WJEC/Eduqas RS for A2/Yr2: Religion and Ethics (DRAFT)

Religious Studies for A2 and A Level Year 2 Religion and Ethics © Illuminate Publishing 2018 These are publisher’s uncorrected draft proofs and may contain un nished material.These pages have not been fully checked, and have not gone through awarding body endorsement processes.

T1 Ethical Thought

This section covers AO1 content and skills Specification content Objective moral laws exist

D: Meta-ethical approaches – Naturalism Naturalism: objective moral laws exist independently of human beings The best way to approach Naturalism is to begin with re-visiting a concept from Year 1. In philosophy, the terms ‘ empirical ’ and ‘empiricism’ were used. These terms are usually quite heavily associated with philosophers Locke and Berkeley but especially with the Scottish philosopher David Hume. The empirical philosophical view is particularly pertinent when it comes to consider the philosophical discipline of epistemology; that is, the study of how and what we ‘know’. The word epistemology is derived from the Greek episteme (knowledge) and logos (words or discussion), i.e. ‘discussion about knowledge’. Key quotes Naturalism is an approach to philosophical problems that interprets them as tractable through the methods of the empirical sciences or at least, without a distinctively a priori project of theorising. (Jacobs) Ethical naturalism is the idea that ethics can be understood in the terms of natural science. One way of making this more specific is to say that moral properties (such as goodness and rightness) are identical with ‘natural’ properties, that is, properties that figure into scientific descriptions or explanations of things. (Rachels) The epistemological position empiricism takes is that all knowledge is derived from the senses; that is, what we see, hear, touch, smell and feel is responded to by our intellect which gives the experiences meaning. David Hume advocated that we are born in a state of tabula rasa , which literally means ‘a clean slate’. In other words, we are born with an absence of preconceptions, predetermined views, or indeed anything in our minds. Everything that we know and learn has its origins in the world of sense experience. This is not a new idea; indeed, it affirms the peripatetic axiom of ancient Greek philosophy and it is also referred to in Aquinas’ writings: ‘Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses’. When a proposition (statement) is put forward based upon what we experience, it is first of all verified (checked for validity, i.e. does it make sense and have meaning

independently of human beings; moral terms can be understood by analysing the natural world; ethical statements are cognitivist and can be verified or falsified; verified moral statements are objective truths and universal.

Key terms Cognition: the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses Empirical: knowledge gained through the senses Epistemology: philosophy of knowledge derived from the Greek episteme (knowledge) and logos (words or discussion) i.e. ‘discussion about knowledge’ Peripatetic axiom: philosophical view found in ancient Greek philosophy that ‘Nothing is in the intellect that was not rst in the senses’ Tabula rasa: literally means ‘a clean slate’ and refers to the peripatetic axiom


in relation to what we experience?) and then assessed through empirical means for the extent of its truthfulness or ‘truth value’. This means that the world of sense- experience is appealed to as the basis for establishing the meaning and truthfulness of a statement, proposition or theory. Once verification of meaning is established by cognition , the truth value of a proposition can be assessed.

David Hume argued that we were born tabula rasa


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