The Projectability Challenge states that a metaethical view must explain how ordinary agents can, on the basis of moral experience and reflection, accurately and justifiably apply moral concepts to novel situations. In this paper, we argue for two primary claims. First, paradigm nonnaturalism can satisfactorily answer the projectability challenge. Second, it is unclear whether there is a version of moral naturalism that can satisfactorily answer the challenge. The conclusion we draw is that there is an important respect in which nonnaturalism (...) holds an advantage over its most prominent naturalist rivals. The conclusion is interesting if only because it is widely assumed that naturalism has an easier time handling thorny problems in moral epistemology. We argue that there is at least one such problem of which this assumption is not true. (shrink)
I argue that relativists about evaluative language face some of the same objections as non-naturalists in ethics. If these objections are powerful, there is reason to doubt the existence of relative evaluative states of affairs. In they do not exist, then relativism leads to an error theory. This is unattractive, as the position was specifically designed to preserve the truth of many evaluative claims.
In this paper I discuss five meta-ethical challenges to Naturalistic Moral Realism, which includes secular moral codes such as Secular Humanism that, in my view, naturalists need to address to keep their commitment to moral realism from looking like special pleading. The five challenges are as follows: 1. The Ontological Problem (OP): How do such moral principles exist? 2. The Epistemic Problem (EP): How does our moral sense/intuition track such principles? 3. The Influence Problem (IP): What authority does the existence (...) of such principles have to supervene on our behavior? 4. The Axiological Problem (AP): What entities have moral value and deserve moral consideration? 5. Methodological Problem (MP): How do we go about arbitrating between moral claims when they conflict? (shrink)
Here is a puzzling phenomenon. Moral theories are typically thought to be necessary. If act utilitarianism is true, for example, then it is necessarily true. However, scientific theories are typically thought to be contingent. If quantum field theory is true, it’s not necessarily true — the world could have been Newtonian. My aim is to explore this discrepancy between domains. -/- In particular, I explore the role of what I call `internality’ intuitions in motivating necessitism about both moral and scientific (...) domains. In effect, these internality intuitions tell against the explanatory role of certain `external’ entities – like moral or scientific principles. I’ll suggest that perhaps these internality intuitions are more compelling in the moral case than the scientific case. If so, this would rationalize the combination of moral necessitism and scientific contingentism. (shrink)
When asked which of our concepts are normative concepts, metaethicists would be quick to list such concepts as GOOD, OUGHT, and REASON. When asked why such concepts belong on the list, metaethicists would be much slower to respond. Matti Eklund is a notable exception. In his recent book, Choosing Normative Concepts, Eklund argues by elimination for “the Normative Role view” that normative concepts are normative in virtue of having a “normative role” or being “used normatively”. One view that Eklund aims (...) to eliminate is “the Metaphysical view” that normative concepts are normative in virtue of referring to normative properties. In addition to arguing that Eklund’s objection looks doubtful by its own lights, we argue that there are several plausible versions of the Metaphysical view that Eklund doesn’t eliminate, defending various claims about normative concepts and their relationships to deliberation, competence, reference, and possession along the way. (shrink)
A debate has recently appeared regarding whether non-naturalism is better than other metaethical views at explaining moral progress. I shall take the occasion of this debate to present a novel debunking dilemma for moral non-naturalists, extending Sharon Street's Darwinian one. I will argue that moral progress indicates that our moral attitudes tend to reflect contingent sociocultural and psychological factors. For non-naturalists, there is then either a relation between these factors and the moral facts, non-naturalistically construed, or there is not. If (...) there is no relation, the contingent factors are unlikely to lead to moral knowledge. If there is a relation, they must be likely to lead to non-naturalist-style moral knowledge, but no theoretically virtuous explanation of moral progress is likely to accommodate non-naturalist commitments. It follows that non-naturalist moral realism cannot explain our moral knowledge. I call this a contingentist challenge to non-naturalism. (shrink)
Yong Huang presents criticisms of Neo-Aristotelian meta-ethical naturalism and argues Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucian approach is superior in defending moral realism. After presenting Huang’s criticisms of the Aristotelian metaethical naturalist picture, such as that of Rosalind Hursthouse, I argue that Huang’s own views succumb to the same criticisms. His metaethics does not avoid an allegedly problematic ‘gap,’ whether ontological or conceptual, between possessing a human nature and exemplifying moral goodness. This ontological gap exists in virtue of the fact that it is (...) possible for there to be bad people, and the conceptual gap exists in virtue of the fact that people are not ‘good’ (in that sense of being a good agent) merely because they are human. Aristotelians and Confucians both should reject that such gaps are problematic. I conclude by proposing that Huang is better understood as criticizing the Aristotelian move from scientific-empirical facts about human nature to the objective prescriptivity of moral norms. But so too I argue that Confucians should not follow Huang here either. There is good scientific evidence that would be supportive of a Confucian analysis of social virtues and provide one way of responding to those worries about the scientific-empirical accessibility of facts about the good life. (shrink)
There is a well-known argument against irreducibly normative properties that appeals to the following claim about supervenience: for all possible worlds W and W*, if the instantiation of descriptive properties in W and W* is exactly the same, then the instantiation of normative properties in W and W* is also exactly the same. This claim used to be uncontroversial, but recently several philosophers have challenged it. Do these challenges undermine this argument? I argue that they do not, since the negation (...) of this claim about supervenience has consequences that are much more implausible than the negations of key premises in these challenges. (shrink)
Non-naturalist realism is the view that normative properties are unique kind of stance-independent properties. It has been argued that such views fail to explain why two actions that are exactly alike otherwise must also have the same normative properties. Mark Schroeder and Knut Olav Skarsaune have recently suggested that non-naturalist realists can respond to this supervenience challenge by taking the primary bearers of normative properties to be action-kinds. This paper develops their response in two ways. Firstly, it provides additional motivation (...) for the previous claim about the bearers of normative properties by drawing from the work of H.A. Prichard. Secondly, and more importantly, it formulates a plausible metaphysical framework based on the contemporary trope theory to explain why action-kinds would have their second-order properties, including their normative properties, necessarily. (shrink)
Many moral debunking arguments are driven by the idea that the correlation between our moral beliefs and the moral truths is a big coincidence, given a robustly realist conception of morality.One influential response is that the correlation is not a coincidence because there is a common explainer of our moral beliefs and the moral truths. For example, the reason that I believe that I should feed my child is because feeding my child helps them to survive, and natural selection instills (...) in me beliefs and dispositions that help my children survive since that is conductive to my genes continuing through the generations. Similarly, the reason that it's morally good to feed my child is because it helps them to survive, and survival is morally valuable.But if we look at some cases from scientific practice, and from everyday life, we can see, I argue, why this response fails. A correlation can be coincidental even if there is a common explainer. I give an account of the nature of coincidence that draws upon recent literature on scientific explanation and argue that the correlation between moral belief and moral truth is a coincidence, even given such common explainers. And I use this to defend a certain form of debunking argument. (shrink)
At the core of the recent debate over moral debunking arguments is a disagreement between explanationist and modalist approaches. Explanationists think that the lack of an explanatory connection between our moral beliefs and the moral truths, given a non-naturalist realist conception of morality, is a reason to reject non-naturalism. Modalists disagree. They say that, given non-naturalism, our beliefs have the appropriate modal features with respect to truth -- in particular they are safe and sensitive -- so there is no problem. (...) -/- There is something of a stand-off here. I argue, though, that by looking at the role explanatory and modal factors have to play in theory choice more generally, and, in particular, by considering the practice of theory choice in science, we can see that the explanationist is right. The lack of an explanatory connection between our moral beliefs and the moral truths is a reason to reject non-naturalist realism about morality. (shrink)
Suppose someone is brought up as an orthodox Jew, and so only eats kosher, is very conservative sexually, etc. Suppose they then find out that this Judaism stuff is just all a big mistake. If they then regret all the shrimp they could have eaten, all the sex!, this makes perfect sense. Not so, however, if someone finds out that moral realism is false, and they now regret all the fun they could have had hurting people’s feeling, etc. Even if (...) this does make sense, there’s a strong disanalogy between the moral and the religious case. This asymmetry, on a realist picture of morality, calls for explanation. This chapter tries to explain it. The discussion engages some topics familiar from objections to Robust realism—the why-be-moral challenge, the status of de-dicto moral motivation, and whether and why we should care about the moral properties, robustly realistically understood. (shrink)
I argue for the viability of one neglected way of developing supervenience-based objections to metaethical non-naturalism. This way goes through a principle known as ‘Hume’s Dictum’, according to which there are no necessary connections between distinct existences. I challenge several objections to the Hume’s Dictum-based argument. In the course of doing so, I formulate and motivate modest and precise versions of Hume’s Dictum, illustrate how arguments employing these principles might proceed, and argue that the Hume’s Dictum argument enjoys some advantages (...) relative to other supervenience-based objections to non-naturalism. (shrink)
Non-naturalism is the view that there are sui generis, non-natural moral properties. This paper poses a dilemma for theists who accept this view. Either God explains why non-moral properties make sui generis, non-natural moral properties obtain, or God does not explain this. If the former, then God is unacceptably involved in the explanation of his own moral goodness. If the latter, then God’s sovereignty, stature, and importance are undermined, and an unacceptable queerness is introduced into the world. This paper concludes (...) that theists have good reasons to reject non-naturalism on account of the unacceptable consequences of accepting either horn. (shrink)
In this paper, we present one of the main starting points of naturalism in ethics: Geach’s challenge against non-cognitivism. We try to find an answer to Geach’s challenge in the notion of family resemblance applied to ethics. In doing so we recover a not much-discussed influence of Moore on Wittgenstein’s conception of family resemblance, which leads us to define Wittgenstein as non-non-cognitivist in ethics. -/- Pre print (some changes in the published edition).
This chapter discusses epistemic objections to non-naturalist moral realism. The goal of the chapter is to determine which objections are pressing and which objections can safely be dismissed. The chapter examines five families of objections: (i) one involving necessary conditions on knowledge, (ii) one involving the idea that the causal history of our moral beliefs reflects the significant impact of irrelevant influences, (iii) one relying on the idea that moral truths do not play a role in explaining our moral beliefs, (...) (iv) one involving the claim that if moral realism is true then our moral beliefs are unlikely to be reliable, and (v) one involving the claim that moral realism is incompatible with there being a plausible explanation of our reliability about morality. The overall conclusion of the chapter is that the final objection is by far the most pressing. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that a realist account of the modality of moral supervenience is superior to a non-cognitivist account. According to the recommended realist account, moral supervenience amounts to strong supervenience where the outer ‘necessary’ is conceptual and the inner metaphysical. It is argued that non-cognitivism faces a critical choice between weak and strong supervenience where both options are implausible on this view. However, non-cognitivism seems to have an important advantage: It can explain why the outer ‘necessary’ is (...) conceptual by reference to the function of moral language to influence behaviour. In the main part of the paper, I argue that realism is able to explain why ‘necessary’ in moral supervenience needs to be understood in the recommended manner by reference to the connection between moral properties and moral reasons. Moreover, I argue that the realist account has other attractive features. In contrast to non-cognitivism, it can unify the normative sphere by being generalizable to other normative notions. In addition, it can be part of an explanation of why moral language can have the function to influence behaviour. (shrink)
The contemporary debate on the metaphysical side of metaethics is dominated by two paradigms—reductive naturalism and primitivist non- naturalism. It is argued here that these are both extreme views. In principle, it should be possible for there to be a host of intermediate views between these two extremes. In fact, most of the views that were taken on these metaphysical questions by philosophers of ancient and medieval times differed from both reductive naturalism and primitivist non-naturalism. However, the metaphysical views of (...) these past philosophers cannot easily be endorsed today. This is because our conception of the natural world has changed from that of these premodern thinkers, because of the development of modern natural science. Nonetheless, it is still possible to make sense of intermediate positions, lying between the two extremes of reductive naturalism and primitivist non- naturalism. These intermediate positions are prima facie promising, and deserve careful consideration from contemporary metaethicists. (shrink)
Stance-independent nonnaturalist moral realism is subject to two related epistemological objections. First, there is the metaethical descendant of the Benacerraf problem. Second, there are evolutionary debunking arguments. Standard attempts to solve these epistemological problems have not appealed to any particular moral epistemology. The focus on these epistemologically neutral responses leaves many interesting theoretical stones unturned. Exploring the ability of particular theories in moral epistemology to handle these difficult epistemological objections can help illuminate strengths or weaknesses within these theories themselves, as (...) well as opening up potentially unexplored avenues for responding to deeply entrenched concerns about our epistemic access to the moral properties. In this paper, I assess the prospects of an empiricist and perceptualist model of moral knowledge for responding to epistemological arguments against non-skeptical moral realism. I argue that such a view has powerful responses to these objections that are not open to other moral epistemologists. The upshot is that if some version of the view is correct, then the realist has less to fear from Benacerraf and evolutionary debunking–style epistemological objections. Insofar as one is already a committed realist, then, this provides some indirect support for moral perceptualism. (shrink)
In contemporary metaethics, functionalist theories of moral properties are dominantly naturalistic. This article, however, aims to develop a nonnaturalistic form of moral functionalism. Specifically, I propose a Holistic, Intuitional, and Second-order version of moral functionalism (call it 'HIS Moral Functionalism' for short). The major goal of this article is to show that HIS Moral Functionalism is more plausible than competing functionalist accounts. Moreover, I propose an epistemic formulation of moral naturalism/nonnaturalism, and then argue that HIS Moral Functionalism is a particular (...) brand of moral nonnaturalism. (shrink)
I exploit parallel considerations in the philosophy of mind and metaethics to argue that the reasoning employed in an important argument for panpsychism overgeneralizes to support an analogous position in metaethics: panmoralism. Next, I raise a number of problems for panmoralism and thereby build a case for taking the metaethical parallel to be a reductio ad absurdum of the argument for panpsychism. Finally, I contrast panmoralism with a position recently defended by Einar Duenger Bohn and argue that the two suffer (...) from similar problems. I conclude by drawing some general lessons for panpsychism. (shrink)
Hume’s Law that one cannot derive an “ought” from an “is” has often been deemed to bear a significance that extends far beyond logic. Repeatedly, it has been invoked as posing a serious threat to views about normativity: naturalism in metaethics and positivism in jurisprudence. Yet in recent years, a puzzling asymmetry has emerged: while the view that Hume’s Law threatens naturalism has largely been abandoned (due mostly to Pigden’s work, see e.g. Pigden 1989), the thought that Hume’s Law is (...) a serious challenge to positivism has only grown in prominence. Our main aim is to establish that Hume’s Law is not a threat to positivism or naturalism. First, we connect extensive, but unfortunately siloed, discussions of this issue. Second, we show that Hume’s Law is not a serious threat to naturalism or positivism, for the gap between logic and such theses is very hard to bridge in a way that would make Hume’s Law able to bear this significance. Finally, we emphasize an implication of our discussion: it undermines one of the main “dialectical tributaries” in jurisprudence (Toh 2018). (shrink)
This essay concerns two forms of moral non-naturalism according to which general moral principles or laws enter into the grounding explanations of particular moral facts. According to bridge-law non-naturalism, the laws are themselves partial grounds of the moral facts; whereas according to grounding-law non-naturalism, the laws explain the grounding connections that obtain between particular natural facts and particular moral facts. I pose and develop an objection to BLNN concerning moral worth: as compared to GLNN, BLNN has trouble accommodating the common (...) intuition that actions performed out of motivation for rightness de dicto are, at least in paradigm cases, deficient in their moral worth as compared to those performed out of motivation for rightness de re. After presenting the moral worth objection to BLNN, I respond to a possible defense of the view and explain why GLNN is not itself imperiled by an analogous objection. I finally argue that in light of the moral worth objection, a purported analogy between the law and morality fails to give us any reason to prefer BLNN to GLNN. I conclude that non-naturalists who accept the existence of general and explanatory moral principles should adopt GLNN rather than BLNN. (shrink)
Moral realists often disagree about the nature of moral properties. These properties can be natural (as per naturalistic moral realism) or non-natural. But it is unclear how we should understand the notion of naturalness employed in these discussions. In this paper I propose a novel account of moral naturalness. I suggest that a property F is natural iff F falls within the scope of a natural law. In turn, a law is natural when it figures in a nomic nexus involving (...) the laws of physics. (shrink)
The moral error theory, it seems, could be true. The mere possibility of its truth might also seem inconsequential. But it is not. For, I argue, there is a sense in which the moral error theory is possible that generates an argument against both non‐cognitivism and moral naturalism. I argue that it is an epistemic possibility that morality is subject to some form of wholesale error of the kind that would make the moral error theory true. Denying this possibility has (...) three unwelcome consequences such that allowing for and explaining it is an adequacy condition on meta‐ethical theories. Non‐cognitivism and moral naturalism, I argue, cannot capture the epistemic possibility of wholesale moral error and so are false. My argument additionally provides independent reason to accept Derek Parfit's claim that if moral non‐naturalism is false then nothing matters. I conclude that whether wholesale moral error is epistemically possible may be, in Richard Rorty's words, ‘one of those issues which puts everything up for grabs at once’ and that even if so, and even if non‐cognitivists and moral naturalists remain unmoved by an argument based upon it, this only helps to highlight the significance of my argument. (shrink)
G.E. Moore's Principia Ethica of 1903 is often considered a revolutionary work that set a new agenda for 20 th-century ethics. This historical view is hard to sustain, however. In metaethics Moore's non naturalist position was close to that defended by Henry Sidgwick and other late..
Metaethicists often specify non-naturalism in different ways: some take it to be about identity, while others take it to be about grounding. But few directly address the taxonomical question of what the best way to understand non-naturalism is. That’s the task of this paper. This isn’t a merely terminological question about how to use the term “non-naturalism”, but a substantive philosophical one about what metaphysical ideology we need to capture the pre-theoretical concerns of non-naturalists. I argue that, contrary to popular (...) opinion, non-naturalism is best characterized not in terms of identity or grounding, but in terms of essence. First, I lay out some desiderata for a good characterization of non-naturalism: it should (i) speak to and elucidate the non-naturalist’s core pre-theoretical commitments, (ii) render non-naturalism a substantive, local claim about normativity, and (iii) provide the most general characterization of the view possible (iv) in a way that best fits the spirit of paradigm non-naturalist views. I then argue that identity characterizations fail to satisfy the former two desiderata, while grounding characterizations at best don’t satisfy the latter two. So, I propose a new essence characterization of non-naturalism and argue that it does a better job of satisfying all four desiderata. Moreover, I argue that this essence characterization has important implications for both metaethical and metaphysical theorizing. (shrink)
The focus of this paper is the following claim: as a purely conceptual matter, the moral truths could be pretty much anything, and we should assume this in assessing our reliability at grasping moral truths. This claim, which I call No Content, plays a key role in an important skeptical argument against realist moral knowledge – the Normative Lottery Argument. In this paper, I argue that moral realists can, and should, reject No Content. My argument centers on the idea of (...) practical intelligibility. I explore different aspects of practical intelligibility, and I argue that such intelligibility sets a constraint on the possibilities we should consider when assessing our reliability at grasping moral truths. (shrink)
Evolutionary research on the biological fitness of groups has recently given a prominent value to the role that prosocial behaviors play in favoring a successful adaptation to ecological niches. Such a focus marks a paradigm shift. Early views of evolution relied on the notion of natural selection as a largely competitive mechanism for the achievement of the highest amount of resources. Today, evolutionists from different schools think that collaborative attitudes are an irremovable ingredient of biological change over time. As a (...) consequence, a number of researchers have been attracted by evolutionary studies of human behaviors. Some think that a continuity among prosocial attitudes of human beings and other social mammals can be detected, and that this fact has relevance for accounting for human morality. Others deny one or the other of these claims, or both. The papers in the present special issue address how these topics impact ethics and religion. (shrink)
Over the course of human history there appears to have been a global shift in moral values towards a broadly ‘liberal’ orientation. Huemer argues that this shift better accords with a realist than an antirealist metaethics: it is best explained by the discovery of mind-independent truths through intuition. In this article I argue, contra Huemer, that the historical data are better explained assuming the truth of moral antirealism. Realism does not fit the data as well as Huemer suggests, whereas antirealists (...) have underappreciated resources to explain the relevant historical dynamics. These resources include an appeal to socialization, to technological and economical convergences, to lessons learned from history, to changes induced by consistency reasoning and to the social function of moral norms in overcoming some of the cooperation problems that globalizing societies face. I point out that the realist’s explanans has multiple shortcomings, that the antirealist’s explanans has several explanatory virtues, and conclude that the latter provides a superior account of the historical shift towards liberal values. (shrink)
According to pluralistic intuitionist theories, some of our moral beliefs are non-inferentially justified, and these beliefs come in both an a priori and an a posteriori variety. In this paper I present new support for this pluralistic form of intuitionism by examining the deeply social nature of moral inquiry. This is something that intuitionists have tended to neglect. It does play an important role in an intuitionist theory offered by Bengson, Cuneo, and Shafer-Landau (forth), but whilst they invoke the social (...) nature of moral inquiry in order to argue that ordinary moral intuitions are trustworthy, my argument focuses on what I will call the ‘frontiers’ of moral inquiry. I will show that inclusive and cooperative dialogue is necessary at moral inquiry’s frontiers, and that intuitionists can expect such dialogue to result in both a priori and a posteriori moral beliefs. (shrink)
Can there be an objective morality without God? Derek Parfit argues that it can and offers a theory of morality that is neither theistic nor naturalistic. This book provides a critical assessment of Parfit's metaethical theory. Jakobsen identifies some problems in Parfit’s theory – problems concerning moral normativity, the ontological status of morality, and evolutionary influence on our moral beliefs – and argues that theological resources can help solve them. By showing how Parfit’s theory may be improved by the help (...) of theology, Jakobsen demonstrates the relevance of theology in philosophical and metaethical debates and argues that Christian theism offers a better explanation of morality than what Parfit’s non-naturalism does. (shrink)
Ethicists struggle to take reductive views seriously. They also have trouble conceiving of some supervenience failures. Understanding why provides further evidence for a kind of hybrid view of normative concept use.
Many non-naturalists about the normative want to endorse the view that some normative facts hold in virtue of both non-normative facts and normative principles. In this paper, I argue that non-naturalism is inconsistent with this thesis, due to the nature of normative principles and their grounds. I then consider two ways in which the nonnaturalist position could be modified or expanded to solve this problem. No solution, it turns out, is without its problems. I end by considering how the non-naturalist (...) can deny that normative facts obtain partially in virtue of principles. (shrink)
Mooreans claim that intrinsic goodness is a conceptual primitive. Fitting-attitude theorists object: they say that goodness should be defined in terms of what it is fitting for us to value. The Moorean view is often considered a relic; the fitting-attitude view is increasingly popular. I think this unfortunate. Though the fitting-attitude analysis is powerful, the Moorean view is still attractive. I dedicate myself to the influential arguments marshaled against Moore’s program, including those advanced by Scanlon, Stratton-Lake and Hooker, and Jacobson; (...) I argue that they do not succeed. (shrink)
Non-naturalism is the view that normative properties are response-independent, irreducible to natural properties, and causally inefficacious. An underexplored question for non-naturalism concerns the metasemantics of normative terms. Ideally, the non-naturalist could remain ecumenical, but it appears they cannot. Call this challenge the metasemantic challenge. This chapter suggests that non-naturalists endorse an epistemic account of reference determination of the sort recently defended by Imogen Dickie, with some modifications. An important implication of this account is that, if correct, a fully fleshed out (...) moral epistemology will simultaneously rebut metasemantic objections to non-naturalism. Thus, both the metasemantic and the more widely discussed epistemological challenges in effect amount to one. Before setting out the positive view, the chapter considers why all of the traditional metasemantic theories cause trouble for the non-naturalist. This includes discussions of teleosemantics, conceptual role semantics, as well as Schroeter and Schroeter’s “connectedness” model. (shrink)
Recently, companions in guilt strategies have garnered significant philosophical attention as a response to arguments for moral error theory, the view that there are no moral facts and that our moral beliefs are thus systematically mistaken. According to Cuneo (The normative web: an argument for moral realism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007), Das (Philos Q 66:152–160, 2016; Australas J Philos 95(1):58–69, 2017), Rowland (J Ethics Soc Philos 7(1):1–24, 2012; Philos Q 66:161–171, 2016) and others, epistemic facts would be just as (...) metaphysically problematic (or ‘guilty’) as moral facts. But since epistemic error theory is implausible, arguments for moral error theory prove too much and should be rejected. My aim is to argue that the success of this strategy is limited. In particular, the companions in guilt response fails against error-theoretic arguments motivated by concerns about explanatory dispensability, as recently developed by Joyce (The evolution of morality, MIT press, Bradford, 2005) and Olson (Moral error theory: history, critique, defence, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014: Ch. 7). To succeed, the response would require a prima facie plausible argument to the effect that epistemic facts are metaphysically dubious because they, too, are explanatorily dispensable. But, as I show, any such argument proves self-effacing: its premise commits us to believing in epistemic facts, while its conclusion forces us to deny their existence. Consequently, companions in guilt strategies don’t offer a panacea against arguments for moral error theory. (shrink)
Many philosophers have suspected that the normative importance of morality depends on moral realism. In this paper, I defend a version of this suspicion: I argue that if teleological forms of moral realism, those that posit an objective purpose to human life, are true, then we gain a distinctive kind of reason to do what is morally required. I argue for this by showing that if these forms of realism are true, then doing what is morally required can provide a (...) life with meaning, which is a widespread human need. I also argue that rival meta-ethical views, like anti-realism or non-naturalist realism, cannot make morality meaning-conferring in this way. (shrink)
Sidgwick's seminal textThe Methods of Ethicsleft off with an unresolved problem that Sidgwick referred to as the dualism of practical reason. The problem is that employing Sidgwick's methodology of rational intuitionism appears to show that there are reasons to favour both egoism and utilitarianism. Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer offer a solution in the form of an evolutionary debunking argument: the appeal of egoism is explainable in terms of evolutionary theory. I argue that like rational prudence, rational benevolence is (...) subject to debunking arguments and so problematic, but also – and more importantly – that debunking arguments are irrelevant in the debate over the dualism of practical reason on the view of reason and rational intuitionism that Lazari-Radek and Singer embrace. Either both egoism and utilitarianism are debunked, or neither are. If I am right, Sidgwick's dualism is left standing. (shrink)
In a previous volume of Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, Melis Erdur defends the provocative claim that postulating a stance-independent ground for morality constitutes a substantive moral mistake that is isomorphic to the substantive moral mistake that many realists attribute to antirealists. In this discussion paper I reconstruct Erdur’s argument and raise two objections to the general framework in which it arises. I close by explaining why rejecting Erdur’s approach doesn’t preclude normative criticism of metaethical theories.
Are non-natural properties worth caring about? I consider two objections to metaethical non-naturalism. According to the intelligibility objection, it would be positively unintelligible to care about non-natural properties that float free from the causal fabric of the cosmos. According to the ethical idlers objection, there is no compelling motivation to posit non-natural normative properties because the natural properties suffice to provide us with reasons. In both cases, I argue, the objection stems from misunderstanding the role that non-natural properties play in (...) the non-naturalist's understanding of normativity. The role of non-natural properties is not to be responded to, but to "mark" which natural properties it is correct for us to respond to in certain ways. (shrink)
Divine command theories come in several different forms but at their core all of these theories claim that certain moral statuses exist in virtue of the fact that God has commanded them to exist. Several authors argue that this core version of the DCT is vulnerable to an epistemological objection. According to this objection, DCT is deficient because certain groups of moral agents lack epistemic access to God’s commands. But there is confusion as to the precise nature and significance of (...) this objection, and critiques of its key premises. In this article, I try to clear up this confusion and address these critiques. I do so in three ways. First, I offer a simplified general version of the objection. Second, I address the leading criticisms of the premises of this objection, focusing in particular on the role of moral risk/uncertainty in our understanding of God’s commands. And third, I outline four possible interpretations of the argument, each with a differing degree of significance for the proponent of the DCT. (shrink)
In his defence of an error theory for normative judgements, Bart Streumer presents a new 'reduction' argument against nonreductive normative realism. Streumer claims that unlike previous versions, his 'simple moral theory' version of the argument doesn’t rely on the supervenience of the normative on the descriptive. But this is incorrect; without supervenience the argument does not succeed.
Non-naturalist realists are committed to the belief, famously voiced by Parfit, that if there are no non-natural facts then nothing matters. But it is morally objectionable to conditionalise all our moral commitments on the question of whether there are non-natural facts. Non-natural facts are causally inefficacious, and so make no difference to the world of our experience. And to be a realist about such facts is to hold that they are mind-independent. It is compatible with our experiences that there are (...) no non-natural facts, or that they are very different from what we think. As Nagel says, realism makes scepticism intelligible. So the non-naturalist must hold that you might be wrong that your partner matters, even if you are correct about every natural, causal fact about your history and relationship. But to hold that conditional attitude to your partner would be a moral betrayal. So believing non-naturalist realism involves doing something immoral. (shrink)
This Element has two aims. The first is to discuss arguments philosophers have made about the difference God's existence might make to questions of general interest in metaethics. The second is to argue that it is a mistake to think we can get very far in answering these questions by assuming a thin conception of God, and to suggest that exploring the implications of thick theisms for metaethics would be more fruitful.
This paper raises an objection to two important arguments for reductive ethical naturalism. Reductive ethical naturalism is the view that ethical properties reduce to the properties countenanced by the natural and social sciences. The main arguments for reductionism in the literature hold that ethical properties reduce to natural properties by supervening on them, either because supervenience is alleged to guarantee identity via mutual entailment, or because non-reductive supervenience relations render the supervenient properties superfluous. After carefully characterizing naturalism and reductionism, we (...) will present, explain, and raise objections against each of the main reductionist arguments: that supervenience does not support the claim that ethical properties and their subvenient natural properties are mutually entailing; that reductive views undermine the claim that ethical properties yield resemblance; and that supervenience does not entail that non-descriptive ethical properties are superfluous in the most fundamental sense. (shrink)
It is often said that normative properties are “just too different” to reduce to other kinds of properties. This suggests that many philosophers find it difficult to believe reductive theses in ethics. I argue that the distinctiveness of the normative concepts we use in thinking about reductive theses offers a more promising explanation of this psychological phenomenon than the falsity of Reductive Realism. To identify the distinctiveness of normative concepts, I use resources from familiar Hybrid views of normative language and (...) thought to develop a Hybrid view of normative concepts. In addition to using this new Hybrid view to explain why reductive theses are difficult to believe, I show how to preserve several patterns of inference involving normative concepts that, intuitively, it is possible to make, and hence answer an important recent challenge to Hybrid views from Mark Schroeder. (shrink)
In his highly engaging book, Speech and Morality, Terence Cuneo advances a transcendental argument for moral realism from the fact that we speak. After summarizing the major moves in the book, I argue that its master argument is not as friendly to non-naturalist versions of moral realism as Cuneo advertises and relies on a diet of insufficient types of speech acts. I also argue that expressivists have compelling replies to each of Cuneo's objections individually, but taken together, Cuneo's objections provide (...) the resources for issuing a new and interesting challenge to expressivists. (shrink)
Arguments from disagreement against moral realism begin by calling attention to widespread, fundamental moral disagreement among a certain group of people. Then, some skeptical or anti-realist-friendly conclusion is drawn. Chapter 2 proposes that arguments from disagreement share a structure that makes them vulnerable to a single, powerful objection: they self-undermine. For each formulation of the argument from disagreement, at least one of its premises casts doubt either on itself or on one of the other premises. On reflection, this shouldn’t be (...) surprising. These arguments are intended to support very strong metaphysical or epistemological conclusions about morality. They must therefore employ very strong metaphysical or epistemological premises. But, given the pervasiveness of disagreement in philosophy, especially about metaphysics and epistemology, very strong premises are virtually certain to be the subject of widespread, intractable disagreement—precisely the sort of disagreement that proponents of these arguments think undermine moral claims. Thus, these arguments undermine their own premises. If Chapter 2’s argument is sound, it provides realists with a single, unified strategy for responding to any existing or forthcoming arguments from disagreement. (shrink)