (getting your little brother to lie)]]

     (3‟)Therefore, B! (getting your little brother to lie).

    4. Sub-categories of cognitivism

    Beliefs or propositions; truth-apt

    Do moral facts or properties exist?

    what is the nature of moral facts?

    5. Metaphysical issues-2nd Question

    5.1 Moral realism vs. anti-realism

    5.2 moral objectivism, subjectivism, relativism, nihilism 5.3 naturalism, non-naturalism, and supernaturalism

    5.1 moral realism vs. anti-realism

     “do moral facts/properties exist or are moral properties real?”

     we can distinguish between two basic metaphysical positions: moral realism

    and moral anti-realism.

Moral realism holds that moral facts or properties do exist and it is this existence

    that makes moral judgments true or false.

Anti-realism is a position that denies the existence of moral properties.

    Anti-realism can be either cognitivism or non-cognitivism.

     Cognitivist anti-realism denies the reality of moral facts but admits that moral statements are truth-apt.

     The typical example of this position is Mackie‟s error theory of morals.

    Mackie‟s error theory of morals

     holds that moral judgments are systematically and uniformly false.

    Arguments: semantic and ontological claims

    Semantic- cognitivistic commitment: truth requires the existence of objective moral values or facts.

    Ontological/metaphysical commitment no objective moral facts or properties Why the metaphysical/ontological claims?

    the argument from queerness

    B. from an epistemological angle:

     reject the idea of intuition

    Non-cognitivist anti-realism rejects both the existence of moral facts and the truth-aptness of moral judgments.

    Moral nihilism is a version of non-cognitivist anti-realism Emotivism is a typical example of non-cognitivist anti-realism


     Moral Objectivism, Subjectivism, Relativism, and Nihilism