Are moral standards relative to cultures? Are there any moral facts? What is goodness? If there are moral facts how do we learn about them? These are all questions in metaethics, the branch of ethics that investigates the status of morality, the nature of ethical facts, and the meaning of ethical statements. To the uninitiated it can appear abstract and far removed from its two more concrete cousins, ethical theory and applied ethics, yet it is one of the fastest-growing and most exciting areas of ethics. What is this thing called Metaethics? demystifies this important subject and is ideal for students coming to it for the first time. Beginning with a brief historical overview of metaethics and the development of a "conceptual toolkit," Matthew Chrisman introduces and assesses the following key topics:
• ethical reality: including questions about naturalism and non-naturalism, moral facts, and the distinction between realism and antirealism
• ethical language: does language represent reality? What mental states are expressed by moral statements?
• ethical psychology: the Humean theory of motivation and the connection between moral judgement and motivation
• ethical knowledge: intuitionist and coherentist moral epistemologies, and theories of objectivity and relativism in metaethics
• new directions in metaethics, including non-traditional theories and extensions to metaepistemology and metanormative theory.
Additional features such as chapter summaries, questions of understanding, and a glossary make this an ideal introduction to metaethics.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Four Key Issues
Questions about Ethics and Metaphysics
Questions about Ethics and Epistemology
Questions about Ethics and Philosophy of Language
Questions about Ethics and Philosophy of Mind
Chapter 2. Nonnaturalism
A More Precise Characterization
The Case for Nonnaturalism
Arguments against Nonnaturalism
Chapter 3. Expressivism
Arguments in Favor of Expressivism
Versions and Objections
Chapter 4. Error Theory & Fictionalism
Mackie’s Arguments for Error Theory
Objections and Replies
Versions of Fictionalism
Chapter 5. Naturalism
Relativism as a Form of Naturalism
A Posteriori Naturalism
A Priori Network Naturalism
Chapter 6. Summary and Chart
The Four Main Areas
Costs and Benefits
Chapter 7. Theories That Are Hard to Classify in Traditional Terms
Beliefs or Desires—Why Not a Bit of Both?
Ethical Facts—Why do they have to be "out there"?
Chapter 8. Outstanding Issues
From Metaethics to Metanormative Theory
From Metaethics to Metaepistemology
Matthew Chrisman teaches and researches ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of language at the University of Edinburgh, UK. He also works on action theory, political philosophy, deontic logic and the ethics of climate change.
"This is an outstanding introductory text that combines clear, concise, and detailed coverage of all of the traditional metaethical positions, with original and distinctive treatments of new developments in metaethics, and with a fascinating discussion of how metaethical thinking relates to more broadly normative issues. It will be an excellent resource for students and their teachers alike."
Michael Brady, University of Glasgow, UK