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Studies of how we know in ethics divide into cognitivism and non-cognitivism; this is similar to the contrast between descriptivists and non-descriptivists.

Non-cognitivism is the claim that when we judge something as right or wrong, this is neither true nor false.

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As a field of intellectual enquiry, moral philosophy also is related to the fields of moral psychology, descriptive ethics, and value theory.

Three major areas of study within ethics recognized today are: The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy states that the word "ethics" is "commonly used interchangeably with 'morality' ...

and sometimes it is used more narrowly to mean the moral principles of a particular tradition, group or individual." It can refer to philosophical ethics or moral philosophy—a project that attempts to use reason to answer various kinds of ethical questions.

The Ancient Greek adjective êthikos is itself derived from another Greek word, the noun êthos meaning "character, disposition". In it he first wrote about what he called the naturalistic fallacy.

An ethical question fixed on some particular practical question—such as, "Should I eat this particular piece of chocolate cake? A meta-ethical question is abstract and relates to a wide range of more specific practical questions. Moore was seen to reject naturalism in ethics, in his Open Question Argument.

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