Feminist Metaethics

Authored by: Anita Superson

The Routledge Companion to Feminist Philosophy

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138795921
eBook ISBN: 9781315758152
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315758152-42

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Abstract

Ethics is the study of moral behavior, specifically, how we ought to act or what kind of persons we ought to be. Metaethics literally means “about” or “beyond” ethics. It has been described as the attempt to understand the metaphysical, epistemological, semantic, and psychological presuppositions and commitments of moral thought, talk, and practice (Sayre-McCord 2015 [2012]: 1). It presupposes no commitments to particular normative moral theories but goes beyond them or talks about them and their underlying assumptions. One major topic in metaethics concerns moral ontology. This issue covers the question of whether there are moral facts, and if there are, what their nature is. Are moral facts like scientific facts? Does wrongness exist in the world the way the water in your glass does? Suppose moral facts exist in some sense. Is the truth they yield relative to societies or even to individuals, or is it absolute, holding for all persons at all times? A second major topic in metaethics concerns the interconnection between moral action, reasons, and motivation. How can we rationally justify morally required action? Which theory of practical reason is best for grounding moral reasons? Does having a moral obligation to act necessarily entail having a motive to act? A third major topic in metaethics is that of moral epistemology: how do we come to know our moral duties? Is reason sufficient for knowing them, or do emotions play a role? These topics, which feminist philosophers have only recently begun to explore from a feminist angle, will be the focus of this chapter.

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