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Meta-ethical categories in "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life"

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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Greenham
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Meta-ethical categories in "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life"

Post by Greenham » August 30th, 2019, 1:51 pm

Hi all,

I read William James' The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life a while back. Introducing the essay, James says:
There are three questions in ethics which must be kept apart. Let them be called respectively the psychological question, the metaphysical question and the casuistic question. The psychological question asks after the historical origin of our moral ideas and judgments; the metaphysical question asks what the very meaning of the words “good,” “ill,” and “obligation” are; the casuistic question asks what is the measure of the various goods and ills which men recognize, so that the philosopher may settle the true order of human obligations.
Similarly, Wikipedia divides meta-ethics into three categories:
What is the meaning of moral terms or judgments? (moral semantics)
What is the nature of moral judgments? (moral ontology)
How may moral judgments be supported or defended? (moral epistemology)
My question is, can we map these two three-category divisions onto each other? Intuitively, it seems to me that James' "psychological question" would be a matter of moral ontology, the "metaphysical question" lines up perfectly with moral semantics, and the "casuistic question" is either about moral epistemology or deals with normative ethics rather than meta-ethics.

But I'm a total layman and don't want my idle speculation to guide me if I can help it. Am I on the right track trying to see how James' questions map onto those categories? How well do they coincide? Or am I barking up the wrong tree altogether?

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Felix
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Re: Meta-ethical categories in "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life"

Post by Felix » August 30th, 2019, 4:45 pm

My question is, can we map these two three-category divisions onto each other?
I think we can, as along as we keep in mind that maps are for those who cannot find their own way - if you know the territory, you don't need a map for it.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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