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Intro lecture.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Julia Nefsky

Intro lecture – January 14, 2014 Normative vs Descriptive Descriptive claim: a claim about what is the case • About how things are Normative claim: a claim about how things ought to be • Not really about how things are but how they should be Both claims can be true or false • Difference is the subject matter – a difference in what the claims are about Morality is a normative claim • Moral claims: claims about how people ought to act, rather than how they actually act o ‘It is wrong to break a promise’ Other kinds of normative claims: • Prudential claims: claims about what would be prudent, or in your self-interest – it is not morally wrong if you don’t follow the claim but you should, to make yourself better o ‘You should eat leafy greens’ • Normative epistemic claims: claims about what one should believe, how one ought to reason o ‘One ought not hold inconsistent beliefs’ Moral claims are: • Normative rather than descriptive. • They are a particular kind of normative claim – not all normative claims concern morality How can we investigate moral questions? The chief (only) tool can’t be experiment or observation. Why not? • One cannot infer a normative claim from a purely descriptive claim o We can’t go from how things are to how things should be o By watching human behaviour and seeing how people behave does not tell us how they should behave • ‘Is’ does not imply ‘ought’ Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology • Can tell us about how people in fact behave • Can tell us about what people believe about how they ought to behave o It can’t tell us whether something is morally okay or not We can give arguments • Start with claims that are highly plausible and try to argue from those claims to conclusions that are less obvious/more controversial o Start from a solid/easily argued point and expand to a tougher issue An Argument Def.: Series of propositions aimed at establishing or justifying some point Contains 1. A conclusion: the proposition the argument is trying to establish a. There can be intermediate conclusions that lead to the final conclusion 2. Premises: starting points of the argument Example: “One should not cause tremendous pain just for one’s own a
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