Hello, and welcome back to the Introduction to Philosophy course at the University of Edinburgh. My name's Matthew Chrisman. I'm a reader in philosophy here in the School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences. Today I want to talk to you about a topic in moral philosophy that I call the status of morality. What is morality? Well that's a really big question. today what we'll focus on is particular moral judgments and ask about their status. What do I mean about particular moral judgments? Well, I have in, in mind the everyday, day sort of judgments that we make when we think something like what Pol Pot did and the genocide was morally abhorrent. Or giving to charity is a good thing to do. but also the kind of moral judgments that ethical philosophers make. They make judgments that are a little bit more abstract. They say things like, an action is right insofar as it maximizes overall happiness, or one ought to always act in a way that one could will one's reason to be reasons for everyone else. these are very abstract moral judgments made in ethical theory. we have the particular moral judgments made in every day life. Today, we won't be asking whether these are correct. whether specific moral judgments or abstract moral judgments are correct or incorrect. Rather, we will be asking the status of these judgments. What are we doing when we make such judgments? Are we representing objective facts of matter? Or are we describing our personal or cultural practices? Are we depicting some element of the universe out there? The moral facts. Are we expressing our emotions toward things? these are the types of questions that we ask, when we ask about the status of morality. So what I want to do today is, delve into that question a little bit more. Try to understand the nature of the question. What exactly are we asking, when we ask about the status of morality? and then move on to three very general types of approaches that philosophers have taken to this question. So, one of these approaches, I'll call objectivism. The idea that we are representing objective facts when we make moral judgments. Another approach is relativism, the idea that we're describing some kind of cultural or personal relative practices when we make these judgments. And the third idea is emotivism, that we're expressing our emotions towards the world when we make these judgments. So those will be the three general types of theories we'll talk about today after I introduce the topic and we'll, and then we'll think a little bit about objections and replies to those theories. One more comment before we get into the issues. I'll be using examples of particular moral judgements as we go along and I've chosen controversial examples on purpose. I want you to see through the controversy why it's important to think about the status of morality. so some of the examples will be controversial and some of them you might disagree with. That's fine. today's question is not whether these particular judgments are right or wrong but what we're doing when we make these judgments. What is their status? So at a later point in the lecture, I'll ask you to come up with some examples of your own and controversial examples are good. They help us to think about the status of morality. So today we're talking about the status of morality. The status of moral judgements. What are we doing when we judge that something's good or bad? Right or wrong? Virtuous or vicious? One way to get your heads around that question is to generate two lists and compare and contrast these lists. So what I want to do now is generate a list of empirical judgments, judgments about the empirically discoverable world. And a list of moral judgments, judgments about what's right and wrong, good and bad, etc. so one way to think about an empirical judgment is to think about something that was discovered. A scientific discovery. Here's a really famous scientific discovery. The earth rotates around the sun. Of course, for many, much of human history, people didn't believe that. They thought that the sun rotated around the earth, or they had some other cosmological theory. But Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo discovered that the earth rotates around sun and developed our contemporary cosmological theory, how we understand the orbits of the planets. The judgement, the earth rotates around the sun, that's an empirical judgement. or the judgement that electricity has positive and negative charges. Discovered by Benjamin Franklin explains the flow of electricity. That judgement is the judgement about the empirical world. or consider Mendel's discovery that plants inherit some of their traits genetically based on certain laws of inheritance. that, that judgement, that plants inherit some of the traits genetically, is an empirical judgement, judgement about the empirical world. Or here's the final more contemporary example. recently it was discovered that the so-called God particle predicted by Edinburgh's own professor Peter Higgs exists. That seems to be an empirical discovery about a fundamental piece of the universe, but in order to get empirical judgments on our list we don't have to have these very impressive scientific discoveries. We could also just think of more everyday judgments like the judgment that lead is heavier than iron. or the judgment, quite simply, that it was sunny today in Edinburgh. or even the judgment that I, Matthew Chrisman, am less than six feet tall. All of these are empirical judgements. Judgements that we can verify by empirical observation. Okay, now for our second list; Moral Judgements. to generalize some examples of moral judgements, we can think about positive moral things like giving to charity is good, or taking care of your children is morally obligatory. these are examples of positive moral judgements. we can to that list something like, protesting something you take to be a gross injustice is morally right. That would be a moral judgement. Of course more often actually I think we make negative moral judgements. So we say things like Cain's killing Abel out of jealousy was morally bad, was wrong or Oedipus sleeping with his mother Jakasta was morally bad. That would be a moral judgement. or, something like Pol Pot's genocidal actions during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia was morally abhorrent. Genocide's morally abhorrent. Those would be moral judgments. Or finally, a much more controversial one. Polygamy, the practice of one man having multiple wives, or one woman having multiple husbands is morally dubious. These are the types of judgements that we could put on our list as moral judgements. Okay, so we've come up with two lists. A list of empirical judgements and a list of moral judgements. some of the items on our list are quite controversial. so what I want you to do now is try to come up with some examples of your own. They can be controversial examples or examples that you take to be obvious, but come up with two examples of each type. Two examples of empirical judgments about the empirically discoverable world, and examples of moral judgments about things like, what's right and wrong, good and bad, virtuous, vicious, etc. we'll take a second here and, and let you come up with these examples. It'd be helpful to write them down on a piece of paper so that you can refer to them in the rest of this lecture. Okay, hopefully you have, you have your own examples. Two examples of empirical judgements and two examples of moral judgements. Or if you want some more time, or time to think about it, you can press pause in the video now. For the rest of the lecture, I'm going to focus on examples from my list. Two examples of empirical judgements and two examples of moral judgements. So here are the two examples of empirical judgements I'll use. The sun rotates around the earth, and it was sunny in Edinburgh today. And here are two examples of moral judgements that I'll use. Genocide is morally wrong, or morally abhorrent. and polygamy is morally dubious. So focus on those as examples of moral judgements. but you can also think about your own examples and ask the same sorts of questions we're going to ask about these about your examples. So now, what we've been doing is coming up with these examples in order to better understand the question about the status of morality. I think the best way into that is to think, to now ask some questions about these two lists. So, many philosophers, and I think many ordinary people, have felt that there's an important difference between the types of judgements that go under the heading, empirical judgements, and the types of judgements that go under the heading, moral judgements. they feel like there's some, something importantly different between these two things. So one we could ask, the first question I'll ask is are these judgements the source of things that can be true or false? So in the case of empirical judgements, it's quite natural to say, yes, of course. Whereas some philosophers have thought, in the case of moral judgement, that they're not the sort of thing that can be true or false. They're mere opinions or mere expressions of our emotions. now, other philosophers and other people have thought, no, that's not right. There's still a difference but, that's not the difference. So we ask a second question. If these are, if moral judgments are like empirical judgments, in that, in that they can be true or false, what makes them true or false? In the, in the empirical case, you might think it's something about the objective human-independent facts. what is it in, in the moral case? and now we can ask a third question. Are they objectively true or false? So you might think the difference between those two is, no they're not objectively true or false. there are more judgements that are not objectively true or false, they're only true or false relative to a culture or a person or a sensibility or something like that. now that's the kind of second group of true or false that I'll talk about. The third group of false that I'll talk about deny both of these initial ideas and say, moral judgements are the sorts of things that can be true or false. And there are also the sorts of things that can be made true or false by objective facts, they are objectively true or false. they aspire to objectivity just like comparable judgements. So what I want to do in the rest of this lecture is talk about these three philosophical approaches to the status of morality. we'll talk about the objectivist idea that moral judgments are just as objective as empirical judgments. And then we'll talk about the relativist idea that moral judgments are importantly different than empirical judgements in that they're relativised somehow. And finally we'll talk about that motivist idea that moral judgements aren't the sorts of things that can be true or false, they are mere opinions or expressions of our emotions. We'll explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of each of these theories and consider some of the objections that proponents of one or another theory levy against the other theories. That's the plan for the rest of the lecture.