Patterns of objectification

Abstract
John Mackie’s moral error theory is so closely associated in people’s minds with his arguments from relativity and from queerness that one might overlook the fact that there may be numerous other, and possibly better, ways of establishing that metaethical position. Perhaps, indeed, there are even further resources for arguing for a moral error theory to be unearthed in Mackie’s own book. I have in mind Mackie’s thesis of moral objectification: that the “objective prescriptivity” with which our moral judgments are imbued is the result of our “tendency to read our feelings into their objects” (1977: 42). Mackie invokes Hume’s famous projectivist image of the human mind’s “great propensity to spread itself on external objects,” and, indeed, it is in his book-length analysis of Hume’s moral theory (Mackie 1980) that the topic receives a more careful discussion than in Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. In both books he musters some considerations in favor of the thesis, and reveals to us that he thinks that “it is very largely correct” (1980: 72).
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