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Metaethics after Moore$
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Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199269914

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199269914.001.0001

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Ethics Dehumanized

Ethics Dehumanized

(p.367) 16 Ethics Dehumanized
Metaethics after Moore

Panayot Butchvarov

Oxford University Press

This chapter advocates a return to Moorean independence. One dominant metaethical trend is moral epistemology naturalized. Another metaethical trend has been conceptual analysis, often called ‘analytic ethics’. It is argued that both trends are philosophically misguided. Ethics naturalized is un-philosophical in lacking the kind of supreme generality and abstractness that is distinctive of philosophical inquiry; it takes human beings to occupy moral centre stage. By contrast, we find in Moore a kind of cosmological ethics, focused on the value of all things in the universe as a basis for ethical inquiry. Moreover, ethics naturalized lacks competence in that its scientific pretensions are at odds with how philosophers go about their business. Analytic ethics, on the other hand, which is explicitly concerned with armchair, intuitive judgments about meanings, cannot overcome the lack of competence signaled by the philosophical lessons about conceptual analysis found in Kant, Quine, and Wittgenstein. In light of these failures, the chapter advocates returning to the cosmological orientation of Moore's ethics, which can be properly understood as avoiding the traditional metaethical debate between realism and anti-realism, as well as avoiding the battery of objections to the effect that Moore's ethics is not relevant to action. Such a return to a Moorean view of ethics would represent a version of ‘ethics dehumanized’: cosmological in its focus and thus properly philosophical.

Keywords:   G. E. Moore, moral epistemology naturalized, naturalized moral epistemology, analytic ethics, conceptual analysis, cosmological ethics, moral realism, moral anti-realism

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