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PHIL 2070 Chapter Notes -Relativism, Intuitionism, Sui Generis

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PHIL 2070
Susan Dimock

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PHIL 2070 Jan. 13
Relativism and Objectivity in Ethics
Ethical Relativism
-Ethical Relativism: the normative theory that what is right is what the culture
says is right
- Another relativist may say that morality is relative to the individual, however this
is not plausible since it brings the misconception of what is right and what is
thought to be right
- Morality is like fashion, it is ever changing to the times in which we are present in
Meta-Ethical Relativism
-Meta-Ethics: involves philosophical reflection on the nature of ethics
- Prompted on the belief that there is fundamental disagreements among ethical
- Many ethical disagreements are due to different factual beliefs and not on
conflicting values
Naturalism, Intuitionism, and Emotivism
-Naturalism: contending that the key concepts of ethics can be analyzed or
defined in empirical, descriptive and natural terms. There can always be
difficulties in finding proper definitions which everyone agrees on
-Intuitionism: ethical terms cannot, in principles, be defined or analyzed in non-
moral, empirical terms, our ethical concepts refer to distinctively moral
properties. Ethical Discourse is sui generis; it cannot be translated into empirical
language. Intuitions conflict, so how is it that they will lead to moral deliberation
-Emotivism: we do not have ethical knowledge at all; our moral concepts do not
denote either natural or non-natural properties. Ethical Language expresses our
emotions or is used to evoke an emotional response from our listeners. Ethical
judgments are emotional ejaculations, cannot be true or false
The Nature of Morality
-Reason Giving and Argumentation are essential to the nature of morality, when
reasons are giving rather than not, the ideas and moral decisions choices have
weight and are in fact a moral decision
-Two Related Points
oNot only are reasoning and argumentation basic to our practice of
morality, but only certain sorts of reason are countenanced by it
oRelevant standards are fairly clear and can be applied with reasonable
claim to objectivity
Justifying a Moral System
- Philosophers answer Relativists:
oArgue that there are certain features or principles of a moral system which
are required by the concept of morality itself
oArgue that the nature of ethical discourse is such that it involves a
commitment to impartiality, rational benevolence and liberty as ultimate
principle, that us, that moral discussion itself presupposes these
fundamental values
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