Meta-Ethics: two articles

Here are two articles on Ethics that agree with my primary insights into Ethics and Morality.

(1) Alex Rosenberg: Duke University philosopher: Can Moral Disputes Be Resolved (NYT)

His conclusion, like mine, leave many uncomfortable: “Many people will not find this a satisfactory outcome. They will hope to show that even if moral judgments are expressions of our emotions, nevertheless at least some among these attitudes are objective, right, correct, well justified.”

(2) Eric Schwitzgebel: Univ. of Calif. at Riverside philosopher: Cheeseburger Ethics: Are professional ethicists good people? (Aeon)

According to our research, not especially. So what is the point of learning ethics?  This article shows research showing that our intuitions about morality are wrong.

My Ethical Positions (backed in part by these articles):

  • There are no absolute moral positions, no matter how deceptively clear it is to our intuitions that there must be moral truths.
  • Talking about morals is usually just a way to try to signal others and ourselves that we are good and safe.
  • Ethics/Morals are temporary, tenuous agreements between peoples who share goals.
  • For those interested in Meta-Ethical philosophical terms, I am probably an anti-realist, non-cognitivist, relativist (but not a moral nihilist). See Wiki on Meta-Ethics


See my other posts on Ethics and Morality here.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

4 responses to “Meta-Ethics: two articles

  1. egyoung

    Why would not bullet #3 always be the starting point for any and all of these discussions? We are after all human animals talking about how to privilege other homo sapiens in our behaviour towards them ( or to creatures seeming to have a similar sentience) — all nicely driven by evolutionary forces ( Ie no species survival value, no morality, except perhaps as some sort of coincidental byproduct of some other evolved condition/sensibility.) Would not morality, separated from that human need, be akin to math: not intrinsic to the human mental makeup; a mere logic system.

  2. @ egyoung:

    Well, I agreed with you up to your last part about “a mere logic system” — since I don’t know what that would be. [Note, I did a year of symbolic logic in grad school — so, not saying I don’t understand logic, just your use.]

    And not sure why you started with “Why would not bullet #3 be the starting point …” as if I had another starting point.

    Would love clarification.

    PS: I again removed the link to your name because it is an empty blog.

  3. CRL

    Sometimes, I begin to think that perhaps there are no absolute moral positions, and we should just throw this whole idea away. I next consider how I would act if I were to be truly convinced by this argument–would I commit a violent crime? insult someone who gets on my nerves? hop on the bus without paying? buy that cheeseburger? I may want to avoid the legal and social repercussions of the first two items on my list, but I have no such reasons to avoid the latter two. However, I invariably think of people and animals I am close to and and care about (and of myself), and how I strongly desire that they and I are happy. And I think that there is no logical reason why I should value them over other people and animals with similar capacities, and I end up thinking that I ought to be acting like a better utilitarian anyway.

    For what it’s worth, I go through this line of thinking enough to consider myself a realist, cognitivist, non-naturalist, though I haven’t read nearly as much metaethics as I would like to have to have a right to a real position. From what little non-cognitivism I’ve seen (something by Stevenson and maybe some other things, but probably skimmed the night before they were due to be discussed) it doesn’t seem convincing. The claim that we are completely wrong about what our own thoughts mean is a tough one to back up, but maybe there is more evidence for it than I realize.

  4. @ CRL: Good thoughts/doubts, thanks.

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