Moral epistemology and the because constraint
Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||§1. Metaethics and Explanation Given some perplexing subject-matter or mode of thought, philosophers typically ask metaphysical and epistemological questions. They ask about the nature (if any) of the phenomenon, and they ask and about our knowledge (if any) of it. When it comes to morality, many moral philosophers ask metaphysical questions like the following. Are there moral facts or states of affairs or property instantiations about which we are thinking when we make moral judgements, and which (when we get it right) are the truth-makers of those moral judgements? Or are there no such moral facts (or states of affairs or property instantiations)? Furthermore, if there are such moral facts (or states of affairs or property instantiations), what are they like? Are they in some sense ‘mind-dependent’ or ‘mind-independent’? And how do moral facts (or states of affairs or property instantiations) relate to non-moral or ‘natural’ facts (or states of affairs or property instantiations)? Those are the usual metaphysical questions. The epistemological questions tend be of the following sort. Assuming there are moral facts (or states of affairs or property instantiations), how (if at all) do we know about them? And what (if anything) would make our beliefs about them justified? These two epistemological questions make certain assumptions. One assumption is that our moral beliefs succeed in possessing the positive epistemic properties of being knowledge or being justified. But perhaps our moral beliefs fail to have these positive epistemic characteristics. Another assumption is that moral judgements are beliefs. But perhaps moral judgements are not beliefs at all, but are emotions or desires.1 Or, to make the mental categories broader, maybe moral judgements are ‘non-cognitive’ rather than ‘cognitive’ states. We need to ask: what kind of mental state is forming or holding a moral judgement? This is not really an epistemological question since epistemology is about a value that beliefs can have, not about whether the judgements in question are beliefs rather than other some other kind of mental state..|
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