Ethical language has no meaning. Discuss (35 Marks)
The meaning and function of ethical language is the focus of meta-ethics. It can be discussed whether ethical language has any meaning at all by looking at different perspectives.
An ethical naturalist would say that all ethical statements are the same as non-ethical ones; they’re factual and can, therefore, be true or false. So ‘Thomas More was executed for his beliefs in 1535’ and ‘Thomas More was a good man’ can be proved true or false by looking at the evidence. If we can find evidence, we can conclude that Thomas More was good and if not, we can conclude he was not. The same holds for any moral issue for example if one wants to ...view middle of the document...
He also states that although the world may be in a particular state it doesn’t mean we can draw ethical terms from the natural world. As ethical language is sometimes used to discuss supernatural concepts such as God and therefore ethical naturalism’s argument as to why ethical language is meaningful is absurd.
Moore states that we can stall ask ‘what is good?’ this would lead to an open question argument which displays the ethical naturalist argument as to why ethical language is meaningful may not be fully sufficient.
However intuitionists do argue that ethical language is meaningful but only because of the fact that intuition is used to conduct ethical statements. Moore uses the Simple Notion to suggest although we cannot fully describe what good is, ‘we just know good is good and that’s the end of the fact.’ He uses the analogy of yellow, stating that just as we cannot describe yellow without giving examples, we can’t describe good without referring to good with examples. It is therefore an indescribable truth, this is called; ‘Naturalistic Fallacy’.
On the other hand H.A. Prichard (1871-1947) developed these ideas further and said it wasn’t only goodness that was indefinable, but also the idea of obligation. In the same way that goodness is unrecognisable by example, so are our obligations. We will always know when we ought to act in a certain way. For Prichard, Intuitionism helps people decide how to act, he believed that everyone has a different moral intuition – some more developed than others. Where there is conflict between our moral obligations, we simply examine the situation and choose the greater obligation. Therefore ethical language has no meaning because something ethical such as good is unrecognisable by example, so are obligations you cannot define it or recognise it by using an example however by using only your intuition.
However, it could be argued that; how can people be sure that their intuitions are correct? Since people may come to different conclusions, whether using intuition or reason to reach their decision. It could also be argued that ethical language sets a reliable guide to ethical truths such as trying to use ethical language to understand what is good, or what your obligation is also to understand ethical concepts.
A.J Ayer claimed that ethical statements are really only statements of opinion; they’re not statements of fact. He is a logical positivist; his theory is...