January 16 Lecture Notes
• What does one mean when they say “Murder is wrong.”?
• How does moral language work?
• Are there moral facts?
• Is it a real objective fact that murder is wrong?
• 3 types of questions in metaethics:
o Linguistic: language of morals
o Metaphysical: the reality of things
o Moral Epistemology: knowledge of morals
• An objective fact is not determined by what people think about the question
• A subjective fact depends on people’s thoughts of the question
o If Obama’s approval rating is 85% then it is a fact that he is a popular president,
but if people start to dislike him and his approval rating drops to 35% then the
statement “Obama is a popular president.” is no longer a fact
• Some metaethical questions
o How is moral knowledge possible?
o What do moral utterances mean? Can a moral utterance be true or false?
• A moral utterance is: “Murder is wrong.”
• Truthness of statements may depend on:
o The preferences of individual people (“I like ice cream” is only true if the speaker
really does like ice cream.)
o Place the sentence is said (“Pot is illegal” is a true statement in New York, but
maybe not in Colorado)
o Exclamations (“Wow!” can’t be true or false, it just is)
o Commands are also not true or false o Questions are not true or false
Some Metaethical views
• Realism: there are objective moral facts, and our moral utterances (when successful)
report those facts
o In Realism.. “Murder is wrong.” Is as factual as saying “Snow is white.”
o There may be exceptions to the facts, such a