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The most inclusive way of understanding metaethics is as an investigation into the nature of moral judgments: judgments about the morality or immorality of actions, institutions, states of affairs, or whatever. What makes this formulation inclusive is that it describes both of the two areas of ethical inquiry that metaethics is generally understood as encompassing. These two areas are, first and most narrowly, the meaning of moral language; second and more broadly, the nature and possibility of moral knowledge. (Talk of “judgments” covers both because it can refer to both the words used in making a judgment and what is claimed in making that judgment.) Used to refer to the first area of ethical inquiry, metaethics is employed in what might be called its linguistic ...

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