On descriptive ethics

Andrew Boucher
University of Exeter
In its descriptive sense ethical language allows one to make assertions, which like other assertions may be true or not. “One should not torture,” descriptively, makes an assertion about torture - that it is an act that one should not do. While the peculiar force of ethical language comes from its overloading of different types of uses - descriptive, imperative, and emotive -, our concern here will be with the descriptive. Many of our assertions will focus on the English word ʻshould,ʼ although mutatis mutandi they hold as well for other ethical terms, such as ʻjust.ʼ..
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