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Philosophy & Religious Studies   >   Metaethics


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In this course, Dr Iain Law (University of Birmingham) provides a comprehensive introduction to the field of philosophy known as metaethics. In the first module, we provide an introduction to metaethics itself, including the difference between metaethics and normative ethical theories such as utilitarianism and virtue ethics and some of the key questions that metaethics poses. In the second and third modules, we explore two approaches to metaethics that agree moral properties exist (moral realism) but disagree as to the nature of these properties: naturalism and non-naturalism. In the fourth module, we explore two arguments from David Hume that move us towards a view that contribute to how we think and talk about metaethics, before turning in the fifth, sixth and seventh modules to three accounts of metaethics that agree that moral properties do not exist (moral anti-realism) but disagree as what is going on when we make a moral statement – A. J. Ayer and Emotivism, R. M. Hare and Prescriptivism, and J. M. Mackie and Moral Error Theory.


In this module, we provide an introduction to metaethics itself, focusing in particular on: (i) the difference between ethics and metaethics; (ii) some of the key questions that metaethics poses – what are moral properties? do they really exist? what state of mind is one in when one makes a moral statement? how does one know that something is wrong? if moral properties don’t exist, what does it mean when we say ‘murder is wrong’?; (iii) an introduction to the distinction between moral realism and moral anti-realism (do moral properties exist?); and (iv) an introduction to the distinction between cognitivism and non-cognitivism (are ethical statements truth-apt?).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Law, I. (2021, January 01). Metaethics - Introduction [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Law, I. "Metaethics – Introduction." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 01 Jan 2021,


Dr Iain Law

Dr Iain Law

Birmingham University