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"'. . . that He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.'
For from Zion will go forth the Law
Even the Word of God from Jerusalem."
|We consider first those philosophies which have held that moral discourse has an informative function, that is, conveys cognitive propositions which can be verified or falsified. The informativist school is divided between the objectivists and subjectivists, between those who see moral discourse as giving information about objective moral good and those who see it as giving information about the likes and dislikes of the subject who is speaking. The naturalistic objectivist holds that "good" applies to some discernable or empirical quality in the appraised item (e.g., pleasure for Epicurus and Bentham, maximized group happiness for J. S. Mill, or harmony with nature for the Stoics and Aquinas). Normative terms are definable and, when applied, open to examination. This naturalistic approach has the effect of reducing ethics to a branch of empirical science where the proper method of study would include statistics, induction, and descriptive generalization; however, this method by itself is irrelevant for arriving at moral conclusions. "Ought" must play a distinctive role from "is." Descriptive truths of this sort about the world or society cannot reasonably convince anyone of a prescriptive truth without the naturalistic fallacy being committed; to observe what is the case has nothing to do with what should be the case. It is always meaningful to ask if a pleasure, for instance, is good; yet on the naturalists basis such a question would have to be nonsensical.|
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