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  1. 1. META-ETHICS Non-cognitive theories: EMOTIVISM and PRESCRIPTIVISM
  2. 2. Moral disagreement seems to be widespread in our culture Abortion Gay marriage Capital punishment Genetically modified food Legalisation of marijuana
  3. 3. Moral disagreement seems to be even more widespread between different cultures (& historical periods) Slavery Cannibalism Female circumcision The use of terrorism for political ends
  4. 4. Suttee (or Sati)
  5. 5. People argue about moral issues In a moral argument, we often give people reasons aimed at persuading them that our own position is correct and that their position is incorrect. A different sort of case: chocolate vs. vanilla ice cream Chocolate ice cream tastes better Nope, its vanilla all the way
  6. 6. Intervention We recognise that some moral issues are very complex and difficult, and that our view on those issues might be mistaken. On other issues, we are confident that our own views are correct and that people who do not share our views are mistaken. Sometimes we are even prepared to try to stop people acting on moral views that we take to be mistaken. Examples: suttee & the use of terrorism
  7. 7. Our Central question: Is Morality Objective? About 65 million years ago an asteroid collided with the earth, and this led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. There is a prime number between 123,456 and 654,321. All the shots fired at John F. Kennedy the day he was killed were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. Saddam Hussein was executed On Thursday, March 27th 2008, Mr. Bennett wore odd socks during his philosophy class.
  8. 8. Objective Note two things about these sentences: Each of these sentences is either true or false. The truth or falsity of these sentences does not depend at all on who makes the claim, when the claim is made or where the claim is made. When a sentence has these properties, well say that it makes an objective claim.
  9. 9. Some sentences are not objective Example of a sentence that isnt true or false: Please pass the ketchup. Go to hell!
  10. 10. Some sentences are not objective Examples of a sentences whose truth depends on who makes them or when / where they are made: Im the oldest person in this room. Its raining. Im the oldest Im the oldest
  11. 11. The Appeal and the Puzzles of the View that Morality is Objective The Appeal: It would make sense of the fact that we often talk and act as though moral claims are correct or incorrect, and that we sometimes seem to think that people (including people in different cultures) have moral views which are mistaken. Capital punishment is right (in some cases). No! Capital punishment is always wrong.
  12. 12. The Appeal and the Puzzles of the View that Morality is Objective The Puzzles Metaphysics: If some moral claims are true, then there must be facts that make them true. What could these facts possibly be?
  13. 13. The Appeal and the Puzzles of the View that Morality is Objective Epistemology: How can we know which moral claims are true? Is abortion morally permissible?
  14. 14. Emotivism A moral theory that suggests that when we say something is wrong, we are merely expressing an emotional reaction to a certain set of events or facts. There are no facts about what we say morally, were just expressing an emotional preference.
  15. 15. Emotivism The distinction between asserting you have a feeling and expressing that feeling. Examples I am disgusted by your behavior. vs. I am in severe pain. vs. Ouch!!!!!! I am sexually aroused. vs. . Assertions are either true or false; expressions of feelings are not.
  16. 16. Emotivism The central idea of Emotivism is that, while moral claims look like assertions, they are actually expressions of feeling. Thus Emotivism is sometimes described as The Rah!! Boo!! Theory. Abortion is morally wrong! Abortion grrr!
  17. 17. Emotivism Gay people ought to be allowed to get married. = Gay marriage yeah!!
  18. 18. Emotivism and moral reasoning Question: according to Emotivism, whats going on when you try to persuade someone to have the same moral attitude as you? Abortion is morally wrong! Its killing an innocent human being, its murder
  19. 19. Emotivism and moral reasoning Unlike some other emotive expressions, the emotive expressions used in ethical claims have a tendency to have a persuasive or magnetic effect on listeners perhaps because of childhood conditioning. Abortio n.. Grr! Eating ice cream out of the tub.. Ew.
  20. 20. Emotivism, again So a fuller account of the meaning of a moral sentence might be: Abortion is morally wrong! Abortion Grrr! Please share this attitude. Abortion . Please share this attitude. = or,=
  21. 21. Advantages of Emotivism Captures the link between ethics and emotions. Abortion is morally wrong!
  22. 22. Advantages of emotivism Emotivism can explain moral disagreement: if you think abortion is morally OK and I think it is morally wrong, then: Its not that one of us has a false belief, but our desires conflict with one another. Rachels example: I favor gun-control legislation, and you are opposed to it
  23. 23. Emotivism and objectivity Abortion is morally wrong! Abortion Grrr! Please share this attitude. Abortion . Please share this attitude. = or,=
  24. 24. Disadvantages of Emotivism If Emotivism is correct, then morality is not objective, thus it makes no sense to say that other peoples moral views are mistaken nor does it make any sense to say that our own previous moral views were mistaken. Abortion Grrr! No it isnt. ???
  25. 25. Disadvantages of Emotivism Killing Jews is morally OK. THATS NOT TRUE!
  26. 26. Disadvantages of Emotivism The Emotivist account of moral argument and moral deliberation does not distinguish between moral arguments that (A) invoke false factual claims, vs (B) invoke true factual claims. But we tend to think that moral attitudes formed under the (b) conditions are better justified than those formed under the (a) conditions.
  27. 27. Using false factual claims to influence emotions Capital punishment is right. But 10% of people jailed for murder are later found innocent. Capital punishment is right. But its cheaper to jail someone for life than try them for the death sentence.
  28. 28. Appealing to personal interest to influence emotions Abortion is wrong. If you say that, your sister is immoral. Abortion is wrong. An unwanted baby wrecks the mothers life.
  29. 29. Relying on abnormal psychological states to influence emotions Capital punishment is wrong. But that b******d murdered your father! Capital punishment is wrong. But an eye for an eye seems to be a good principle of justice, doesnt it?
  30. 30. Prescriptivism In groups of three/ four, read the handout on PRESCRIPTIVISM and try to answer the questions on the hand out. Be prepared for an Apprentice-style grilling Afterwards