As a descriptive theory, moral fictionalism proposes that moral claims are typically based on the fundamental error of attributing moral values with an objective, independent status that they cannot possess. This illusory belief in the reality of moral values has been aptly described as naïve moral realism. Yet, the assumed prevalence of moral realism, however naïve, is a crucial question that has not been adequately defended by proponents of moral fictionalism and is found to be inconsistent with much empirical research (...) in moral psychology that reveals a much more sophisticated understanding of the meanings of moral beliefs and judgements. In addition to these empirical weaknesses, moral fictionalism tends to rely on a naïve interpretation of: (1) the conceptual validity and scope of the cognitivivist/non-cognitivist distinction (2) the categoricity of moral judgements (3) the descriptive language of moral discourse These serious flaws provide good reason for describing the theory itself as naïve moral fictionalism. (shrink)
This chapter surveys work in meta-ethics in the past fifty years which explicitly deals with issues associated with evil. It discusses two examples from secular discussions: the argument developed by Gilbert Harman on the explanatory role of moral facts, and the argument developed by Gilbert Harman and John Doris on the empirical inadequacy of the virtues. The chapter then turns to two topics related to theistic meta-ethics: the problem of evil and moral realism, and theological voluntarism and evil.
The problem of creeping minimalism threatens the distinction between moral realism and meta-ethical expressivism, and between cognitivism and non-cognitivism more generally. The problem is commonly taken to be serious and in need of response. I argue that there are two problems of creeping minimalism, that one of these problems is more serious than the other, and that this more serious problem cannot be solved in a way that all parties can accept. I close by highlighting some important questions this raises (...) for how to distinguish between theories, and noting some of the troubling consequences it may entail for realism and its rivals, in meta-ethics and beyond. (shrink)
Call the following claim Asymmetry: rationality often requires a more steadfast response to pure moral disagreement than it does to otherwise analogous non-moral disagreement. This paper briefly motivates Asymmetry and explores its implications for meta-ethics. Some philosophers have thought that anti-realists are better-placed than realists to explain Asymmetry because, if anti-realism is true, disagreement cannot provide evidence against the reliability of one's thinking about objective moral facts. This paper argues that this simple diagnosis fails to support otherwise plausible anti-realisms. It (...) closes by discussing an alternative explanation for Asymmetry, which appeals to the moral importance of steadfastness. (shrink)
While Richard Joyce’s moral skepticism might seem to be an extreme metaethical view, it is actually far more moderate than it might first appear. By articulating four challenges facing his approach to moral skepticism, I argue that Joyce’s moderation is, in fact, a theoretical liability. First, the fact that Joyce is not skeptical about normativity in general makes it possible to develop close approximations to morality, lending support to moderate moral revisionism over moral error theory. Second, Joyce relies on strong, (...) contentious conceptual and empirical claims in support of his views. Third, Joyce’s evolutionary debunking argument threatens to backfire, generalizing to all normative judgments. Finally, Joyce fails to offer an adequate account of the normativity of desire. Each of these four challenges can be either sidestepped or embraced by radicalizing and defending a global form of normative skepticism. There are thus several ways in which global normative skepticism appears to be in a more robust dialectical position than Joyce’s moral skepticism. Furthermore, I argue, Joyce’s arguments against global normative skepticism are unconvincing. While this discussion is framed in terms of Joyce’s work, its arguments will apply to other moral skeptics who are not also global normative skeptics. The result is an invitation for Joyce and other moral skeptics to leave these problems behind and join the radical camp. (shrink)
Simon Blackburn has not shied away from the use of vivid imagery in developing, over a long and prolific career, a large-scale philosophical vision. Here one might think, for instance, of ‘Practical Tortoise Raising’ or ‘Ramsey's Ladder’ or ‘Frege's Abyss’. Blackburn develops a ‘quasi-realist’ account of many of our philosophical and everyday commitments, both theoretical (e.g., modality and causation) and practical (e.g., moral judgement and normative reasons). Quasi-realism aims to provide a naturalistic treatment of its targeted phenomena while earning the (...) right to deploy all of the ‘trappings’ of realism—i.e., while eschewing any idea that our normal thought and talk about such phenomena are pervasively in error. The quasi-realist project is that of explaining how (as Huw Price puts it here) ‘the folk come to “talk the realist talk” without committing ourselves—us theorists, as it were—to “walking the metaphysical walk”’ (p. 136). Quasi-realism, too, can speak of truth, facts, properties, belief, knowledge, and so on. The imagery in this collection also abounds, though, in capturing a different view of quasi-realism: No fewer than three of the contributors picture Blackburn as wanting to have his cake and eat it too (Louise Antony asking, in addition, ‘Who doesn't? It's cake’ [p. 19]). (shrink)
According to moral error theory, morality is something invented, constructed or made; but mistakenly presents itself to us as if it were an independent object of discovery. According to moral constructivism, morality is something invented, constructed or made. In this paper I argue that constructivism is both compatible with, and in certain cases explanatory of, some of the allegedly mistaken commitments to which arguments for moral skepticism appeal. I focus on two particular allegations that are sometimes associated with moral skepticism. (...) The first is the suspicion that in making moral claims we are merely projecting our attitudes onto the world. The second is the suspicion that in arguing for and against moral views we are merely attempting to influence each other to give similar answers to questions that have no determinate answer. (shrink)
In this accessible yet throught-provoking work, Lisa Tessman takes us through gripping examples of the impossible demands of morality -- some epic, and others quotidian -- whose central predicament is: How do we make decisions when morality demands we do something that we cannot?
Moral error theories are often rejected by appeal to ‘companions in guilt’ arguments. The most popular form of companions in guilt argument takes epistemic reasons for belief as a ‘companion’ and proceeds by analogy. I show that this strategy fails. I claim that the companions in guilt theorist must understand epistemic reasons as evidential support relations if her argument is to be dialectically effective. I then present a dilemma. Either epistemic reasons are evidential support relations or they are not. If (...) they are not, then the companions in guilt argument fails. If they are, then a reduction of epistemic reasons to evidential support relations becomes available and, consequently, epistemic reasons cease to be a viable ‘companion’ for moral reasons. I recommend this structure of argument over existing strategies within the literature and defend my claims against recent objections from companions in guilt theorists. (shrink)
What should a Quinean naturalist say about moral and mathematical truth? If Quine’s naturalism is understood as the view that we should look to natural science as the ultimate ‘arbiter of truth’, this leads rather quickly to what Huw Price has called ‘placement problems’ of placing moral and mathematical truth in an empirical scientific world-view. Against this understanding of the demands of naturalism, I argue that a proper understanding of the reasons Quine gives for privileging ‘natural science’ as authoritative when (...) it comes to questions of truth and existence also apply to other stable and considered elements of our inherited world-view, including, arguably, our firmly held mathematical and moral beliefs. If so, then the ‘thin’ mathematical and moral realisms of Penelope Maddy and T. M. Scanlon, respectively, are vindicated. We do not need to shoehorn mathematical and moral truths into the pushings and pullings of our empirical scientific world-view; for the busy sailor adrift on Neurath’s boat, mathematical and moral truths already have their place. (shrink)
Error theories about practical deontic judgements claim that no substantive practical deontic judgement is true. Practical deontic judgements are practical in the sense that they concern actions, and they are deontic in the sense that they are about reasons, rightness, wrongness, and obligations. This paper assumes the truth of an error theory about practical deontic judgements in order to examine its ramifications. I defend three contentions. The first is that, if so-called fitting-attitude analyses of value fail, the truth of some (...) substantive evaluative judgements would not be threatened by the fact that no substantive practical deontic judgment is true. Secondly, in light of the truth of these evaluative judgements, the best thing we could do is to continue to make practical deontic judgements despite the truth of an error theory about practical deontic judgements. My third contention is that, if some evaluative judgements are unaffected by an error theory about practical deontic judgements, then such an error theory will eventually lead us to some version of consequentialism. (shrink)
Penulisan artikel ini sepenuhnya didasarkan pada perdebatan moral dalam diskursus etika yang cender- ung melihat nilai secara “an sich”, sehingga atas nilai tersebut digantungkan suatu bentuk kehidupan yang lebih ideal. Dalam hal ini, penghadiran Nietzsche dimaksudkan untuk memberi kritik tajam dengan membongkar semua kekeliruan dalam seluruh prasangka moral yang ada. Melalui genealogi yang diartigunakan sebagai penelusuran asal-usul dengan pendekatan fisio-psikologis, Nietzsche secara tidak langsung telah mewartakan bahwa moralitas telah berakhir dalam ketidakbermaknaannya bagi kehidupan.
According to the classical argument from moral disagreement, the existence of widespread or persistent moral disagreement is best explained by, and thus inductively supports the view that there are no objective moral facts. One of the most common charges against this argument is that it “overgeneralizes”: it implausibly forces its proponents to deny the existence of objective facts about certain matters of physics, history, philosophy, etc. as well (companions in guilt), or even about its own conclusion or its own soundness (...) (self-defeat). Is this overgeneralization charge justified? In this paper I argue that both overgeneralization objections are rather weak. The companions in guilt version very likely fails, and the self-defeat version more likely fails than not. This result gives us reason to consider the argument from moral disagreement more seriously than has recently been done. (shrink)
According to ethical neo-expressivism, all declarative sentences, including those used to make ethical claims, have propositions as their semantic contents, and acts of making an ethical claim are properly said to express mental states, which (if motivational internalism is correct) are intimately connected to motivation. This raises two important questions: (i) The traditional reason for denying that ethical sentences express propositions is that these were thought to determine ways the world could be, so unless we provide an analysis of ethical (...) terms in terms of natural properties, are we not committed to the Moorean conclusion that ethical sentences describe sui generis “nonnatural” ways the world could be? (ii) If we reject the claim that motivational attitudes constitute any part of the semantics of ethical sentences, are we not committed to denying the intuition behind motivational internalism after all? This chapter argues for negative answers to both of these questions. (shrink)
One recently popular strategy for avoiding the moral error theory is via a ‘companions in guilt’ argument. I focus on those recently popular arguments that take epistemic facts as a companion in guilt for moral facts. I claim that there is an internal tension between the two main premises of these arguments. It is a consequence of this that either the soundness or the dialectical force of the companions in guilt argument is undermined. I defend this claim via (i) analogy (...) with philosophical debates concerning the indispensability of mathematical objects to natural science, and (ii) discussion of the ‘entanglement’ of epistemic concepts and moral concepts in deliberation. I conclude by proposing a positive view of what kind of argument must be used if moral error theories are to be successfully undermined. (shrink)
Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen’s (1996) influential account of “cultures of honor” speculates that honor norms are a socially-adaptive deterrence strategy. This theory has been appealed to by multiple empirically-minded philosophers, and plays an important role in John Doris and Alexandra Plakias’ (2008) antirealist argument from disagreement. In this essay, I raise four objections to the Nisbett-Cohen deterrence thesis, and offer another theory of honor in its place that sees honor as an agonistic normative system regulating prestige competitions. Since my (...) account portrays honor norms as radically different from liberal ones, it actually strengthens Doris and Plakias’ case in some respects: cultures of honor are not merely superficially different from Western liberal ones. Nonetheless, the persistent appeal of honor’s principles, and their moral plausibility in certain contexts, suggests not antirealism, but pluralism—a reply on behalf of realism that itself has considerable empirical support. (shrink)
Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality asks what happens when the sense that "I must" collides with the realization that "I can't." Bringing together philosophical and empirical work in moral psychology, Lisa Tessman here examines moral requirements that are non-negotiable and that contravene the principle that "ought implies can.".
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)
A defense of amorality as both philosophically justified and practicably livable. While in synch with their underlying aim of grounding human existence in a naturalistic metaphysics, this book takes both the new atheism and the mainstream of modern ethical philosophy to task for maintaining a complacent embrace of morality. It advocates instead replacing the language of morality with a language of desire. The book begins with an analysis of what morality is and then argues that the concept is not instantiated (...) in reality. Following this, the question of belief in morality is addressed: How would human life be affected if we accepted that morality does not exist? The book argues that at the very least, a moralist would have little to complain about in an amoral world, and at best we might hope for a world that was more to our liking overall. An extended look at the human encounter with nonhuman animals serves as an illustration of amorality’s potential to make both theoretical and practical headway in resolving heretofore intractable ethical problems. (shrink)
The use of other animals for human purposes is as contentious an issue as one is likely to find in ethics. And this is so not only because there are both passionate defenders and opponents of such use, but also because even among the latter there are adamant and diametric differences about the bases of their opposition. In both disputes, the approach taken tends to be that of applied ethics, by which a position on the issue is derived from a (...) fundamental moral commitment. This commitment in turn depends on normative ethics, which investigates the various moral theories for the best fit to our moral intuitions. Thus it is that the use of animals in biomedical research is typically defended by appeal to a utilitarian theory, which legitimates harm to some for the greater good of others; while the opposition condemns that use either by appeal to the same theory, but disagreeing about the actual efficacy of animal experimentation, or by appeal to an alternative theory, such as the right of all sentient beings not to be exploited. Unfortunately, the normative issue seems likely never to be resolved, hence leaving the applied issue in limbo. The present essay seeks to circumvent this impasse by dispensing altogether with any moral claim or argument, thereby cutting the Gordian knot of animal ethics with a meta-ethical sword. The alternative schema defended is simply to advance relevant considerations, whereupon “there is nothing left but to feel.” In a word, motivation replaces justification. (shrink)
Moral error-theorists and relativists agree that there are no absolute moral facts, but disagree whether that makes all moral judgments false. Who is right? This paper examines a type of objection used by moral error-theorists against relativists, and vice versa: objections from implausible ascriptions of mistakes. Relativists (and others) object to error-theory that it implausibly implies that people, in having moral beliefs, are systematically mistaken about what exists. Error-theorists (and others) object to relativism that it implausibly implies that people are (...) systematically mistaken about the content of their own moral beliefs. The paper argues that such arguments cannot settle between the two theories since, contrary to first appearance, both theories face the very same challenges of explaining mistaken beliefs. (shrink)
When it comes to the meanings of normative expressions, descriptivist theories and expressivist theories have distinct explanatory virtues. Noting this, and with the hope of not compromising on explanatory resources, hybrid semantic theories refuse to choose. Here, I examine how well the strategy works for Moorean open questions and associated is‐ought gaps. Though hybrid theorists typically rely on their expressivist resources for this explanandum, there is a type of open question that unadulterated expressivist theories can handle but hybrid theories cannot (...) – reverse open questions associated with an ought‐is gap. Because of this, hybrid theories do not enjoy the best of both worlds, and Moorean considerations favour unadulterated expressivism over any partly descriptivist theory. (shrink)
Is it possible to do a good thing, or to make the world a better place? Some argue that it is not possible, because perspective‐neutral value does not exist. Some argue that ‘good’ does not play the right grammatical role; or that all good things are good ‘in a way’; or that goodness is inherently perspective‐dependent. I argue that the logical and semantic properties of ‘good’ are what we should expect of an evaluative predicate; that the many ways of being (...) good don't threaten the thesis that some ways are perspective‐independent; and that there are clear examples of perspective‐independent goodness. (shrink)
Most agree that when it comes to so-called 'first-order' normative ethics and political philosophy, constructivist views are a powerful family of positions. When it comes to metaethics, however, there is serious disagreement about what, if anything, constructivism has to contribute. In this paper I argue that constructivist views in ethics include not just a family of substantive normative positions, but also a distinct and highly attractive metaethical view. I argue that the widely accepted 'proceduralist characterization' of constructivism in ethics is (...) inadequate, and I propose what I call the 'practical standpoint characterization' in its place. I then offer a general taxonomy of constructivist positions in ethics. Since constructivism's standing as a family of substantive normative positions is relatively uncontested, I devote the remainder of the paper to addressing skeptics' worries about the distinctiveness of constructivism understood as a metaethical view. I compare and contrast constructivism with three other standard metaethical positions with which it is often confused or mistakenly thought to be compatible: realism; naturalist reductions in terms of an ideal response; and expressivism. In discussing the contrast with expressivism, I explain the sense in which, according to the constructivist, the distinction between substantive normative ethics and metaethics breaks down. I conclude by distinguishing between two importantly different debates about the mind-dependence of value. I argue that a failure to make this distinction is part of what explains why the possibility of constructivism as a metaethical view is often overlooked. (shrink)
Can we give a uniform account of reasons in the three spheres of action, belief, and sentiment? Are reasons in these three spheres genuinely distinct, or are they in some way reducible to less than three? What kind of knowledge do we have of reasons – and what is it that we know? Some basic problems in philosophy depend on our answers to these questions.
This paper addresses the “creeping minimalism” challenge to quasi-realist forms of expressivism by arguing that the solution suggested by Dreier doesn’t work and proposing an alternative solution based on the different inferential roles of ethical and descriptive judgments.
The thesis that the concept of a reason is the fundamental normative concept is in the air. In this paper I examine what it amounts to, how to formulate it, and how ambitious it should be. I distinguish a semantic version, according to which any normative predicate is definitionally reducible to a reason predicate, and a conceptual version, according to which the sole normative ingredient in any normative concept is the concept of a reason. Although I reject the semantic version (...) I examine its potential in some detail. And I claim that the conceptual version is plausible. (shrink)
I argue, contra Dreier, Blackburn, and others, that there are no morally neutral metaethical positions. Every metaethical position commits you to the denial of some moral statement. So, for example, the metaethical position that there are no moral properties commits you to the denial of the moral conjunction of 1) it is right to interfere violently when someone is wrongly causing massive suffering and 2) it is wrong to interfere violently when only non-moral properties are at stake. The argument generalizes (...) to all metaethical positions. (shrink)
The present essay offers a sketch of a philosophy of value, what I shall here refer to as ‘ethical instrumentalism.’ My primary aim is to say just what this view involves and what its commitments are. In the course of doing so, I find it necessary to distinguish this view from another with which it shares a common basis and which, in reference to its most influential proponent, I refer to as ‘Humeanism.’ A second, more general, aim is to make (...) plausible the idea that, given the common basis, ethical instrumentalism provides a more compelling picture of the philosophy of value than Humeanism does. (shrink)
Mark Eli Kalderon argues that morality is a fiction by means of which our emotional attitudes are conveyed. This is an improvement on the standard noncognitivist view, which denies that moral judgement is belief but claims instead that it is the expression of an emotional attitude. Noncognitivists tend to deny that moral sentences even purport to represent moral reality, and so they have developed non-standard semantics for moral discourse. Kalderon's fictionalism shows that noncognitivism can manage without such controversial semantics. His (...) book will be essential reading for anyone working in moral philosophy, and for many others working on meaning and knowledge. (shrink)
In recent metaethics there has been a great deal of discussion regarding moral realism. Moral realism in the tradition of ethical naturalism has been revitalized in the form of a synthetic ethical naturalism. This brand of moral realism has interesting theoretical implications for individualistic and holistic models of environmental ethics. In this paper I argue that most theorists of environmental ethics presuppose an irrealist metaethic out of fear of violating Hume's law and Moore's naturalistic fallacy (e.g., Callicott, Taylor, Elliot, and (...) Sterba, while Rolston is a notable exception). But if we take moral realism (in the form of synthetic ethical naturalism) seriously, then environmental ethics has more options than the conventional metaethical maxims of Hume's law and Moore's naturalistic fallacy would allow. Accordingly, I lay out various prospects for a realist environmental metaethic. Environ-moral realism is an attempt to ground nonanthropocentrism in a realist metaethic. (shrink)
Nondescriptivist Cognitivism vindicates the cognitive value of moral judgements despite their lack of descriptive content. In this paper,I raise a few worries about the proclaimed virtues of this new metaethical framework Firstly, I argue that Nondescriptivist Cognitivism tends to beg the question against descriptivism and, secondly, discuss Horgan and Timmons' case against Michael Smith's metaethical rationalism. Although I sympathise with their main critical claims against the latter, I am less enthusiastic about the arguments that they provide to support them.
Abstract We propose a metaethical view that combines the cognitivist idea that moral judgments are genuine beliefs and moral utterances express genuine assertions with the idea that such beliefs and utterances are nondescriptive in their overall content. This sort of view has not been recognized among the standard metaethical options because it is generally assumed that all genuine beliefs and assertions must have descriptive content. We challenge this assumption and thereby open up conceptual space for a new kind of metaethical (...) view. In developing our brand of nondescriptivist cognitivism we do the following: (1) articulate a conception of belief (and assertion) that does not require the overall declarative content of beliefs (and assertions) to be descriptive content; (2) make a case for the independent plausibility of this conception of belief and assertion; and (3) argue that our view, formulated in a way that draws upon the proposed conception of belief, has significant comparative advantages over descriptivist forms of cognitivism. (shrink)
The expressivist theory of truth (TETT) is stated and defended. According to TETT, to state such things as that it is true that snow is white is to express one's assent to the proposition that snow is white. In contexts where we refer to propositions with the aid of definite descriptions (“What Peter said”) or quantify over them (“Everything Peter says”), in order to say that they are “true”, the word “true” is essential, however. But it does not stand for (...) any genuine property. According to TETT, as here understood, it expresses our readiness or willingness to assent to these propositions. It is argued that TETT, even if still more of a reseach program than a full‐fledged theory, means an improvement over more elaborate minimalist theories of truth put forward by Crispin Wright and Paul Horwich. (shrink)
In these essays, John Skorupski develops a distinctive and systematic moral philosophy. He examines the central ethical concepts of reasons, the good, and morality, and applies the results to issues of culture and politics. Ethical Explorations firmly connects liberal politics to its ethical ideal, and links that ideal to modern morality and modern ideas of the good.
This paper argues that normative claims are truth‐apt contents of cognition – propositions about what there is reason to believe, to do or to feel – but that their truth is not a matter of correspondence or representation. We do not have to choose between realism about the normative and non‐cognitivism about it. The universality of reasons, combined with the spontaneity of normative responses, suffices to give normative claims the distinctive link to a ‘convergence commitment’ which characterises any genuine judgement; (...) an accurate epistemology of normative discourse need postulate no faculty of receptivity to a special domain of normative fact. Some general arguments for the view that cognitivism about a domain of discourse imposes realism about it are considered and rejected. (shrink)