According to moralerrortheory, moral discourse is error-ridden. Establishing errortheory requires establishing two claims. These are that moral discourse carries a non-negotiable commitment to there being a moral reality and that there is no such reality. This paper concerns the first and so-called non-negotiable commitment claim. It starts by identifying the two existing argumentative strategies for settling that claim. The standard strategy is to argue for a relation of conceptual (...) entailment between the moral statements that comprise moral discourse and the statement that there is a moral reality. The non-standard strategy is to argue for a presupposition relation instead. Error theorists have so far failed to consider a third strategy, which uses a general entailment relation that doesn’t require intricate relations between concepts. The paper argues that both entailment claims struggle to meet a new explanatory challenge and that since the presupposition option doesn’t we have prima facie reason to prefer it over the entailment options. The paper then argues that suitably amending the entailment claims enables them to meet this challenge. With all three options back on the table the paper closes by arguing that error theorists should consider developing the currently unrecognised, non-conceptual entailment claim. (shrink)
In this paper I defend what I call the argument from epistemic reasons against the moralerrortheory. I argue that the moralerrortheory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief and that this is bad news for the moralerrortheory since, if there are no epistemic reasons for belief, no one knows anything. If no one knows anything, then no one knows that there is thought when (...) they are thinking, and no one knows that they do not know everything. And it could not be the case that we do not know that there is thought when we believe that there is thought and that we do not know that we do not know everything. I address several objections to the claim that the moralerrortheory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief. It might seem that arguing against the errortheory on the grounds that it entails that no one knows anything is just providing a Moorean argument against the moralerrortheory. I show that even if my argument against the errortheory is indeed a Moorean one, it avoids Streumer's, McPherson's and Olson's objections to previous Moorean arguments against the errortheory and is a more powerful argument against the errortheory than Moore's argument against external world skepticism is against external world skepticism. (shrink)
Philosophers should consider a hybrid meta-ethical theory that includes elements of both moral expressivism and moralerrortheory. Proponents of such an expressivist-errortheory hold that all moral utterances are either expressions of attitudes or expressions of false beliefs. Such a hybrid theory has two advantages over pure expressivism, because hybrid theorists can offer a more plausible account of the moral utterances that seem to be used to express beliefs, and (...) hybrid theorists can provide a simpler solution to the Frege-Geach problem. The hybrid theory has three advantages over pure errortheory, because hybrid theorists can offer a more plausible account of the moral utterances that seem to be used to express attitudes, hybrid theorists can more easily explain moral motivation, and hybrid theorists can avoid the implausible claim that all moral discourse is radically mistaken. Accordingly, such a hybrid theory should be more attractive than pure expressivism or pure errortheory to philosophers who are skeptical about moral facts and truth. (shrink)
The paper distinguishes three strategies by means of which empirical discoveries about the nature of morality can be used to undermine moral judgements. On the first strategy, moral judgements are shown to be unjustified in virtue of being shown to rest on ignorance or false belief. On the second strategy, moral judgements are shown to be false by being shown to entail claims inconsistent with the relevant empirical discoveries. On the third strategy, moral judgements are shown (...) to be false in virtue of being shown to be unjustified; truth having been defined epistemologically in terms of justification. By interpreting three recent error theoretical arguments in light of these strategies, the paper evaluates the epistemological and metaphysical relevance of empirical discoveries about morality as a naturally evolved phenomenon. (shrink)
This paper explores the prospects of different forms of moralerrortheory. It is argued that only a suitably local errortheory would make good sense of the fact that it is possible to give and receive genuinely good moral advice.
Error theories about morality often take as their starting point the supposed queerness of morality, and those resisting these arguments often try to argue by analogy that morality is no more queer than other unproblematic subject matters. Here, errortheory (as exemplified primarily by the work of Richard Joyce) is resisted first by arguing that it assumes a common, modern, and peculiarly social conception of morality. Then error theorists point out that the social nature of morality (...) requires one to act against one's self-interest while insisting on the categorical, inescapable, or overriding status of moral considerations: they argue that morality requires magic, then (rightly) claim that there is no such thing as magic. An alternate eudaimonist conception of morality is introduced which itself has an older provenance than the social point of view, dating to the ancient Greeks. Eudaimonism answers to the normative requirements of morality, yet does not require magic. Thus, the initial motivation for errortheory is removed. (shrink)
The paper explores the consequences of adopting a moralerrortheory targeted at the notion of reasonable convergence. I examine the prospects of two ways of combining acceptance of such a theory with continued acceptance of moral judgements in some form. On the first model, moral judgements are accepted as a pragmatically intelligible fiction. On the second model, moral judgements are made relative to a framework of assumptions with no claim to reasonable convergence (...) on their behalf. I argue that the latter model shows greater promise for an error theorist whose commitment to moral thought is initially serious. (shrink)
Moralerrortheory claims that no moral sentence is (nonvacuously) true. Atheism claims that the existence of evil in the world is incompatible with, or makes improbable, the existence of God. Is moralerrortheory compatible with atheism? This paper defends the thesis that it is compatible against criticisms by Nicholas Sturgeon.
Michael Ruses Darwinian metaethics has come under just criticism from Peter Woolcock (1993). But with modification it remains defensible. Ruse (1986) holds that people ordinarily have a false belief that there are objective moral obligations. He argues that the evolutionary story should be taken as an errortheory, i.e., as a theory which explains the belief that there are obligations as arising from non-rational causes, rather than from inference or evidential reasons. Woolcock quite rightly objects that (...) this position entails moral nihilism. However, I argue here that people generally have justified true beliefs about which acts promote their most coherent set of moral values, and hence, by definition, about which acts are right. What the evolutionary story explains is the existence of these values, but it is not an errortheory for moral beliefs. Ordinary beliefs correspond to real moral properties, though these are not objective or absolute properties independent of anyones subjective states. On its best footing, therefore, a Darwinian metaethics of the type Ruse offers is not an errortheory and does not entail moral nihilism. (shrink)
In this paper, I distinguish between two error theories of morality: one couched in terms of truth (ET1); the other in terms of justification (ET2). I then present two arguments: the Poisoned Presupposition Argument for ET1; and the Evolutionary Debunking Argument for ET2. I go on to show how assessing these arguments requires paying attention to empirical moral psychology, in particular, work on folk metaethics. After criticizing extant work, I suggest avenues for future research.
Moral anti-realism comes in two forms – noncognitivism and the errortheory. 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 moralerror 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 moralerror 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. (shrink)
According to John Mackie, moral talk is representational (the realists go that bit right) but its metaphysical presuppositions are wildly implausible (the non-cognitivists got that bit right). This is the basis of Mackie’s now famous errortheory: that moral judgments are cognitively meaningful but systematically false. Of course, Mackie went on to recommend various substantive moral judgments, and, in the light of his errortheory, that has seemed odd to a lot of folk. (...) Richard Joyce has argued that Mackie’s approach can be vindicated by a fictionalist account of moral discourse. And Mark Kalderon has argued that moral fictionalism is attractive quite independently of Mackie’s error-theory. Kalderon argues that the Frege–Geach problem shows that we need moral propositions, but that a fictionalist can and should embrace propositional content together with a non-cognitivist account of acceptance of a moral proposition. Indeed, it is clear that any fictionalist is going to have to postulate more than one kind of acceptance attitude. We argue that this double-approach to acceptance generates a new problem – a descendent of Frege–Geach – which we call the acceptance–transfer problem. Although we develop the problem in the context of Kalderon’s version of non-cognitivist fictionalism, we show that it is not the non-cognitivist aspect of Kalderon’s account that generates the problem. A closely related problem surfaces for the more typical variants of fictionalism according to which accepting a moral proposition is believing some closely related non-moral proposition. Fictionalists of both stripes thus have an attitude problem. (shrink)
This paper surveys contemporary accounts of errortheory and fictionalism. It introduces these categories to those new to metaethics by beginning with moral nihilism, the view that nothing really is right or wrong. One main motivation is that the scientific worldview seems to have no place for rightness or wrongness. Within contemporary metaethics there is a family of theories that makes similar claims. These are the theories that are usually classified as forms of errortheory (...) or fictionalism though there are different ways of accepting some form of the view that nothing is really write or wrong. A range of different ways of going in the light of such a realization is also proposed. The resulting taxonomy of positions is quite complicated and sometimes surprising. One surprise will be that some positions plausibly classified as error theories or forms of fictionalism do not quite seem to be forms of nihilism. (shrink)
In 1910–11 Axel Hägerström introduced an emotive theory of ethics asserting moral propositions and valuations in general to be neither true nor false. However, it is less well known that he modified his theory in the following year, now making a distinction between what he called primary and secondary valuations. From 1912 onwards, he restricted his emotive theory to primary valuations only, and applied an errortheory to secondary ones. According to Hägerström, secondary valuations (...) state that objects have special value properties, that we believe we become acquainted with in primary valuations. But, in fact, we do not have any such acquaintance. There are no, and cannot be any such, properties in objects. What we take to be a property is a projection of a feeling. Therefore, all secondary valuations are false. In 1917 he developed his theory further and distinguished between different types of secondary valuations with different structures. Yet he argued that they all are false. Hägerström's discussion is interesting because, among other reasons, it is historically a very early version of errortheory in ethics. In a way it can also be said to be a precursor to later versions, e.g., John Mackie's (1946 and 1977). There are obvious resemblances between their accounts. Mackie's discussion is, of course, independent of Hägerström's. (shrink)
Moral contextualism is the view that claims like ‘A ought to X’ are implicitly relative to some (contextually variable) standard. This leads to a problem: what are fundamental moral claims like ‘You ought to maximize happiness’ relative to? If the claim is relative to a utilitarian standard, then its truth conditions are trivial: ‘Relative to utilitarianism, you ought to maximize happiness’. But it certainly doesn’t seem trivial that you ought to maximize happiness (utilitarianism is a highly controversial position). (...) Some people believe this problem is a reason to prefer a realist or error theoretic semantics of morals. I argue two things: first, that plausible versions of all these theories are afflicted by the problem equally, and second, that any solution available to the realist and error theorist is also available to the contextualist. So the problem of triviality does not favour noncontextualist views of moral language. (shrink)
I first argue that there are many true claims of the form: x-ing would be morally required, if anything is. I then explain why the following conditional-type is true: If x-ing would be morally required, if anything is, then x-ing is actually morally required. These results allow us to construct valid proofs for the existence of some substantive moral facts—proofs that some particular acts really are morally required. Most importantly, none of my argumentation presupposes any substantive moral claim; (...) I use only plausible claims that most moral skeptics and error theorists can and do accept. The final section diagnoses why my arguments work. Here, I offer an explanation for the supervenience of the moral on the non-moral that may help those worried that the strategy is a sophisticated trick. I conclude by considering two objections. In replying to these objections, I explain why the strategy may allow us to demonstrate more than “obvious” moral truths, and why it may also address a stronger version of errortheory, according to which, moral truths are not possible. (shrink)
G. E. Moore famously argued against skepticism and idealism by appealing to their inconsistency with alleged certainties, like the existence of his own hands. Recently, some philosophers have offered analogous arguments against revisionary views about ethics such as metaethical errortheory. These arguments appeal to the inconsistency of errortheory with seemingly obvious moral claims like “it is wrong to torture an innocent child just for fun.” It might seem that such ‘Moorean’ arguments in ethics (...) will stand or fall with Moore’s own arguments in metaphysics and epistemology, in virtue of their shared structure. I argue that this is not so. I suggest that the epistemic force of the canonical Moorean arguments can best be understood to rest on asymmetries in indirect evidence. I then argue that this explanation suggests that Moorean arguments are less promising in ethics than they are against Moore’s own targets. I conclude by examining the competing attempt to vindicate Moorean arguments by appealing to Rawls’s method of reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
Despite much discussion over the existence of moral facts, metaethicists have largely ignored the related question of their possibility. This paper addresses the issue from the moralerror theorist’s perspective, and shows how the arguments that error theorists have produced against the existence of moral facts at this world, if sound, also show that moral facts are impossible, at least at worlds non-morally identical to our own and, on some versions of the error (...)theory, at any world. So error theorists’ arguments warrant a stronger conclusion than has previously been noticed. This may appear to make them vulnerable to counterarguments that take the possibility of moral facts as a premise. However, I show that any such arguments would be question-begging. (shrink)
The target article proposes an errortheory for religious belief. In contrast, moral beliefs are typically not counterintuitive, and some moral cognition and motivation is functional. Error theories for moral belief try to reduce morality to nonmoral psychological capacities because objective moral beliefs seem too fragile in a competitive environment. An errortheory for religious belief makes this unnecessary.
This introduction to the special issue on empirically informed moraltheory sketches the more important contributions to the field in the past several years. Attention is paid to experimental philosophy, the work of philosophers like Harman and Doris, and that of psychologists like Haidt and Hauser.
Contemporary discussions of the positive relation between rational choice and moraltheory are a special case of a much older tradition that seeks to show that mutual agreement upon certain moral rules works to the mutual advantage, or in the interests, of those who so agree. I make a few remarks about the history of discussions of the connection between morality and self-interest, after which I argue that the modern theory of rational choice can be naturally (...) understood as a continuation of this older tradition. I then go on to argue for a controversial three-fold thesis: (1) that grounding a theory of morality in terms of rational self-interest is the only epistemologically respectable way to proceed with the justification of moral principles; (2) that despite this, most of the contemporary explorations of rational choice foundations for moral principles do not work—that the models of rational choice to which they appeal yield less than the substantial results that they are intended to yield; but (3) that if one rethinks just what it means to be rational, one can find in fact a promising way to connect the two—specifically through the development of a theory of genuinely cooperative activity. (shrink)
Ronald Dworkin famously argued that many putatively nonmoral metaethical theories can only be understood as being internal to the moral domain. If correct, this position, referred to as anti-archimedeanism, has profound implications for the methodology of metaethics. This is particularly true for skeptical metaethical theories. This article defends a version of anti-archimedeanism that is true to the spirit rather than the letter of Dworkin's original thesis from several recent objections. First, it addresses Kenneth Ehrenberg's recent attempt to demonstrate how (...) certain metaethical theories can be understood in a morally neutral manner. It then discusses Charles Pigden's claim that Dworkin begs the question against error theorists and nihilists by assuming a conceptual space that error theorists and nihilists would reject. It concludes that the anti-archimedean methodology originally proposed by Dworkin is defensible, and can be used to support a robust form of moral realism. (shrink)
The topic of the article is how moral development theory can enlighten the understanding of ethical behaviour in business. It discusses previous research on the subject, and reports an empirical study of academics (engineers and business economists with a master degree) working in the private sector in Norway.Moral development theory is based on a long research tradition, and many researchers within business ethics have assumed the importance of moral reasoning in business environments. However, the truth (...) of these assumptions has not been confirmed by previous empirical research. (shrink)
Nihilism, Nietzsche and the Doppelganger Problem Was Nietzsche a nihilist? Yes, because, like J. L. Mackie, he was an error-theorist about morality, including the elitist morality to which he himself subscribed. But he was variously a diagnostician, an opponent and a survivor of certain other kinds of nihilism. Schacht argues that Nietzsche cannot have been an error theorist, since meta-ethical nihilism is inconsistent with the moral commitment that Nietzsche displayed. Schacht’s exegetical argument parallels the substantive argument (advocated (...) in recent years by Wright and Blackburn) that Mackie’s errortheory can’t be true because if it were, we would have to give up morality or give up moralizing. I answer this argument with a little bit of help from Nietzsche. I then pose a problem, the Doppelganger Problem, for the meta-ethical nihilism that I attribute to Mackie and Nietzsche. (If A is a moral proposition then not-A is a moral proposition: hence not all moral propositions can be false.) I solve the problem by reformulating the errortheory and also deal with a variant of the problem, the Reinforced Doppelganger, glancing at a famous paper of Ronald Dworkin’s. Thus, whatever its demerits, the errortheory, is not self-refuting, nor does it require us to give up morality. (shrink)
Derek Parfit claims that “Williams and Mackie…do not use the normative concepts that I and other Non-Naturalists use.” Whatever we think of Parfit’s interpretation of Williams, his interpretation of Mackie should be rejected. For understandable historical reasons, Mackie’s texts are ambiguous. But if we apply to the interpretation of Mackie the same principle of charity Parfit employs in interpreting Williams, we find decisive reason to interpret Mackie as using the same normative concepts as Non-Naturalists.
So-called evolutionary error theorists, such as Michael Ruse and Richard Joyce, have argued that naturalistic accounts of the moral sentiments lead us to adopt an errortheory approach to morality. Roughly, the argument is that an appreciation of the etiology of those sentiments undermines any reason to think that they track moral truth and, furthermore, undermines any reason to think that moral truth actually exists. I argue that this approach offers us a false dichotomy (...) between errortheory and some form of moral realism. While accepting the presuppositions of the evolutionary error theorist, I argue that contract-based approaches to morality can be sensitive to those presuppositions while still vindicating morality. Invoking Stephen Darwall’s distinction between contractualism and contractarianism, I go on to offer an evolutionary-based contractarianism. (shrink)
What is the proper task of Kantian ethical theory? This paper seeks to answer this question with reference to Kant's reply to Christian Garve in Section I of his 1793 essay on Theory and Practice . Kant reasserts the distinctness and natural authority of our consciousness of the moral law. Every mature human being is a moral professional—even philosophers like Garve, if only they forget about their ill-conceived ethical systems and listen to the voice of pure (...) practical reason. Normative theory, Kant argues, cannot be refuted with reference to alleged experience. It is the proper task of the moral philosopher to emphasize this fact. The paper also discusses Kant's attempts to clarify his moral psychology, philosophy of value and conception of the highest good in the course of replying to Garve's challenge. Key Words: Christian Garve ethical theory and practice Immanuel Kant moral psychology theory of value. (shrink)
Moralerrortheory of the kind defended by J. L. Mackie and Richard Joyce is premised on two claims: (1) that moral judgements essentially presuppose that moral value has absolute authority, and (2) that this presupposition is false, because nothing has absolute authority. This paper accepts (2) but rejects (1). It is argued first that (1) is not the best explanation of the evidence from moral practice, and second that even if it were, the (...)errortheory would still be mistaken, because the assumption does not contaminate the meaning or truth-conditions of moral claims. These are determined by the essential application conditions for moral concepts, which are relational rather than absolute. An analogy is drawn between moral judgements and motion judgements. (shrink)
This book provides a comprehensive, systematic theory of moral responsibility. The authors explore the conditions under which individuals are morally responsible for actions, omissions, consequences, and emotions. The leading idea in the book is that moral responsibility is based on 'guidance control'. This control has two components: the mechanism that issues in the relevant behavior must be the agent's own mechanism, and it must be appropriately responsive to reasons. The book develops an account of both components. The (...) authors go on to offer a sustained defense of the thesis that moral responsibility is compatible with causal determinism. (shrink)
The article reports findings of a study conducted to explore the cognitive moral logics used for considering software piracy as ethical or unethical. Since the objective was to elicit the moral logics from the respondents, semi-structured in-depth interviews of 38 software professionals of India were conducted. The content of the interviews was analyzed using the grounded theory framework which does not begin with constructs and their interlinkages and then seek proof instead it begins with an area of (...) study and allows them to emerge from that area of study. Given the objective of exploring moral logics, grounded theory seemed an appropriate choice. Results revealed that 21 respondents considered software piracy unethical whereas 17 did not. Though economic reasons formed the most fundamental logic in both the cases, an overall analysis revealed that the respondents mostly used moral justification (neutralization) for not considering software piracy unethical whereas those considering it unethical used normative (principled) logics. The interconnections among logics are analyzed and results are discussed along with the limitations of the study. (shrink)
This paper takes up the question of the role of philosophical moraltheory in our attempts to resolve the ethical problems that arise in health care, with particular reference to the contention that we need theory to be determinative of our choice of actions. Moral theorizing is distinguished from moral theories and the prospects for determinacy from the latter are examined through a consideration of the most promising candidates: utilitarianism, deontology and the procedures involved in (...) reflective equilibrium. It is argued that the current lack of any generally accepted method of solving moral problems, together with the extreme improbability of philosophy achieving a plausibly determinate theory, should encourage us to approach the problems in a spirit of agnosticism regarding the way in which theoretical material might be of relevance. The practical test for both moral theorizing and moral theories is thus not determinacy but the degree to which they increase our understanding of moral problems by serving, as they do in philosophy, as a means of inquiry into their nature. (shrink)
Ethicists differ considerably in their reasons for using empirical data. This paper presents a brief overview of four traditional approaches to the use of empirical data: “the prescriptive applied ethicists,” “the theorists,” “the critical applied ethicists,” and “the particularists.” The main aim of this paper is to introduce a fifth approach of more recent date (i.e. “integrated empirical ethics”) and to offer some methodological directives for research in integrated empirical ethics. All five approaches are presented in a table for heuristic (...) purposes. The table consists of eight columns: “view on distinction descriptive-prescriptive sciences,” “location of moral authority,” “central goal(s),” “types of normativity,” “use of empirical data,” “method,” “interaction empirical data and moraltheory,” and “cooperation with descriptive sciences.” Ethicists can use the table in order to identify their own approach. Reflection on these issues prior to starting research in empirical ethics should lead to harmonization of the different scientific disciplines and effective planning of the final research design. Integrated empirical ethics (IEE) refers to studies in which ethicists and descriptive scientists cooperate together continuously and intensively. Both disciplines try to integrate moraltheory and empirical data in order to reach a normative conclusion with respect to a specific social practice. IEE is not wholly prescriptive or wholly descriptive since IEE assumes an interdepence between facts and values and between the empirical and the normative. The paper ends with three suggestions for consideration on some of the future challenges of integrated empirical ethics. (shrink)
One of the challenges arising from globalization viewed as a multi-dimensional phenomenon is the possibility of a moral integration of the world or at least that of finding some plausible common ground for a meaningful ethical dialogue. Overcoming the moral frag- mentation of the modern world is made even more difficult in light of the diversity of views in moraltheory. Is global ethics even possible in the light of many disagreements about metaethical and normative questions? (...)Moraltheory faces a challenge of providing a usable framework for moral discussion as a precondition for moral integration. In his latest book Robert Audi proposes a model of pluralistic universalism as a combination of most of the historically influential moral theories, namely, virtue ethics, Kantianism and utilitarianism. The three central values being advocated are freedom, justice and happiness. I discuss this proposal and point to the role that pluralistic intuitionism plays in it. (shrink)
Psychological theory and research in ethical decision making and ethical professional practice are presently hampered by a failure to take appropriate account of an extensive background in moral philosophy. As a result, attempts to develop models of ethical decision making are left vulnerable to a number of criticisms: that they neglect the problems of meta-ethics and the variety of meta-ethical perspectives; that they fail clearly and consistently to differentiate between descriptive and prescriptive accounts; that they leave unexplicated the (...) theoretical assumptions derived from the underlying moral theories; and that they fail to accommodate the complexity and comprehensiveness of the processes involved in the making and implementing of ethical decisions. Many of these problems also have implications for the methodological domain. This paper offers an analysis of the difficulties, and makes a number of recommendations for future theory, research and practical applications, including: the need for training in moral philosophy; clarification of the status of Professional Codes in decisional models; the development of theoretically comprehensive prescriptive models; and the testing of these models in ways that do justice to their dimensional scope and theoretical complexity. (shrink)
Recently there have been a number of attempts to show that free will is not a necessary condition for moral responsibility. It is argued that moral responsibility can be shown to be compatible with determinism even if free will is not. I assess the two most prominent arguments for this position and conclude that neither is sound. There is, however, an argument which does make a prima facie case for this new form of compatibilism. This argument, however, is (...) not decisive. I maintain that what can be learned from the argument’s short-comings is that the free will problem can only be resolved by appeal to moraltheory. We need some method by which competing intuitions about the matter can be adjudicated. (shrink)
The issue of the significance and importance of moraltheory to moral reasoning and moral decisions also accompanies ethical discourse between ethics and bioethics, especially in recent decades, as the issue itself is of a theoretical nature. The presence and functionality of moraltheory when reasoning in dilemma situations does not only provide the apparatus for decision-making, but even a deeper understanding of responsibility and commitment when anticipating and preventing such situations. Ethics, however, is (...) not a matter of science, but primarily it is a matter of a human view, which in real life must be promoted while dealing with real "human" dilemmas and conflicts. Bioethics education encounters all the pitfalls of current theory and practice, science and ethics. The issues of bioethics are a very topical phenomenon of real life, which has brought about complex issues that man faces and whose solutions have neither theoretical nor empirical parallels with the past. This refers to current and pressing questions that are directly related to life and its intimate sphere. (shrink)
Kantian deontology is one of three classic moral theories, among virtue ethics and consequentialism. Issues in medical ethics are frequently addressed within a Kantian paradigm, at least – although not exclusively – in European medical ethics. At the same time, critical voices have pointed to deficits of Kantian moral philosophy which must be examined and discussed. It is argued that taking concrete situations and complex relationships into account is of paramount importance in medical ethics. Encounters between medical or (...) nursing staff and patients are rarely symmetrical relationships between autonomous and rational agents. Kantian ethics, the criticism reads, builds on the lofty ideal of such a relationship. In addition to the charge of an individualist and rationalist focus on autonomy, Kantian ethics has been accused of excluding those not actually in possession of these properties or of its rigorism. It is said to be focussed on laws and imperatives to an extent that it cannot appreciate the complex nuances of real conflicts. As a more detailed analysis will show, these charges are inadequate in at least some regards. This will be demonstrated by drawing on the Kantian notion of autonomy, the role of maxims and judgment and the conception of duties, as well as the role of emotions. Nevertheless the objections brought forward against Kantian moraltheory can help determine, with greater precision, its strengths and shortcomings as an approach to current problems in medical ethics. (shrink)
In his paper ?The Error in the ErrorTheory?[this journal, 2008], Stephen Finlay attempts to show that the moralerror theorist has not only failed to prove his case, but that the errortheory is in fact false. This paper rebuts Finlay's arguments, criticizes his positive theory, and clarifies the error-theoretic position.
To hold an errortheory about morality is to endorse a kind of radical moral skepticism—a skepticism analogous to atheism in the religious domain. The atheist thinks that religious utterances, such as “God loves you,” really are truth-evaluable assertions (as opposed to being veiled commands or expressions of hope, etc.), but that the world just doesn’t contain the items (e.g., God) necessary to render such assertions true. Similarly, the moralerror theorist maintains that moral (...) judgments are truth-evaluable assertions (thus contrasting with the noncognitivist), but that the world doesn’t contain the properties (e.g., moral goodness, evil, moral obligation) needed to render moral judgments true. In other words, moral discourse aims at the truth but systematically fails to secure it. If there is no such property as moral wrongness, for example, then no judgment of the form “X is morally wrong” will be true (where “X” denotes an actual action or state of affairs). Advocates of this position include Hinckfuss 1987; Joyce 2001; Mackie 1977 (see MACKIE, J. L.). Various forms of moral skepticism—some of which are arguably instances of the error theoretic stance—have been familiar to philosophers since ancient times. (See SKEPTICISM, MORAL.) Error theoretic views can be controversial—as in the case of religion and morality—or widely agreed upon—as in the case of ghosts and phlogiston. It is important to note that error theorists maintain that the judgments in question are erroneous not merely because of the absence of any objective moral facts sufficient to render them true, but also because of the absence of any non-objective moral facts sufficient to render them true. There is, for example, a kind of moral realist who maintains that moral properties are objective features of the universe (see REALISM, MORAL). There is also a family of metaethical views according to which moral properties are in some manner constituted by us—by our beliefs, attitudes, practices, etc.. (shrink)
We discuss recent work in experimental philosophy on free will and moral responsibility and then present a new study. Our results suggest an errortheory for incompatibilist intuitions. Most laypersons who take determinism to preclude free will and moral responsibility apparently do so because they mistakenly interpret determinism to involve fatalism or “bypassing” of agents’ relevant mental states. People who do not misunderstand determinism in this way tend to see it as compatible with free will and (...) responsibility. We discuss why these results pose a challenge to incompatibilists. (shrink)
Kant’s concept of conscience has been largely neglected by scholars and contemporary moral philosophers alike, as has his concept of “indirect” duty. Admittedly, neither of them is foundational within his ethical theory, but a correct account of both in their own right and in combination can shed some new light on Kant’s moral philosophy as a whole. In this paper, I first examine a key passage in which Kant systematically discusses the role of conscience, then give a (...) systematic account of “indirect” duties and the function of hypothetical imperatives in the course of their generation. I then turn to the possibility of moralerror and the part “indirect” duty can play in its prevention. In conclusion, I try to show how clarifying the concept of “indirect” duty can help us to shed light on the nature of Kantian ethics as a whole. (shrink)
Michael Ruse‘s Darwinian metaethics has come under just criticism from Peter Woolcock (1993). But with modification it remains defensible. Ruse (1986) holds that people ordinarily have a false belief that there are objective moral obligations. He argues that the evolutionary story should be taken as an errortheory, i.e., as a theory which explains the belief that there are obligations as arising from non-rational causes, rather than from inference or evidential reasons. Woolcock quite rightly objects that (...) this position entails moral nihilism. However, I argue here that people generally have justified true beliefs about which acts promote their most coherent set of moral values, and hence, by definition, about which acts are right. What the evolutionary story explains is the existence of these values, but it is not an errortheory for moral beliefs. Ordinary beliefs correspond to real moral properties, though these are not objective or absolute properties independent of anyone‘s subjective states. On its best footing, therefore, a Darwinian metaethics of the type Ruse offers is not an errortheory and does not entail moral nihilism. (shrink)