Metaethical Challanges

When we talk about morality (what’s good or bad, right or wrong) we often talk about it as if: it’s real, we’re all talking about the same thing, and we assume that moral rules apply the same to everyone. Metaethics is the study of morality — is there such a thing? What are we referring to? Are moral truths universal? Are moral requirements even good for us? For this paper, you will choose one of these metaethical challenges:

1. Morality requires the existence of God (see Berg on Divine Command Theory)

2. Morality is relative to different cultures / there are no universal moral truths (see Harman and Benedict on Moral/Cultural Relativism)

In your paper, you will explain to the reader what your challenge is and why it poses a problem for our understanding of what morality is. You should explain the challenge as if you are trying to convince your reader that this challenge is ultimately successful! Then you will offer a reply to the challenge you’ve chosen. Your reply should appeal to the replies we considered in class:

1. God – you should explain the Euythphro Problem and connect it to the challenge that morality requires God’s existence 

2. Relativism – you should explain Rachels’ defense of morality against relativism (OR, you may apply the Euthyphro Problem)

For your reply, you should explain the reply as if you are trying to convince the reader that the challenge is not successful. That is, give extra support to the reply (your own examples, etc).

For all of the challenges, you should end your paper by assessing whether YOU think the challenge or the reply to the challenge is ultimately successful. You should explain/support your assessment! In this section, you may appeal to Nietzsche’s Genealogy *if* you agree with his critique of morality. If you choose to appeal to Nietzsche, you must give your own support for why you think his view is correct.

Your paper should have the following components:

1. An introduction to the metaethical challenge you’ve chosen, including an explanation of the philosophical question at issue (be it morality’s origins [God], or morality’s scope [relative or universal]. Your explanation of the challenge should assume your reader is interested but unfamiliar with the texts and the topic. You should use your paper to teach your reader about the challenge and it’s importance.

2. An explanation of the text that poses the Challenge — what is the appeal of the challenge? What support is there for it? (1 Berg, 2 Harman, may also include Benedict)

3. An explanation of the reply to the challenge — what flaw is there in the challenge? What support is there to reject the challenge? If you’ve chosen option 1, you should discuss Plato’s Euthyphro Problem; option 2, Rachels’ defense against relativism)

4. An assessment of where you’ve landed: which do you think is more successful, the challenge or the reply? Why? What worries or misgivings do you have after considering the challenge and reply? 

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