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Phil 235 Course Notes

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Chapter 1: Ethical Theory
Meta-ethical positions include: * Ethical non-cognitivism (concept that ethics is a matter of feelings) * Ethical relativism (concept that ethics is relative to a particular point of view) * Ethical objectivism (notion that ethics is objective in nature).
Meta-Ethical Positions
Ethical Non-cognitivism
The basis of ethical non-cognitivism is that ethical disagreement can be a highly emotional affair where no amount of reasoning is likely to convince the other party. * Example: “Let’s just agree to disagree”
Ethical Relativism * Ethical relativism says that while ethical statements are cognitively meaningful, they do not hold in any objective sense because they depend on our point of view. * If we accept ethical relativism, then ethical disagreement among people who do not share the same perspective becomes impossible. * It assumes that if people agree on something, then it must be true. * Ethical relativism is suspect for a pragmatic reason: it is fundamentally at variance with our social practice. * Example: “To each his own”, or the belief that what’s right for one group isn’t necessarily right for another
Ethical Objectivism * Ethical objectivism holds that right and wrong are objective phenomena. * Example: “I’m right and you’re wrong”
What is Ethics? * As a discipline, ethics is a branch of philosophy. * It deals with questions of right and wrong conduct, and with what we ought to do and what we ought to refrain from doing. * It considers issues of rights and obligations and how these are related to the social setting. * Ethics is normative or prescriptive in nature. * It deals with persons insofar as they are persons. * It is jurisdiction-invariant, and its injunctions are binding even if no law recognizes them.
Ethical Theories
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