“There’s something really stupid about the meta-ethical arguments about whether or not legitimations for ethics are absolute or not, and, if not, whether people can still be ethical…most people just don’t give a shit about meta-ethics.”
This is of interest to me, among other things, because I’ve recently been doing a certain amount of work on meta-ethics (i.e. what is ethics? what do words like ‘good’ mean?) and will, with luck, be presenting to a conference in mid-November, arguing that the foundations of ethics (in at least one sense) are absolute (in at least one sense) in what I think is a fairly novel way. If that goes well I will probably post on it. So I don’t think the whole issue is ‘stupid’.
Of course Missives has a point, which is that people are not waiting with bated breath for some philosophers to finally announce whether truth is beauty, or whether, in fact, beauty is truth. Most of the actions that we call ‘moral’ (in at least one sense) are motivated by something other than metaphysics – they’re some psychological impulse or other, whether empathy, disgust, fear, etc.
But I think this point can be over-stated. The question to ask, I think, is not so much ‘does philosophy affect people’s behaviour?’, but rather the two questions ‘does philosophy affect ideology?’ and ‘does ideology affect people’s behaviour?’