PHL275H1 Lecture 5: PHL275H1 Lecture : Week 4/2
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Monday, February 4, 2019
Metaethics: study of what morality is, or what we do when making judgments on right/wrong/good/bad
• Started with Moore: expressing view called non- naturalist moral realism: combines moral realism
with thesis of autonomy of ethics
Common sense view:
• believes moral judgments can be true/false.
• Recognizes that moral judgments are special kind of judgment: Do say something is wrong scribes
a certain property to it
• If moral judgments aren't about the natural world, they are not known in the way we know about
the natural world (direct insight/intuition)
Non naturalism was dominant metaethical view in first third of 20th century, before philosophers
started to propose alternative view
Expressivism: Denies realism, saying that moral judgments can't be true or false
David Hume: expressivism doesn't deny the autonomy of ethics (accepts it, can't derive ought from an
Two main variants
1. Moral judgments express attitudes/emotions
o X is wrong= x- ing by anyone, whatever his attitude to x- ing, is a yikes
o A yikes as not capable of being true or false- not all english sentences can be true or false
o Expressions of emotion can't be true or false but not just any expression of emotion:
emotions expressed by moral judgments are universal and also categorical since they aren't
conditioned on a person's having any attitude
o Takes moral judgments to express attitudes rather than just report them
o X is wrong was equivalent to "I have, as a matter of psychological fact a negative attitude
towards x- ing" theres no disagreements or conflicts about ethics since psychological report
can't contradict others
o Idea that moral judgments instead express emotions: where expressions do allow conflict
2. Moral judgments give commands
o X is wrong= everyone, whatever you attitude to x- ing: Don't x!
o Commands also aren't capable of being true or false but can conflict: Do x vs don't do x
o Joe, don't kill! This is not universal, as command issued by moral judgment is, and is
Shared claim: Moral judgments can't be true or false because they don't assert facts.
Three main arguments for expressivism
1. Argument from moral disagreement/argument from relativity. If we could have direct insight into
moral truth, as non naturalists claim, there should be more agreement on ethics than there is.
Mathematical arguments vs moral disagreement. However, moral disagreement is easy to explain if
moral judgments express emotions- expect considerable overlap if theres genetic basis for moral
emotions but also divergence given influences of culture, experience, etc
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