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Moral Skepticism

Edited by Christopher Michael Cloos (University of California at Santa Barbara)
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  1. Deborah Achtenberg (1991). Skepticism in Ethics. Review of Metaphysics 44 (4):835-836.
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  2. Alexandra Plakias (2013). The Good and the Gross. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (2):261-278.
    Recent empirical studies have established that disgust plays a role in moral judgment. The normative significance of this discovery remains an object of philosophical contention, however; ‘disgust skeptics’ such as Martha Nussbaum have argued that disgust is a distorting influence on moral judgment and has no legitimate role to play in assessments of moral wrongness. I argue, pace Nussbaum, that disgust’s role in the moral domain parallels its role in the physical domain. Just as physical disgust tracks physical contamination and (...)
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  3. James Plunkett Allan (1998). Scepticism, Rights and Utility. Ratio Juris 11 (4):413-424.
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  4. David James Anderson (2012). Skeptical Theism and Value Judgments. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 72 (1):27-39.
    One of the most prominent objections to skeptical theism in recent literature is that the skeptical theist is forced to deny our competency in making judgments about the all-things-considered value of any natural event. Some skeptical theists accept that their view has this implication, but argue that it is not problematic. I think that there is reason to question the implication itself. I begin by explaining the objection to skeptical theism and the standard response to it. I then identify an (...)
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  5. A. E. Avey (1937). Moral Skepticism and the Way of Escape. International Journal of Ethics 47 (4):451-460.
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  6. Neera K. Badhwar (2010). Superson, Anita M. The Moral Skeptic . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009 . Pp. 250. $24.95 (Paper). Ethics 120 (3):635-639.
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  7. Renford Bambrough (1979). Moral Skepticism and Moral Knowledge. Routledge + Kegan Paul.
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  8. George A. Barrow (1911). The Moral Argument of Theism. Philosophical Review 20:461.
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  9. Robert Bass (2010). Reflective Equilibrium. In Nils Rauhut & Robert Bass (eds.), Readings on the Ultimate Questions - Third Edition. Pearson.
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  10. Gerald Beaulieu (2009). Sinnott-Armstrong's Moral Skepticism: A Murdochian Response. Dialogue 48 (03):673-678.
    Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has recently criticized moral intuitionism by bringing to light some compelling empirical evidence indicating that we are unreliable at forming moral judgments non-inferentially. The evidence shows that our non-inferentially arrived-at moral convictions are subject to framing effects; that is, they vary depending on how the situation judged is described. Thomas Nadelhoffer and Adam Feltz, following in Sinnott-Armstrong's footsteps, have appealed to research indicating that such judgments are also subject to actor-observer bias; that is, they vary depending on whether (...)
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  11. J. C. Berendzen (2010). Suffering and Theory: Max Horkheimer's Early Essays and Contemporary Moral Philosophy. Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (9):1019-1037.
    Max Horkheimer does not generally receive the scholarly attention given to other ‘Frankfurt School’ figures. This is in part because his early work seems contradictory, or unphilosophical. For example, Horkheimer seems, at various points (to use contemporary metaethical terms), like a constructivist, a moral realist, or a moral skeptic, and it is not clear how these views cohere. The goal of this article is to show that the contradictions regarding moral theory exist largely on the surface, and that one can (...)
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  12. Michael Bergmann & Patrick Kain (eds.) (2014). Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief: Disagreement and Evolution. Oxford University Press.
    Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief contains fourteen original essays by philosophers, theologians, and social scientists on challenges to moral and religious belief from disagreement and evolution. Three main questions are addressed: Can one reasonably maintain one's moral and religious beliefs in the face of interpersonal disagreement with intellectual peers? Does disagreement about morality between a religious belief source, such as a sacred text, and a non-religious belief source, such as a society's moral intuitions, make it irrational to continue trusting (...)
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  13. Michael Bergmann & Michael Rea (2005). In Defence of Sceptical Theism: A Reply to Almeida and Oppy. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2):241 – 251.
    Some evidential arguments from evil rely on an inference of the following sort: 'If, after thinking hard, we can't think of any God-justifying reason for permitting some horrific evil then it is likely that there is no such reason'. Sceptical theists, us included, say that this inference is not a good one and that evidential arguments from evil that depend on it are, as a result, unsound. Michael Almeida and Graham Oppy have argued (in a previous issue of this journal) (...)
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  14. Selim Berker (2014). Does Evolutionary Psychology Show That Normativity Is Mind-Dependent? In Justin D'Arms & Daniel Jacobson (eds.), Moral Psychology and Human Agency: Philosophical Essays on the Science of Ethics. Oxford University Press. 215-252.
    Suppose we grant that evolutionary forces have had a profound effect on the contours of our normative judgments and intuitions. Can we conclude anything from this about the correct metaethical theory? I argue that, for the most part, we cannot. Focusing my attention on Sharon Street’s justly famous argument that the evolutionary origins of our normative judgments and intuitions cause insuperable epistemological difficulties for a metaethical view she calls "normative realism," I argue that there are two largely independent lines of (...)
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  15. Jessica Berry (2011). Nietzsche and the Ancient Skeptical Tradition. Oxford University Press.
    Introduction : reading Nietzsche skeptically -- Nietzsche and the Pyrrhonian tradition -- Skepticism in Nietzsche's early work : the case of "on truth and lie" -- The question of Nietzsche's "naturalism" -- Perspectivism and Ephexis in interpretation -- Skepticism and health -- Skepticism as immoralism.
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  16. Brian Besong (2014). Moral Intuitionism and Disagreement. Synthese 191 (12):2767-2789.
    According to moral intuitionism, at least some moral seeming states are justification-conferring. The primary defense of this view currently comes from advocates of the standard account, who take the justification-conferring power of a moral seeming to be determined by its phenomenological credentials alone. However, the standard account is vulnerable to a problem. In brief, the standard account implies that moral knowledge is seriously undermined by those commonplace moral disagreements in which both agents have equally good phenomenological credentials supporting their disputed (...)
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  17. Brian Besong (2014). The Prudent Conscience View. International Philosophical Quarterly 54 (2):127-141.
    Moral intuitionism, which claims that some moral seemings are justification-conferring, has become an increasingly popular account in moral epistemology. Defenses of the position have largely focused on the standard account, according to which the justification-conferring power of a moral seeming is determined by its phenomenal credentials alone. Unfortunately, the standard account is a less plausible version of moral intuitionism because it does not take etiology seriously. In this paper, I provide an outline and defense of a non-standard account of moral (...)
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  18. Richard Bett (2010). Scepticism and Ethics. In Richard Arnot Home Bett (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism. Cambridge University Press. 181.
  19. Richard Bett (1988). Is Modern Moral Scepticism Essentially Local? Analysis 48 (2):102 - 107.
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  20. Richard Arnot Home Bett (1986). Moral Scepticism: Why Ask "Why Should I Be Moral"? Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley
    Many of us have a prereflective sense--or at least, a hope--that there are reasons to be moral which apply to an agent regardless of what his or her existing motivations may be. The view that there are no such reasons may, then, be regarded as a form of moral scepticism. The philosophical position which seems most fit to refute this form of moral scepticism, and hence to support our prereflective sense, is a Kantian view of morality, according to which we (...)
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  21. Gunnar Björnsson & Karl Persson (2012). The Explanatory Component of Moral Responsibility. Noûs 46 (2):326-354.
    In this paper, we do three things. First, we put forth a novel hypothesis about judgments of moral responsibility according to which such judgments are a species of explanatory judgments. Second, we argue that this hypothesis explains both some general features of everyday thinking about responsibility and the appeal of skeptical arguments against moral responsibility. Finally, we argue that, if correct, the hypothesis provides a defense against these skeptical arguments.
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  22. Robert Black (1989). Moral Scepticism and Inductive Scepticism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 90:65 - 82.
    Viewing moral scepticism as the rejection of objective desirabilities, inductive scepticism may be seen as the rejection of objective believabilities. Moral scepticism leads naturally to amoralism rather than subjectivism, and inductive scepticism undermines not our practices of induction but only a view about justification. The two scepticisms together amount to the adoption of a defensibly narrow, formal view of reason.
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  23. Sam Black (1998). Toleration and the Skeptical Inquirer in Locke. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 28 (4):473 - 504.
  24. Sam Black (1997). Science and Moral Skepticism in Hobbes. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 27 (2):173 - 207.
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  25. Simon Blackburn (1995). Justification, Scepticism, and Nihilism. Utilitas 7 (02):237-.
    Sinnott-Armstrong's paper principally defends our inability to justify, philosophically, normal moral claims. In particular, we cannot justify them against other claims, especially the claim of moral nihilism. Moral nihilism is the doctrine that there are no moral obligations . This thesis ‘does not lie in meta-ethics. It is a universally quantified substantive moral claim’ . Sinnott-Annstrong makes it clear that he does not actually believe this doctrine , but he believes that it is coherent, and that a variety of strategies (...)
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  26. P. Bloomfield (2011). The Moral Skeptic, by Anita M. Superson. Mind 120 (479):914-917.
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  27. Luc Bovens (1999). The Value of Hope. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (3):667-681.
    Hope obeys Aristotle's doctrine of the mean: one should neither hope too much, nor too little. But what determines what constitutes too much and what constitutes too little for a particular person at a particular time? The sceptic presents an argument to the effect that it is never rational to hope. An attempt to answer the sceptic leads us in different directions. Decision-theoretic and preference-theoretic arguments support the instrumental value of hope. An investigation into the nature of hope permits us (...)
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  28. George Boys-Stones (1997). Sceptical Ethics E. Spinelli: Sesto Empirico: Contro gli Etici. (Elenchos: collana di testi e studi sul pensiero antico, 24.) Pp. 450. Naples: Bibliopolis, 1995. Paper, L. 60,000. ISBN 88-7088-350-7. [REVIEW] The Classical Review 47 (02):292-294.
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  29. Matthew Braddock (2013). Defusing the Demandingness Objection: Unreliable Intuitions. Journal of Social Philosophy 44 (2):169-191.
    Dogged resistance to demanding moral views frequently takes the form of The Demandingness Objection. Premise (1): Moral view V demands too much of us. Premise (2): If a moral view demands too much of us, then it is mistaken. Conclusion: Therefore, moral view V is mistaken. Objections of this form harass major theories in normative ethics as well as prominent moral views in applied ethics and political philosophy. The present paper does the following: (i) it clarifies and distinguishes between various (...)
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  30. Matthew Braddock & Alexander Rosenberg (2012). Reconstruction in Moral Philosophy? Analyse Und Kritik 34 (1):63-80.
    We raise three issues for Philip Kitcher's "Ethical Project" (2011): First, we argue that the genealogy of morals starts well before the advent of altruism-failures and the need to remedy them, which Kitcher dates at about 50K years ago. Second, we challenge the likelihood of long term moral progress of the sort Kitcher requires to establish objectivity while circumventing Hume's challenge to avoid trying to derive normative conclusions from positive ones--'ought' from 'is'. Third, we sketch ways in which Kitcher's metaethical (...)
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  31. David O. Brink (1984). Moral Realism and the Sceptical Arguments From Disagreement and Queerness. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 (2):111 – 125.
  32. Fernando Broncano (2008). Moral Responsibility. The Ways of Scepticism – by Carlos Moya. Dialectica 62 (4):553-557.
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  33. James M. Brown (1980). Moral Practices and the Moral Sceptic. Philosophical Studies 27:116-128.
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  34. John Brunero (2004). Korsgaard on Motivational Skepticism. Journal of Value Inquiry 38 (2):253–264.
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  35. John P. Burgess (2007). Against Ethics. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (5):427 - 439.
    This is the verbatim manuscript of a paper which has circulated underground for close to thirty years, reaching a metethical conclusion close to J. L. Mackie’s by a somewhat different route.
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  36. Peter Byrne (2009). Is Morality Undercut by Evolutionary Naturalism. Philo 12 (2):116-134.
    This paper surveys the argument that a secular world-view that is committed to a neo-Darwinian account of human origins generates a vicious form of moral skepticism. The argument turns around the claim that Darwinism entails the unreliability of moral sense or conscience. This argument is analyzed and found wanting. It rests on a major error about the scope of evolutionary biology in explaining human thought.
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  37. Daniel Callcut (2006). The Value of Teaching Moral Skepticism. Teaching Philosophy 29 (3):223-235.
    This article argues that introductory ethics classes can unwittingly create or confirm skeptical views toward morality. Introductory courses frequently include critical discussion of skeptical positions such as moral relativism and psychological egoism as a way to head off this unintended outcome. But this method of forestalling skepticism can have a residual (and unintended) skeptical effect. The problem calls for deeper pedagogical-cum-philosophical engagement with the underlying sources of skepticism. The paper provides examples of how to do this and explains the additional (...)
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  38. Daniel Carey (1997). Locke as Moral Sceptic: Innateness, Diversity, and the Reply to Stoicism. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 79 (3):292-309.
  39. Curtis L. Carter (1973). Skepticism and Moral Principles. [Evanston, Ill.,New University Press.
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  40. Richard Yetter Chappell (forthcoming). Knowing What Matters. In Peter Singer (ed.), Does Anything Really Matter? Parfit on Objectivity. Oxford University Press.
    Parfit's On What Matters offers a rousing defence of non-naturalist normative realism against pressing metaphysical and epistemological objections. He addresses skeptical arguments based on (i) the causal origins of our normative beliefs, and (ii) the appearance of pervasive moral disagreement. In both cases, he concedes the first step to the skeptic, but draws a subsequent distinction with which he hopes to stem the skeptic's advance. I argue, however, that these distinctions cannot bear the weight that Parfit places on them. A (...)
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  41. Christopher Cherry (1973). Scepticism and Morality. Philosophy 48 (183):51 - 62.
    In an article called ‘Moral Scepticism’ Professor R. F. Holland displays in a pointed and often impressive way both the virtues and the vices of a tempting approach to certain fundamental issues in moral philosophy. The appeal to sanity and honesty may, when directed towards chronic philosophical perplexity, cease to be a virtue and become the vice of disingenuousness. And when a philosopher writes that ‘no clear idea is available to us of what moral scepticism amounts to’, that moral scepticism (...)
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  42. Michael Cholbi (1999). Egoism and the Publicity of Reason: A Reply to Korsgaard. Social Theory and Practice 25 (3):491-517.
    Christine Korsgaard has argued recently that the thesis that reasons are "essentially public" undermines the distinction between agent-neutral and agent-relative reasons, thus refuting egoism by rejecting its commitment to the universal availability of agent-relative reasons. I conclude that Korsgaard's invocation of the essential publicity of reasons trades on ambiguities concerning the "sharing" of reasons and so does not refute egoism and does not ground moral normativity. Her account of the publicity of reasons shows that solipsism is incoherent, but the egoist (...)
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  43. Stanley G. Clarke (1990). Book Review:Skepticism in Ethics. Panayot Butchvarov. [REVIEW] Ethics 100 (4):890-.
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  44. Justin Clarke-Doane (forthcoming). Justification and Explanation in Mathematics and Morality. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics. Oxford University Press.
    In an influential book, Gilbert Harman writes, "In explaining the observations that support a physical theory, scientists typically appeal to mathematical principles. On the other hand, one never seems to need to appeal in this way to moral principles [1977, 9 – 10]." What is the epistemological relevance of this contrast, if genuine? In this article, I argue that ethicists and philosophers of mathematics have misunderstood it. They have confused what I will call the justificatory challenge for realism about an (...)
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  45. Justin Clarke-Doane (forthcoming). What is the Benacerraf Problem? In Fabrice Pataut (ed.), New Perspectives on the Philosophy of Paul Benacerraf: Truth, Objects, Infinity.
    In "Mathematical Truth", Paul Benacerraf articulated an epistemological problem for mathematical realism. His formulation of the problem relied on a causal theory of knowledge which is now widely rejected. But it is generally agreed that Benacerraf was onto a genuine problem for mathematical realism nevertheless. Hartry Field describes it as the problem of explaining the reliability of our mathematical beliefs, realistically construed. In this paper, I argue that the Benacerraf Problem cannot be made out. There simply is no intelligible problem (...)
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  46. Justin Clarke-Doane (2012). Morality and Mathematics: The Evolutionary Challenge. Ethics 122 (2):313-340.
    It is commonly suggested that evolutionary considerations generate an epistemological challenge for moral realism. At first approximation, the challenge for the moral realist is to explain our having many true moral beliefs, given that those beliefs are the products of evolutionary forces that would be indifferent to the moral truth. An important question surrounding this challenge is the extent to which it generalizes. In particular, it is of interest whether the Evolutionary Challenge for moral realism is equally a challenge for (...)
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  47. E. J. Coffman (2010). Moral Skepticisms. Faith and Philosophy 27 (3):355-359.
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  48. Daniel Cohen (2006). Openness, Accidentality and Responsibility. Philosophical Studies 127 (3):581 - 597.
    In this paper, I present a novel argument for scepticism about moral responsibility. Unlike traditional arguments, this argument doesn’t depend on contingent empirical claims about the truth or falsity of causal determinism. Rather, it is argued that the conceptual conditions of responsibility are jointly incompatible. In short, when an agent is responsible for an action, it must be true both that the action was non-accidental, and that it was open to the agent not to perform that action. However, as I (...)
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  49. Marshall Cohen (1984). Moral Skepticism and International Relations. Philosophy and Public Affairs 13 (4):299-346.
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  50. Philip Cook (2008). Moral Skepticisms. Journal of Moral Philosophy 5 (1):162-165.
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