Yet, if we observe that pleasure is good, we should be able to ask is good pleasure. However if an individual gains pleasure through inflicting harm can we conclude that good and pleasure are one and the same thing? In short ethical naturalism is unable to define good, yet continues to claim that ethical language is based on objective truth. Non Cognitive approaches to meta ethics such as emotivism and prescriptivism argue that ethical language is subjective. A. J. Ayer claims that ethical language
Meta-Ethics is a branch of ethics which is concerned with the language that is used in ethical arguments. Many would say that if we do not know what we are talking about, then there is not point to ethical debate. This differs from normative which deicides whether or not something is bad or good and gives us a guide for moral behaviour. Meta-ethics is about normative ethics and tried to make sense of the terms and concepts used. The terms good and bad are used a lot in day to day sentences - but what do they really mean?
Meta ethics tries to make sense of the terms and concepts used in ethical theories such as Utilitarianism and Natural Law. Some people believe that ethical language is extremely meaningful as they argue it is essential to be able to define terms such as “good” and “bad” before we can even begin to discuss ethical theories. However others disagree with this and argue that moral statements are subjective so are meaningless, as they cannot be described as either true or false. Those who hold cognitive theories about ethical language would argue that ethical statements are not meaningless as they are about facts, and can therefore be proved true or false. Ethical Naturalism is a cognitive theory of meta ethics which holds the belief that
Meta ethics is the study of ethical language; however it differs from normative ethics. Normative ethics determines what is “good” and “bad”, whereas Meta ethics determines the meanings of the terms “good” and “bad”. There are two ethical approaches to Meta ethics, one being Cognitivism. Cognitivism is the view that ethical language can be known and understood objectively, through empirical experience or intuition. The second approach is Non-Cognitivism, this is the view that ethical language cannot be known and understood, due to subjectivity.
AJ Ayer in his book “language, truth and Logic” outlines what is commonly called the “emotivist” approach to ethical language. This approach supports the idea that ethical language is subjective. Ayer suggests that unless propositions and use of language is analytic or synthetic, such propositions carry no cognitive meaning. This approach to philosophical and ethical language (the concern of Analytic philosophy) was called the “verification principle” and was a development of David Hume’s work, “Hume’s fork”. Ethical statements, Ayer said, cannot be verified analytically or synthetically so the truth of such phrases is unknowable and the language used is non-cognitive.
The concept of virtue ethics by the philosopher Aristotle looks at how we should not look at the right and wrong actions we do by following guidelines, but look at us as human beings becoming virtuous people, through doing virtuous things. The statement of the weaknesses of virtue ethics outweighing the strengths is to an extent true, in particular when you look at the limitations of virtue ethics when claiming the doctrine of mean. Firstly by looking at the aim if virtue ethics we can gain an insight to the whole concept, Aristotle claimed that in life our aim is to reach fulfilment of happiness, which he called eudemonia. To achieve eudemonia you have to practice virtues and achieve these virtues, through education, emulation and experience. So we learn the virtue by copying someone who is a role model or mentor to confirm our virtue is right and finally practice and experience said virtue.
Natural Moral Law is a theory that is explained by Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle. It states that there is a natural order to our world that should be followed. It was originated in the philosophy of Aristotle and then developed by Aquinas. Natural Law is an absolute theory of ethics but it is not rooted in duty but in our human nature and our search for genuine happiness and fulfilment. Aquinas considered that by using our reason to reflect on our human nature we could discover our specific end purpose.
He said morality was innate; a part of us (a priori), and it was our moral duty to carry it out for good, which must lead to God. Accordingly Kant says good actions should be universalisable and free, so basically when making our ethical decisions we should ask ourselves a simple question "What if everybody did that?" if the answer is no, then the categorical imperative tells us that the action is wrong. So if I cheated on my AS-level exam to pass and be successful in the future, this would be my maxim, however I would not want others to do the same and therefore this action would be wrong according to Kant’s Categorical Imperative. My cheating pre-supposes that most people do not cheat even though they have the same reasons to cheat as I have.
Did god determine that it is good to help the poor, give gifts, and preserve life? Or on the other hand did morality come about because of something independent of God. Meaning that the determination of that which is good or that which is bad came from something other than God and the reason that God agrees with certain actions is because the action is already morally right. The former of these two is known as the Divine Command Theory and the latter is the Autonomy Thesis. The clash of these two options is the Euthyphro Dilemma.
A form would allow us as humans to know that there is some sort of universal truth, and that through reason we should be able to come close to finding out what it is and maybe even find out what it is. We can not have knowledge about the god’s, we can however through deep thought and reasoning Socrates tells us get a better understanding for the good life and how to live and this in return should shed more light and clarity on the god/s. “what is dear to the gods is pious, what is not is impious”-Euthyphro(p.8) Euthyphro is saying here that he thinks god grounds the moral, but this can not be true according to Socrates . “The same things then are loved by the gods and hated by the gods, then would be both god-loved and god-hated.....and then same things would be both pious and impious, according to this argument.”-Socrates (p.9) When we look at multiple gods it is easy to see how they could not ground the moral for each god may agree and disagree to different piety and impiety which would not allow them to ground the moral because they would all have different views of what was good and bad. With god/s grounding the moral the foundation of the moral becomes arbitrary because it would only be good because god says its so.