Meta-ethics. Issues. What do we mean when we say “stealing is wrong”? Is morality objective or subjective (up-to-me)? Is morality a natural feature of the world (naturalism)? The fact/value problem - can I make a prescriptive statement “I ought” from a descriptive statement?.
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Ought from Is
“In every system of morality which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not”.
Ought from Is
A statement is meaningful if and only if it is either tautological or empirically verifiable.
Derives from Hume’s fork: meaningful statements are either analytic or synthetic.
Analytic: 2+2 = 4 or “all bachelors are unmarried”.
Synthetic: John is a bachelor (this could be true or false: we need to apply the verification test and ask him).
We may illustrate this process of modifying principles from the example already used, that of learning to drive. I am told, for instance, always to draw into the side of the road when I stop the car; but later I am told that this does not apply when I stop before turning into a side-road to the offside -- for then I must stop near the middle of the road until it is possible for me to turn. Still later I learn that in this manoeuvre it is not necessary to stop at all if it is an uncontrolled junction and I can see that there is no traffic which I should obstruct by turning. When I have picked up all these modifications to the rule, and the similar modifications to all the other rules, and practice them habitually as so modified, then I am said to be a good driver, because my car is always in the right place on the road, travelling at the right speed, and so on. The good driver is, among other things, one whose actions are so exactly governed by principles which have become a habit with him, that he normally does not have to think just what to do. But road conditions are exceedingly various, and therefore it is unwise to let all one's driving become a matter of habit. One can never be certain that one's principles of driving are perfect -- indeed, one can be very sure that they are not; and therefore the good driver not only drives well from habit, but constantly attends to his driving habits, to see whether they might not be improved; he never stops learning.1
1. It is too broad and allows for conduct that we typically deem immoral. It permits fanaticism.
2. It permits trivial judgments to count as moral ones as long as we can universalise them.
3. It allows the moral substance in life to slip away from ethical theory.
4. There are no constraints on altering one's principles.
Links moral terms with some kind of natural property. Natural in that they are found in the natural world, specifically the natural realms of human psychology and human society
Moore's theory regards the idea of goodness as though it were a thing, the fallacy of hypostatization.
Moore commits a mistake by equating “good” with “yellow”. “Good” is a general, complex term, like “colour”, not a specific, non-reducable term like “yellow”.