Philosophy – meta ethics   no comments

Posted at 3:24 pm in Uncategorized

Last week I spoke about Kant’s theories of how to determine right and wrong. This week I have been reading a few different perspectives on morals. It turns out that the field of ethics is split in to three parts; one is normative ethics, which is an attempt to define rules for what is right and wrong, one is applied ethics in which real life problems such as abortion are analysed, and one is meta-ethics in which questions about the nature of ethics are asked. Kant’s theory belongs to the field of normative ethics in that he attempts to set rules of how to lead an ethical life. A wider view is taken in meta-ethics; in this field of research, it is asked what it means to be morally right or wrong.

One meta-ethical theory that particularly interested me was moral relativism; a standpoint based on the assumption that all societies have different customs and values. This assumption is so well supported by anthropologists and psychologists that it can be considered as uncontreversially true. Building on this assumption certain logical steps can be made (this appears to be a common way of building philosophical theories). It can be assumed that due to the different value systems, different societies can have different ideas on what is right and wrong. It is therefore reasonable to assume that there can be no universally applicable moral rules, as moral systems are socially constructed. This view makes morality simply a description of the moral values of a particular society at a particular point in time.

If this approach was taken towards an attempt to make judgements about the morality of moral behaviours (e.g. digital piracy) it would be impossible to define a set of moral rules for online behaviour, due to the fact that the web is almost universal.

Written by William Lawrence on November 7th, 2012

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