David Copp

in The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory

Published in print December 2005 | ISBN: 9780195147797
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785841 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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This chapter begins by explaining the distinction between meta-ethics and normative ethics. It then introduces the main issues in the two fields and provides a critical overview of the chapters in the volume. In meta-ethics, it focuses on explaining the different kinds of moral realism and anti-realism, including the divine command theory, naturalism, non-naturalism, relativism, nihilism, and non-cognitivism. Quasi-realism illustrates how the distinction between anti-realism and realism can become blurred. A variety of views about the relation between morality and practical reason, including contractarianism, are discussed. In normative ethics, the chapter focuses on the distinction, among theories of right action, between consequentialism and non-consequentialism, as well as the distinction between theories of right action and other kinds of normative theory, such as rights theory, virtue theory, and the ethics of care. There is an overview of the debate between consequentialism and deontology regarding moral constraints, as well as a discussion of indirect consequentialist responses to deontological objections.

Keywords: meta-ethics; normative ethics; moral realism; moral anti-realism; divine command theory; naturalism; non-naturalism; relativism; nihilism; non-cognitivism

Chapter.  16631 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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