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StrictlyLogical

Meta-ethics verus Ethics

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Taking a survey.

Q1.  What is the difference between ethics and meta-ethics?

Q2. Is the "good", as defined by any philosophical system (any rational, self-consistent, complete one), defined solely by the ethical system of that philosophy?

Q2.5 Related: Is an ethics valid if it purports to deal with anything other than a code of human action against a particular standard?

Q3. Depending on your answer to Q2, if the "good" is only defined within ethics (i.e. good MEANS that which meets certain conditions according to the ethical system and not another part of the philosophy) what does a meta-ethical system define in relation to the ethical system and the "good"?   Does meta-ethics antecede ethics? Does it lay down the purpose of the ethical system? or something else?

Q4. If within a philosophical system the "good" is defined by an ethics, and presupposes an ethical standard for its evaluation, is the question within that philosophical system, asked outside of ethics:

"Is the ethical system 'good'?" or equally "Is my standard for the 'good' according to the ethical system... 'good'?"

valid, meaningful, meaningless, circular, and/or something else?

Q5. Depending on the answer to Q4, is there possible within a philosophical system a meta-ethical evaluation of ethics according to some standard?  What kind of standard could meta-ethics have?  Can meta-ethics be subjective?  Is it possible for a meta-ethics to be objective and remain outside (and antecedent to) ethics?

Follow up:

Q6.  If the particular ethics is consequentialist and objective, (solving the IS-Ought problem by asking "IF you want X you ought to do Y") what is the relationship between that ethics and any subjectivity which falls outside of that ethics, and any subjectivity which is antecedent to that ethics? (possibly part of a meta-ethics)

 

I'm curious as to what you all think.  I am not expecting any particular responses nor planning or committing to comment on any.

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1. Ethics is about the process of being or attaining good. Meta-ethics concerns defining and justifying a code of ethics.

2. Not properly, no. Good is not defined BY an ethical system. An ethical system doesn't exist until the good is defined.

2.5 No - if here "human" refers to any conceptual consciousness.

3. "Does meta-ethics antecede ethics? Does it lay down the purpose of the ethical system?"
Yes and yes.

4. It's begging the question.

5. Yes. Something like intelligibility, definiteness, attainability, and comprehensiveness. Meta-ethics itself doesn't need to be subjective. Yes.

6. Subjectivity OUTSIDE ethics is that truth is subjective; there's no such thing.

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A1. The difference between ethics and meta-ethics:

Morality, or ethics, is defined by Ayn Rand in The Objectivist Ethics:

"What is morality, or ethics? It is a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life. Ethics, as a science, deals with discovering and defining such a code."

"The Objectivist Ethics,"

The Virtue of Selfishness

The philosophy of ethics necessarily rests on top of a philosophy of epistemology. Given a rational epistemology as a prior starting point, we first need to justify when and why morality applies to us as necessitated by these epistemological principles, before we get into looking to human nature to identify all of the specific details of what morality prescribes. That is to say, we are first concerned with what we can call metaethics - that is, the definition and justification of moral ideas and principles, and terms such as "ought", "duty", "good", "evil", "right", and "wrong", on the basis of a rational epistemology.

A2. Is "good" defined solely by ethics? No. Morally right action is good. But the rational, the beautiful, the pleasurable, the just - these are all good also. The sheer state of conscious awareness is good. And most importantly, existence itself is good.

A2.5. Does ethics deal with anything other than man's actions? I don't know if I fully understand the question, but the definition of ethics given above is that it's a code of values to guide man's choices and actions, so I think not.

A3. What does a metaethics define? See A1.

A4. Can you answer why a standard of "ethical good" is ultimately "good" within a given philosophical framework? Yes. The ethical meaning of "good", in terms of right action, can be judged epistemologically, as to whether the ethical meaning of good is either consistent with or contradictory to reality.

A5. Can metaethics be objective? Yes, as explained in A4.

A6. What is the relationship between consequentialism and the subjective "choice to live" that precedes ethics? Since consequentialism is purely hypothetical (if you want X then you ought to do Y), its metaethical premises are necessarily subjective (in the sense of being unjustified). Only a deontological ethical system can be objective, by justifying one's metaethical premises according to the more basic epistemological standards of non-contradiction (this is as against Tara Smith, who says the only reason to be rational is because it has good consequences).

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8 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Q3. Depending on your answer to Q2, if the "good" is only defined within ethics (i.e. good MEANS that which meets certain conditions according to the ethical system and not another part of the philosophy) what does a meta-ethical system define in relation to the ethical system and the "good"?   Does meta-ethics antecede ethics? Does it lay down the purpose of the ethical system? or something else?

I'm not really sure I understand what Meta-ethics is.  I googled the term wrt Rand, and only found a book that uses the term in a title.

I see Ethics as the branch of philosophy that deals with the fundamental and rather abstract nature of ethics and how it is integrated within the broader metaphysics, epistemology and ontology of the system.

Ethics, as a branch of philosophy, also serves as the basis for ethics as applied to such fields as medical ethics, business ethics, government (i.e. legislation, actual written laws, codes) and other such fields.  I see this as addressing the bold type above.

Edited by New Buddha

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On 2/8/2017 at 7:02 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

Q1.  What is the difference between ethics and meta-ethics?

What are we observing, in reality, which leads us to such a question in the first place?

When we know that men must make choices (i.e. that man has volition; that this is true of man's nature), and when we understand that these choices lead to dissimilar outcomes, we are led to try to assess these choices and select from between them (because the dissimiliarity in outcome is meaningful) -- and this is ethics. In a sense, I suppose, this would be a "meta-ethical" statement, as it reflects those facts of reality which give rise to ethics. (I'm treating this lightly and do not insist upon my formulation, but only offer it as one possibility.)

Are these "meta-ethics" distinct from metaphysics more generally, qua philosophy? Perhaps they could be labeled as "meta-ethics" for some good purpose -- such as in the composition of an essay/monograph on ethics -- but they remain what they are. For where are the meta-politics and meta-aesthetics and such all to be found, but in the nature of reality, in things as we find them to be?

Where men make choices and arrive at dissimilar outcomes -- the difference between the "metaphysical" and the "man-made" -- we are invited to judge. Could it be, then, that some who seek a distinct category of "meta-ethics" are looking for a sphere of choices which are not susceptible to human judgment? If one person selects a thing as his "standard of value," then he (and others) may evaluate his choices according to that standard of value (e.g. "ethics"), but the selection of the standard of value itself is held to be immune from judgment (being "meta-ethical")?

If so, then it's a dodge. The man who decides to adopt "causing the suffering of others" as his consciously held standard of value does not therefore sidestep human judgement, or the fact that his choices will cause his own suffering and demise (generally speaking). Here I find no valid distinction for "ethics" vs. "meta-ethics" in evaluating either his beliefs or his choices, and if someone were to insist that such a man was somehow "outside of judgement," or "amoral," because his decisions were made upon a different "meta-ethics," I'd say he was trying to get away with something.

Yet reality cannot be cheated.

On 2/8/2017 at 7:02 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

Q2. Is the "good", as defined by any philosophical system (any rational, self-consistent, complete one), defined solely by the ethical system of that philosophy?

Reality comes first, philosophical systems (and their definitions) come afterward. The good is what it is, and it is up to us to try to discover and describe the good as best as we can (whether that be "metaphysics," "ethics," or "meta-ethics").

On 2/8/2017 at 7:02 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

Q2.5 Related: Is an ethics valid if it purports to deal with anything other than a code of human action against a particular standard?

What's the use of trying to determine the "validity" of an ethics, as such? Statements of any kind can be true or false, "valid" or otherwise, howsoever we categorize them. If we discovered some ancient writing -- a scroll, perhaps, by some heretofore unknown Greek philosopher -- which was not conveniently labelled "ethics" or "metaphysics" or "meta-ethics," yes certainly we could categorize the nature of the statements for our better organization and understanding (and marketing).

But these should not be the first questions we'd ask, and they would never be the most important questions we'd ask.

To try to approach to this question from another direction, suppose it were asking not if "an ethics is valid if it purports to deal with anything other than a code of human action against a particular standard," but if anything outside of human action (like a hurricane) can be said to be "moral"? Then we could discuss real things, by asking what we mean by "morality," and discussing the nature of volition, and the nature of hurricanes, and etc., and in the end (as I would argue) we would reach the answer "no": outside of human action (and those things associated, such as belief), there is nothing we could say is "moral" or "immoral." A hurricane is not a moral agent.

Yet many true things can be said about a hurricane, even within the context of an essay on ethics, and the truth of such things would not be rendered otherwise through some "category error," though it would remain an error in fact to assign to a hurricane a moral character. And this -- understanding the nature of hurricanes (and how they differ from men, and the meaning of that difference) -- is what is centrally important, regardless of whether we categorize our understanding as "ethics" or otherwise (a meaningful, but wholly secondary consideration).

On 2/8/2017 at 7:02 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

Q3. Depending on your answer to Q2, if the "good" is only defined within ethics (i.e. good MEANS that which meets certain conditions according to the ethical system and not another part of the philosophy) what does a meta-ethical system define in relation to the ethical system and the "good"?   Does meta-ethics antecede ethics? Does it lay down the purpose of the ethical system? or something else?

"Good" does not mean "that which meets certain conditions according to [a given] ethical system," which almost sounds like a recipe for rationalism. "Good" points out at the world; we strive to order our information as best we can thereafter, but the source of "the good" is not determined by the conditions we set out in our philosophizing, or the definitions we abstract from the totality of our meaning.

If meta-ethics (considered as part and parcel to metaphysics, or as its own branch of philosophy) is said to "antecede ethics," then it does so only hierarchically, only in terms of our understanding of it. A man will have experience with "good" and "evil" (in fact must have) before he could ever conceive of anything like a "standard of value."

On 2/8/2017 at 7:02 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

Q4. If within a philosophical system the "good" is defined by an ethics, and presupposes an ethical standard for its evaluation, is the question within that philosophical system, asked outside of ethics:

"Is the ethical system 'good'?" or equally "Is my standard for the 'good' according to the ethical system... 'good'?"

valid, meaningful, meaningless, circular, and/or something else?

Suppose a person consciously adopts some philosophical system which defines "the good" in some bizarre and horrible way. Would such a person ever possibly be led to question or reject his moral philosophy? If so, how/why?

"The good" is not some function of formal definition. It is a matter of reality.

On 2/8/2017 at 7:02 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

Q5. Depending on the answer to Q4, is there possible within a philosophical system a meta-ethical evaluation of ethics according to some standard?  What kind of standard could meta-ethics have?  Can meta-ethics be subjective?  Is it possible for a meta-ethics to be objective and remain outside (and antecedent to) ethics?

If we can evaluate a thing in terms of "good" or "evil," then it is an ethical evaluation, whether we term it "meta-ethical" or not. Those metaphysical statements which underpin such ethical evaluations (as to the nature of hurricanes or men) are right or wrong, and can be evaluated as such, in the manner of 2+2=4.

If 2+2=4 can be evaluated, objectively, as true, then so can those statements about the nature of man which give rise to subsequent ethical evaluations.

If the question, really, is "can a man make a choice outside of morality?" Then my answer is: no.

On 2/8/2017 at 7:02 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

Q6.  If the particular ethics is consequentialist and objective, (solving the IS-Ought problem by asking "IF you want X you ought to do Y") what is the relationship between that ethics and any subjectivity which falls outside of that ethics, and any subjectivity which is antecedent to that ethics? (possibly part of a meta-ethics)

If anyone believes that there is something "subjective" ("arbitrary, irrational, blindly emotional") involved in adopting a rational ethics, then it falls upon the person making the claim to demonstrate it. I reject that any such thing exists in reality, and if we have managed to define "ethics" or "meta-ethics" in such a way as to suggest such a thing (in the absence or negative space, as it were), then the fault lies in our definition/understanding.

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