I consider the ‘normative relevance’ argument and the idea of grounding. I diagnose why there appears to be a tension between the conclusion that we are tempted to reach and the intuition that the normative is grounded in or by the non-normative. Much of what I say turns on the idea of the normative itself. In short, I think that concentrating on this idea can help us see how the tension arises. My aim is to encourage people to reconceptualize the (...) debate so as to begin to offer additional insight. To that end, I spend some time contrasting normativity with evaluation, and then think how the debate may alter if we run it with the latter. I doubt that doing so will solve any problem, and I suspect that what I say will be controversial anyway. But there is some value to changing matters nonetheless. The idea that runs through this paper is that the whole issue is so complex and deep that we should not narrowly construe it with reference only to normativity. (shrink)
Taking as its point of departure the work of moral philosopher John Mackie (1917-1981), A World Without Values is a collection of essays on moral skepticism by leading contemporary philosophers, some of whom are sympathetic to Mackie s ...
In this paper I discuss the shapelessnesss hypothesis, which is often referred to and relied on by certain sorts of ethical and evaluative cognitivist, and which they use primarily in arguing against a certain, influential form of noncognitivism. I aim to (i) set out exactly what the hypothesis is; (ii) show that its original and traditional use is left wanting; and (iii) show that there is some rehabilitation on offer that might have a chance of convincing neutrals.
Moral particularism is a contentious position at present and seems likely to be so for the foreseeable future. In this Introduction, I outline and detail its essential claim, which I take to be, roughly, that what can be a reason that helps to make one action right need not be a reason that always helps to make actions right. This claim challenges a central assumption on which most, if not all, normative ethical theories are supposedly based. We owe this way (...) of characterizing moral particularism to Jonathan Dancy, around whose writings much of the present debate revolves. Key Words: ethics generalism particularism reasons valency. (shrink)
In this paper, I concentrate on the notion of default valency, drawing on some of the distinctions made and thoughts given in my Introduction. I motivate why the notion is important for particularists to have up their sleeves by outlining a recent debate between particularists and generalists. I then move to the main aim of the piece which is to discuss how anyone, particularist and generalist alike, might seek to distinguish reason-generating features into different types. My main aim is not (...) to argue for a specific way of dividing such features into types but to present various taxonomical options. Key Words: ethics • features • generalism • particularism • valency. (shrink)
In recent times, comments have been made and arguments advanced in support of metaethical positions based on the phenomenology of ethical experience – in other words, the feel that accompanies our ethical experiences. In this paper I cast doubt on whether ethical phenomenology supports metaethical positions to any great extent and try to tease out what is involved in giving a phenomenological argument. I consider three such positions: independent moral realism (IMR), another type of moral realism – sensibility theory – (...) and noncognitivism. Phenomenological arguments have been used in support of the first two positions, but my general claim is that ethical phenomenology supports no metaethical position over any other.I discuss two types of phenomenological argument that might be offered in support of different types of moral realism, although I couch my debate in terms of IMR. The first argument asserts that ethical properties are not experienced in the way that rivals to IMR say we experience them. Against this I claim that it is odd to think that one could experience ethical properties as any metaethical theory characterizes them. The second argument is more complicated: the general thought is that an adequate metaethical theory should not distort our ethical experience unduly. I consider one aspect of our ethical experience – that there is some ethical authority to which our judgements answer – in order to illustrate this idea. I discuss why IMRealists might think that this phenomenon supports their position. Against them I claim that other metaethical positions might be able to accommodate the phenomenon of ethical authority. Even if they cannot, then, secondly, I argue that there are other aspects of our ethical experience that sit more naturally with other metaethical positions. Hence, one cannot argue that ethical phenomenology as a whole supports one theory over any others. (shrink)
This paper is a reply to Simon Blackburn's 'Is Objective Moral Justification Possible on a Quasi-realist Foundation?' Inquiry 42 (1999), pp. 213-28. Blackburn attempts to show how his version of non-cognitivism - quasi-realist projectivism - can evade the threat of ethical relativism, the thought that all ways of living are as ethically good as each other and every ethical judgment is as ethically true as any other. He further attempts to show that his position is superior in this respect (...) to, amongst other accounts, sensibility theory (or 'secondary quality' theory). According to Blackburn, sensibility theory succumbs easily to the relativistic challenge because it depends on some 'substantive' notion of truth. It is agreed with Blackburn that the threat of relativism is less of a threat to him than at first appears, although I think that it retains some menace, but not agreed that sensibility theorists cannot also counter the threat of relativism (although, again, ethical relativism retains some menace in the face of the sensibility theorist's reply). The point is that the threat of ethical relativism depends less on truth than Blackburn supposes. Thus sensibility theorists can counter ethical relativism in much the same way that quasi-realist projectivists can. (shrink)