What Is Metaethics?

There are no objective values.

- J. L. Mackie, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong

Podcast of the Day

What is meta-ethics? How does meta-ethics differ from ethics, and what does it tell us about ethics? Why is it important for how we should live our lives? Join Grant Bartley from Philosophy Now and his guests Edward Harcourt from Keble College, Oxford, and Richard Rowland from the University of Warwick, to find the answers to these questions and more.

Listen to the Philosophy Now podcast episode: Beyond Right and Wrong

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

‘Happiness is good.’ ‘We shouldn’t punish innocents.’ ‘Generosity is a good character-trait.’ Ethical realists say that ethical claims such as these are objectively true: their truth does not depend on anyone’s particular opinions, beliefs, preferences, or characteristics. That is, realists believe that there are right answers in ethics. They reject relativism, according to which there are only non-objective ethical facts, and they reject nihilism, according to which there are no ethical facts (a theory sometimes called ‘error theory’), and maybe even no ethical assertions of any kind (a theory sometimes called ‘non-cognitivism’). In this article, I first lay out several reasons in favor of ethical realism and then respond to several famous criticisms of the position...

Continue reading Thomas Metcalf's article: Ethical Realism

Further Reading

Metaethics is the attempt to understand the metaphysical, epistemological, semantic, and psychological, presuppositions and commitments of moral thought, talk, and practice. As such, it counts within its domain a broad range of questions and puzzles, including: Is morality more a matter of taste than truth? Are moral standards culturally relative? Are there moral facts? If there are moral facts, what is their origin? How is it that they set an appropriate standard for our behavior? How might moral facts be related to other facts (about psychology, happiness, human conventions…)? And how do we learn about the moral facts, if there are any? These questions lead naturally to puzzles about the meaning of moral claims as well as about moral truth and the justification of our moral commitments. Metaethics explores as well the connection between values, reasons for action, and human motivation, asking how it is that moral standards might provide us with reasons to do or refrain from doing as it demands, and it addresses many of the issues commonly bound up with the nature of freedom and its significance (or not) for moral responsibility...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Metaethics by Geoff Sayre-McCord

Related Topics

If you’re interested in metaethics, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 Consequentialism | Ethics | Hedonism | Moral Responsibility | Utilitarianism | Virtue

Become a lifelong learner. Sign up via email to get the best videos, articles and podcasts on a new topic each day. Or you can follow on Twitter or Facebook.

Leave a Reply