Why Bother With Meta-Ethics?

meta-ethics Branch of philosophical ethics concerned with the meaning of moral propositions and the grounds upon which moral judgments are to be justified. Meta-ethical theories typically offer an account of moral language and its uses together with an explanation of the logical relations between assertions of fact and value. from http://www.philosophypages.com/

For me, the addition of the prefix meta- to virtually any word is always going to cause a lot of excitement. It presupposes that we will be transported from the everyday world to take up at least a temporary residence in a far more interesting realm that exists beyond the appearance of the humdrum life of our daily routine.

I would like to live there forever.

Meta-ethics is an enormously important subject. One might even say THE most important of all branches (or meta-branches) of philosophy.

For how many times every day, every hour, every second, do we see two or more fools arguing about what is good, what is bad, what is right, what is wrong, and never realizing that their entire discussion is utterly futile. Why is it futile?

Because they have not taken the trouble to notice that each of them has a different interpretation of those words, good, bad, right, wrong, and so they will perpetually be, by definition, arguing at cross purposes. Their arguments will never meet, they will never engage.

However, this foregoing fact is not always enough to prevent the disputants from engaging, in the sense that they come to blows over their absurd excuses for argued debate. And we've seen that happen often enough too.

We are of course not talking here about politicians, who are nearly all crooks, and of whom the majority (close to all of them) are beneath contempt. At least we are talking about people who have some measure of sincerity, albeit of the foolish kind.

Notice how we gave simple words as the examples - good, bad, right, wrong. People mistakenly believe it to be the complicated words that give trouble, but this is not so. In fact, it is almost always the simple words that give trouble in this context, because everyone believes they know what those words mean.

Even if, all too frequently, they don't.


nothing profound said...

Yes, most arguments aren't really over things, but words, and words, when misused, steer us wrong.

Aimee said...

@nothingprofound Yes, how true...