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Friday, December 6, 2013

What don't students understand about morality?

By David Morrow
The Philosopher's Cocoon
Originally published November 19, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

Here are a few more false beliefs that I suspect many students bring to our intro courses:
  1. "Morality is just a matter of opinion," which they take to mean that moral claims are neither true or false. 
  2. Morality, like law, must be positivistic—that is, something can be right or wrong only if someone or something says that it's right or wrong. (Thus, "Who's to say what's right or wrong?") 
  3. "Morality is just your personal feelings." This is a wishy-washy mix of emotivism and subjectivism. It entails that you're always right about moral claims that apply to yourself, and so obviously conflicts both with (1) and with cultural relativism. 
  4. Saying that x is wrong is equivalent to saying that anyone who does x should be punished. (Now, Mill says something like this, but allows that the punishment could be left to one's own conscience. Many students seem to think that "society," in some form or another, should punish the person.)
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