Moral philosophy is the area of philosophy concerned with theories of ethics, with how we ought to live our lives. It is divided into three areas: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics.


Metaethics is the most abstract area of moral philosophy. It deals with questions about the nature of morality, about what morality is and what moral language means. This section of the site contains material on cognitivism and noncognitivism, and on moral relativism.

Normative Ethics

While metaethics treats the most abstract questions of moral philosophy, normative ethics is more concerned with providing a moral framework that can be used in order to work out what kinds of action are good and bad, right and wrong. There are three main traditions in normative ethics: virtue ethics, deontology, and consequentialism.

Applied Ethics

The most down to earth area of moral philosophy is applied ethics. This seeks to apply normative ethical theories to specific cases to tell us what is right and what is wrong. In this section, various thorny ethical issues are discussed: e.g. abortion, animal rights, and punishment.