Moral metaphysics is that part of philosophy concerned with establishing the exact ontological status of ethical facts. There are many possible views concerning the ontological status of such facts – including, of course, the view that there are none. The purpose of the present essay is to present a short survey of the most important of the positive views about ethical facts, unapologetically written from the perspective of contemporary metaethics. Since the early twentieth century, moral philosophy has seen previously unparalleled (...) efforts to clearly separate out and delineate distinct moral metaphysical theories, and such carefully delineated theories, apart from each being interesting in their own right, also provide us with conceptual tools which we can use when studying the longer history of ethics. This is not at all to devalue efforts that might instead be made to study particular figures or earlier episodes in that history more on their own terms, nor to deny that the present approach risks falling into the trap of anachronism. Suffice to say, an essay that covered the long history of moral metaphysics on every period’s own terms would either be incredibly long, or need be even more patchy than the present essay is. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to introduce a two level account of moral thinking that, unlike other accounts, does justice to three very plausible propositions that seem to form an inconsistent triad: (1) People can be morally virtuous without the aid of philosophy. (2) Morally virtuous people non-accidentally act for good reasons, and work out what it is that they ought to do on the basis of considering such reasons. (3) Philosophers engaged in the project of normative ethics are (...) not wasting their time when they search after highly general moral principles which could not be discovered or be justifiably accepted through non-philosophical thinking, and which specify the good reasons that virtuous people act on, as well as provide a criterion or criteria for determining what it is that people ought to do. (shrink)
Joseph Raz’s much discussed service conception of practical authority has recently come under attack from Stephen Darwall, who proposes that we instead adopt a second- personal conception of practical authority.1 We believe that the best place to start understanding practical authority is with a pared back conception of it, as simply a species of normative authority more generally, where this species is picked out merely by the fact that the normative authority in question is authority in relation to action, rather (...) than belief. We do not wish to deny that there might be properties of practical authority (as distinct from the species of authority that is concerned with belief) that are peculiar to it, but, unlike both Raz and Darwall, we do not believe that such features play a role in defining or delimiting practical authority. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue for a particular informative and unified analysis of normative reasons. According to this analysis, a fact F is a reason to act in a certain way just in case it is evidence that one ought to act in that way. Similarly, F is a reason to believe a certain proposition just in case it is evidence for the truth of this proposition. Putting the relatively uncontroversial claim about reasons for belief to one side, we present (...) several arguments in favor of our analysis of reasons for action. We then turn to consider a series of objections to the analysis. We conclude that there are good reasons to accept the analysis and that the objections do not succeed. (shrink)
This paper explores the generally overlooked relevance of an important contemporary debate in mainstream epistemology to philosophers working within ethics on questions concerning moral knowledge. It is argued that this debate, between internalists and externalists about the accessibility of epistemic justification, has the potential to be both significantly influenced by, and have a significant impact upon, the study of moral knowledge. The moral sphere provides a particular type of strong evidence in favour of externalism, and mainstream epistemologists might benefit from (...) paying attention to this fact. At the same time, the terrain of moral epistemology (approached as a sub-field of metaethics) needs to be reshaped by the realisation that externalists can steal the thunder of intuitionists when it comes to knowledge constituted by seemingly self-evident beliefs.1. (shrink)
Chenyang Li argues, in an article originally published in Hypatia, that the ethics of care and Confucian ethics constitute similar approaches to ethics. The present paper takes issue with this claim. It is more accurate to view Confucian ethics as a kind of virtue ethics, rather than as a kind of care ethics. In the process of criticizing Li's claim, the distinctiveness of care ethics is defended, against attempts to assimilate it to virtue ethics.