The consensus of metaethicists is that there are two major concerns that jointly constitute the subject matter of metaethics.
The first we shall simply call "matters of analysis," and these encompass such questions as:
What are the meanings of the prominent ethical terms?
Can these words be defined in non-ethical terms?
What is the function of moral judgments?
For what purposes are they used?
How do they differ from other sorts of statements? And so on.
The second major concern of a metaethical theory we shall call "matters of justification."
Here some of the questions ordinarily asked are the following:
How are moral judgments to be justified?
What reasons constitute a valid defense of such judgments?
What sort of activity is reason-giving in such circumstances?
How is it related to defending orders, requests, statements of fact, etc.? And so on.
- L. W. Sumner's (1967, p. 101) 'Normative Ethics & Metaethics'
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