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Humanities LibreTexts

9: Meta-Ethics

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  • Ethics concerns what is good. Different things can be good in different ways. We just considered the nature of the good life. The quality of one’s life is something that can be evaluated for goodness. This makes it an ethical issue. Aristotle’s theory of virtue was part of our inquiry into the good life. But more specifically, the theory of virtue concerns the ethical issue of good character. What’s being evaluated here is not a person’s life, but a person’s character. These are related but distinct ethical issues. More familiar will be ethical theories of good action. The ethics of good action concerns what is permissible, obligatory, and superogatory (good above and beyond what’s obligated). Social groups can be ethically good or bad. Social justice is the ethics of good society. So ethics concerns the goodness of assorted things. Except for this chapter, we will organize our discussion of ethics around just what is being evaluated for goodness: actions, character, lives, or societies. In this chapter we will not be concerned with the goodness of any of these things, but with more general questions about the fundamental nature of goodness.

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