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Discussion of The Issues Raised in Meta-Ethics

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Discussion of The Issues Raised in Meta-Ethics

Ethics is the study of how people behave, and how they should behave.

It is based on ideas of what is morally 'good'. But, in order to

understand ethics, a definition of 'good' needs to be determined.

Here, one sees that such ideas will vary from person to person and

from culture to culture. Likewise, such ideas explain why there is

such a variety of moral systems in use today and a marked difference

in the level of commitment to a personal moral code.

Ethics and ethical language, the study of which 'Meta-Ethics' is part,

can be split into three distinct branches: descriptive, normative and

meta-ethical. On the one hand, descriptive ethics describes the way we

live and the moral choices we happen to make. On the other, normative

ethics employs the kind of language which is more openly moral and

presents a clearer idea about what is held to be right or wrong; so, a

statement such as "It is always wrong to tell a lie" is a normative

statement. Contrastingly to both, meta-ethics is the study of the

meaning of ethics itself, gauging the meaning of ethical language, and

taking into consideration the authority of moral claims and the

effects of personal preference.

Bearing this in mind, it is possible to note that meta-ethical theory

poses questions such as 'Can we define which action is 'good', 'bad',

'right', or 'wrong'?' and again, 'Is it possible to give a definition

to 'good', 'bad', 'right', or 'wrong' in themselves?' Admittedly, all

four of these words are related from a moral point of view. But, if we

could measure 'good' completely and accurately, then we would be able

to mea...

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...tion. Indeed, the highly

influential philosopher, AJ Ayer would agree with such an avowal

because he suggested all moral statements are 'meaningless'

statements. For example, how could one prove that it is wrong to

cheat? He insisted that such statements as 'Is it wrong to cheat' are

totally without meaning or provable sense because, logically and

empirically, they cannot be shown to be true. All one can do is show

that lots of people believe it is wrong to cheat. All they can do is

express a personal dislike of cheats, cheating, and its consequences;

they can express how they consider it to be unfair. That is, they can

express how it does not coincide with what they believe to be fair and

right - but that is all. Moral statements, then, are reduced in this

way to personal preferences and are not concerned with 'fact'.
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