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Analytic ethics

What is analytic ethics?

Analytic ethics is the application of both or either logical positivism and ordinary language analysis to ethics.

What is the difference between ethics and morals?

Philosophers tend to use the terms interchangeably. In ordinary usage, however, "morals" refers to private behavior, whereas "ethics" refers to public, professional, or civic behavior. Thus, while judgments about a person's morals can be about sexual behavior and drinking habits, judgments about ethics often concern the obligations of people in positions of responsibility, for example, "medical ethics."

What is the difference between a moral system and a moral theory?

A moral system specifies principles according to which people should act, such as deontological or duty ethics, utilitarianism, or virtue ethics. A moral theory is an account of basic moral terms such as "good" or "evil" and the nature of moral judgments and arguments. Moral theorists may also compare different moral systems.

We all have times when we feel conflict within ourselves. In ordinary life, ethics has to do with how we make good versus bad judgments regarding public behavior, whereas morals deals with this conflict on a personal level (iStock).

We all have times when we feel conflict within ourselves. In ordinary life, ethics has to do with how we make good versus bad judgments regarding public behavior, whereas morals deals with this conflict on a personal level (iStock).

What is moral conventionalism?

Ethical or moral conventionalism is the view that what makes something good or an action right is a general cultural belief. Ethical conventionalism has descriptive and prescriptive forms. Prescriptive conventionalism says that we ought to follow conventions; descriptive conventionalism says that we do follow conventions.

What is ethical (or moral) relativism?

There are two kinds: descriptive moral relativism is the view that different cultures have different moral beliefs; prescriptive or normative moral relativism is the view that the whole of what's right is what people in a given society think is right. The result of this view is that moral disagreement can't be rationally debated.

How do philosophers deal with ethical relativism?

Philosophers intensely dislike prescriptive ethical relativism. It makes the analysis of moral terms and the construction of moral systems pointless because there is no way to justify them. Different positions have been taken about descriptive moral relativism. Some philosophers deny it, claiming that once we understand moral systems that seem to be different from our own, we can derive universal moral principles from all moral systems that apply to all human beings. Others have argued that even though there are different viewpoints about what is morally right, some of those viewpoints are simply wrong, and then their job is to show how they are wrong.

What was G.E. Moore's naturalistic fallacy?

Moore (1873-1958) contended that goodness cannot be analyzed in terms of any other property. In his Principia Ethica (1903) he wrote:

It may be true that all things which are good are also something else, just as it is true that all things which are yellow produce a certain kind of vibration in the light. And it is a fact, that Ethics aims at discovering what are those other properties belonging to all things which are good. But far too many philosophers have thought that when they named those other properties they were actually defining good.

Moore thought that we know what is good directly, just as we know the color yellow when we see it. Thus, "We can only point to an action or a thing and say 'That is good.' We cannot describe to a blind man exactly what yellow is. We can only show a sighted man a piece of yellow paper or a yellow scrap of cloth and say 'That is yellow.'" The same is true of what is good. Whenever what is good is defined in terms of some "natural" property, such as "resulting in the good for the greatest number," the naturalistic fallacy has been committed because it is always possible to ask of something that has the natural property, "Yes, but is it good?"

Moore's notion of the non-reducible nature of goodness became for a while a concept and standard for other ethicists to both refute and match in rigor.

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