David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (5):499 - 513 (2007)
Moral anti-realism comes in two forms – noncognitivism and the error theory. The noncognitivist says that when we make moral judgments we aren’t even trying to state moral facts. The error theorist says that when we make moral judgments we are making statements about what is objectively good, bad, right, or wrong but, since there are no moral facts, our moral judgments are uniformly false. This development of moral anti-realism was first seriously defended by John Mackie. In this paper I explore a dispute among moral error theorists about how to deal with false moral judgments. The advice of the moral abolitionist is to stop making moral judgments, but the contrary advice of the moral fictionalist is to retain moral language and moral thinking. After clarifying the choice that arises for the moral error theorist, I argue that moral abolitionism has much to recommend it. I discuss Mackie’s defense of moral fictionalism as well as a recent version of the same position offered by Daniel Nolan, Greg Restall, and Caroline West. Then I second some remarks Ian Hinckfuss made in his defense of moral abolitionism and his criticism of “the moral society.” One of the worst things about moral fictionalism is that it undermines our epistemology by promoting a culture of deception. To deal with this problem Richard Joyce offers a “non-assertive” version of moral fictionalism as perhaps the last option for an error theorist who hopes to avoid moral abolitionism. I discuss some of the problems facing that form of moral fictionalism, offer some further reasons for adopting moral abolitionism in our personal lives, and conclude with reasons for thinking that abolishing morality may be an essential step in achieving the goals well-meaning moralists and moral fictionalists have always cherished.
|Keywords||Ethics John Mackie Metaethics Moral abolitionism Moral anti-realism Moral fictionalism Morality The error theory|
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References found in this work BETA
Simon Blackburn (1998/2000). Ruling Passions. Oxford University Press.
Richard Joyce (2001). The Myth of Morality. Cambridge University Press.
Simon Blackburn (1993). Essays in Quasi-Realism. Oxford University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Michael Scott & Philip Brown (2012). Pragmatic Antirealism: A New Antirealist Strategy. Philosophical Studies 161 (3):349-366.
Stephen Ingram (2015). After Moral Error Theory, After Moral Realism. Southern Journal of Philosophy 53 (2):227-248.
Matt Lutz (2014). The 'Now What' Problem for Error Theory. Philosophical Studies 171 (2):351-371.
François Jaquet & Hichem Naar (2016). Moral Beliefs for the Error Theorist? Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19:193-207.
Sebastian Köhler & Michael Ridge (2013). Revolutionary Expressivism. Ratio 26 (4):428-449.
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