good-reasons theory

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good-reasons theory

in American and British metaethics, an approach that tries to establish the validity or objectivity of moral judgments by examining the modes of reasoning used to support them. The approach first appeared in An Examination of the Place of Reason in Ethics (1950) by Stephen Toulmin, a British philosopher of science and ethicist. In general, the approach represents a reaction against the positivism of the 1930s and '40s, which, in its theory that moral terms have only emotive meaning, tended to support ethical relativism, subjectivism, and skepticism. It also represents the constructive influence of one of the founding fathers of linguistic analysis, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who in his later philosophy rejected all interpretations of meaning and language that reduce all significant discourse to categorical statements, proposing instead that the philosophical task is to recognize and describe different "language games," or usages of language, as they actually manifest different forms of life. The good-reasons philosophers thus began to examine normative discourse, in general, and moral discourse, in particular, as a whole rather than exploring only the uniquely moral terms embedded in that discourse. This examination led to an appreciation of the complexity of the relationships between the evaluative and the descriptive aspects of moral discourse and, in particular, to a consideration of the logical connections between them.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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