To what extent is Ethical Language meaningful?
Ethical language deals with the meaning and nature of moral and ethical statements, some people believe that ethical language is meaningful as it can be used to define moral terms such as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, whereas on the other hand there are those who think that ethical language has no meaning as it is merely expressions of emotion and is subjective, so cannot be deemed true or false. Cognitivists are a group of thinkers who believe that ethical statements do have meaning as they can be backed up with empirical data and regarded as true or false. A form of this thinking is Ethical Naturalism, a theory which states that something is ‘good’ if it physically exists and can fulfil its purpose, for example, a ‘good’ knife is one which cuts well. This means that in ethical naturalism, the criteria required for something to be ‘good’ can be met by viewing observable empirical data, independent of human opinions. Ethical naturalists believe that all statements, including moral ones, have a basis in fact so can be verified externally. For example a moral statement such as ‘knife crime is bad’ could be backed up with statistical evidence regarding the number of lives lost, showing objectively that it is a bad thing. Non Naturalism, while still a cognitivist approach, differs from naturalism insomuch as it does not think that moral issues can be reduced to non moral features. G.E Moore argued this point, saying that the term ‘good’ was indefinable and could not be an intrinsic value of something, only a term used to describe it, and an attempt to define it would be committing the ‘Naturalistic Fallacy’. He famously compared it to the colour yellow, saying that it is impossible to define what yellow is, we can only show yellow by providing examples of it, and the same applies to ‘good’. Moore did not consider ‘goodness’ to be a natural property, meaning that it could not be tested empirically. It was Moore’s belief that...
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