The grounding of absolute morality requires surmounting some hurdles, including Euthyphro’s dilemma, Hume’s guillotine, and Moore’s naturalistic fallacy. This paper shows how those hurdles don’t prevent moral absolutes in a transcendent idealist setting. (Incomplete draft.).
The realist belief in robustly attitude-independent evaluative truths – more specifically, moral truths – is challenged by Sharon Street’s essay “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value”. We know the content of human normative beliefs and attitudes has been profoundly influenced by a Darwinian natural selection process that favors adaptivity. But if simple adaptivity can explain the content of our evaluative beliefs, any connection they might have with abstract moral truth would seem to be purely coincidental. She continues the (...) skeptical attack in “Objectivity and Truth: You’d Better Rethink It”, concentrating on the intuitionist realism of Ronald Dworkin. The latter sees the issue fundamentally as a holistic choice between moral objectivity and the genocide-countenancing consequences of abandoning objective standards. Street counters that, because of realism’s skeptical difficulties, Dworkin’s Choice (as I call it) actually works in favor of her Euthyphronic antirealism. I will argue that she misrepresents the realist’s skeptical challenge, and that clarifying the character of that challenge renders the case for normative realism much more appealing. Indeed, I claim that Street fails to exclude the genuine possibility of a rational basis for moral truth. (shrink)
Michael Huemer argues that cross-cultural convergence toward liberal moral values is evidence of objective moral progress, and by extension, evidence for moral realism. Nathan Cofnas claims to debunk Huemer’s argument by contending that convergence toward liberal moral values can be better explained by ‘two related non-truth-tracking processes’: self-interest and its long-term tendency to result in social conditions conducive to greater empathy. This article argues that although Cofnas successfully debunks Huemer’s convergence argument for one influential form of moral realism – Robust (...) Moral Realism, which holds that moral facts are non-natural, stance-independent normative facts – Cofnas’s debunking argument broadly supports a second type of moral realism: Enlightened Self-Interest Realism, the view that moral facts are reducible to stance-dependent requirements of instrumental (‘means-end’) rationality. Finally, this article argues that insofar as different Enlightened Self-Interest Realist theories make specific predictions about the intra- and inter-personal mechanisms behind moral convergence toward liberalism, empirical observations of cross-cultural convergence can provide independent support for Enlightened Self-Interest Realism. I conclude that this is an important mark in favor of Enlightened Self-Interest Realism over Robust Moral Realism. (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.
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)
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)
It may be a myth that Plato wrote over the entrance to the Academy “Let no-one ignorant of geometry enter here.” But it is a well-chosen motto for his view in the Republic that mathematical training is especially productive of understanding in abstract realms, notably ethics. That view is sound and we should return to it. Ethical theory has been bedevilled by the idea that ethics is fundamentally about actions (right and wrong, rights, duties, virtues, dilemmas and so on). That (...) is an error like the one Plato mentions of thinking mathematics is about actions (of adding, constructing, extracting roots and so on). Mathematics is about eternal relations between universals, such as the ratio of the diagonal of a square to the side. Ethics too is about eternal verities, such as the equal worth of persons and just distributions. Mathematical and ethical verities do both constrain actions, such as the possibility of walking over the seven bridges of Königsberg once and once only or of justly discriminating between races. But they are not themselves about action. In principle, neither mathematical nor ethical verities are subject to historical forces or disagreement among tribes (though they can be better understood as time goes on). Plato is right: immersion in mathematics induces an understanding of the necessities underpinning reality, an understanding that is essential for distinguishing objective ethics from tribal custom. Equality, for example, is an abstract concept which is foundational for both mathematics and ethics. (shrink)
Moral realism is often taken to have common sense and initial appearances on its side. Indeed, by some lights, common sense and initial appearances underlie all the central positive arguments for moral realism. We offer a kind of debunking argument, taking aim at realism’s common sense standing. Our argument differs from familiar debunking moves both in its empirical assumptions and in how it targets the realist position. We argue that if natural selection explains the objective phenomenology of moral deliberation and (...) judgement, then this undermines arguments from that phenomenology. This results in a simpler, and in some ways more direct, challenge to realism. It is also less vulnerable to the main objections that have been leveled against such arguments. If accepted, our conclusion should make a real difference to the dialectic in this area. It means that neither realism nor its denial is the default, to-be-refuted, position. (shrink)
This short review raises a trilemma for Chris Voparil’s reading of Richard Rorty. Voparil must deny one of three things. He must deny that Rorty affirmed a Jamesian approach to metaethics; he must deny that Rorty affirmed a version of Peircean realism; or, he must deny that Rorty treated all domains of discourse roughly the same. Because Rorty is quite clear in his commitment to the first and third theses and far less clear in affirming Peircean realism, I argue that (...) Voparil is forced to give up attributing realism to Rorty or must simply concede that his version of Rorty is incoherent. (shrink)
The death of a person is a tragedy while the explosion of a lifeless galaxy is a mere firework. The moral difference is grounded in the nature of humans: humans have intrinsic worth, a worth that makes their fate really matter. This is the worth proposed as the foundation of ethics. Ethics in the usual sense of right and wrong actions, rights and virtues, and how to live a good life, is founded on something more basic that is not itself (...) about actions, namely the worth of persons. Human moral worth arises from certain properties that distinguish humans from the rest of creation (though some animals share a lesser degree of those properties): rationality, consciousness, the ability to act for reasons, emotional structure and love, individuality. This complex package makes humans the "piece of work" of which Hamlet says, “How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty." The Worth of Persons establishes a foundation for ethics in the equal worth of persons, which makes ethics absolutely objective and immune to relativist attacks because it is based on the metaphysical truth about humans. Endless debate about ethical dilemmas, rules, and principles fails to connect with what is really important ethically, that is, what makes humans matter. (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)
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)
In this paper, I develop a metasemantics for relaxed moral realism. More precisely, I argue that relaxed realists should be inferentialists about meaning and explain that the role of evaluative moral vocabulary is to organise and structure language exit transitions, much as the role of theoretical vocabulary is to organise and structure language entry transitions.
To what extent are the subjects of our thoughts and talk real? This is the question of realism. In this book, Justin Clarke-Doane explores arguments for and against moral realism and mathematical realism, how they interact, and what they can tell us about areas of philosophical interest more generally. He argues that, contrary to widespread belief, our mathematical beliefs have no better claim to being self-evident or provable than our moral beliefs. Nor do our mathematical beliefs have better claim to (...) being empirically justified than our moral beliefs. It is also incorrect that reflection on the "genealogy" of our moral beliefs establishes a lack of parity between the cases. In general, if one is a moral antirealist on the basis of epistemological considerations, then one ought to be a mathematical antirealist as well. And, yet, Clarke-Doane shows that moral realism and mathematical realism do not stand or fall together -- and for a surprising reason. Moral questions, insofar as they are practical, are objective in a sense that mathematical questions are not. Moreover, the sense in which they are objective can be explained only by assuming practical anti-realism. One upshot of the discussion is that the concepts of realism and objectivity, which are widely identified, are actually in tension. Another is that the objective questions in the neighborhood of questions of logic, modality, grounding, and nature are practical questions too. Practical philosophy should, therefore, take center stage. (shrink)
Billy Dunaway develops and defends a framework for realism about morality. He defends the idea that moral properties are privileged parts of reality which are the referents for our moral terms. He suggests how it is that we can know about morality, and what the limits to moral disagreement are.
It has been argued that there is something morally objectionable about moral realism: for instance, according to realism, we are justified in believing that genocide is wrong only if a certain moral fact obtains, but it is objectionable to hold our moral commitments hostage to metaphysics in this way. In this paper, I argue that no version of this moral argument against realism is likely to succeed. More precisely, minimal realism―the kind of realism on which realist theses are understood as (...) internal to moral discourse―is immune to this challenge, contrary to what some proponents of the moral argument have suggested, while robust non-naturalist realists might have good answers to all versions of the argument as well, at least if they adopt a certain stance on how to form metaphysical beliefs in the moral domain. (shrink)
The existence of fundamental moral disagreements is a central problem for moral realism and has often been contrasted with an alleged absence of disagreement in mathematics. However, mathematicians do in fact disagree on fundamental questions, for example on which set-theoretic axioms are true, and some philosophers have argued that this increases the plausibility of moral vis-à-vis mathematical realism. I argue that the analogy between mathematical and moral disagreement is not as straightforward as those arguments present it. In particular, I argue (...) that pluralist accounts of mathematics render fundamental mathematical disagreements compatible with mathematical realism in a way in which moral disagreements and moral realism are not. 11. (shrink)
In this article I argue that if conscience, working properly, involves some form of ‘moral tug’, then this is incompatible with the state of ‘quiescence’ put forward as a central element of Eleonore Stump’s account of repentance. Quiescence is also a key notion for Stump’s theodicy in Wandering in the Darkness and Stump’s thesis in her book, Atonement. Quiescence is about an inactive, or neutral, or stationary, state of the will prior to turning to the good, or God, through receiving (...) God’s saving grace. But if God exerts a non–coercive pressure on people through their conscience to turn to him, and turn from evil, then this drawing towards the good, or tugging away from evil, can only be yielded to, or resisted. There is no neutral state. I give examples of language such as being ‘bound’ to obey one’s conscience, which seem to reflect such non–coercive pressure. I conclude by commenting on free will. (shrink)
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)
SPECIAL ISSUE ON DISAGREEMENTS: The fact of moral disagreement is often raised as a problem for moral realism. The idea is that disagreement amongst people or communities on moral issues is to be taken as evidence that there are no objective moral facts. While the fact of ‘folk’ moral disagreement has been of interest, the fact of expert moral disagreement, that is, widespread and longstanding disagreement amongst expert moral philosophers, is even more compelling. In this paper, I present three arguments (...) against the anti-realist explanation for widespread and longstanding disagreement amongst expert moral philosophers. Each argument shows the argument from expert disagreement for moral anti-realism, that is, denial of morality’s objectivity, to be in one way or another self-undermining. I conclude that widespread and longstanding disagreement amongst expert moral philosophers is not a problem for moral realism. (shrink)
Recently, Tomas Bogardus (2016), Andreas Mogensen (2017) and – at least on one plausible reconstruction – Sharon Street (2005) have argued that evolutionary theory debunks our moral beliefs by providing higher-order evidence of error. In response, moral realists such as Katia Vavova (2014) have objected that such evolutionary debunking arguments are self-defeating. The literature lacks any discussion of whether this self-defeat objection can be handled. My overall aim is to argue that it cannot, thus filling that lacuna – and vindicating (...) Vavova’s worry. To achieve my aim, I proceed in two steps. First, I propose a novel, prima facie promising strategy for avoiding self-defeat: evolutionary debunkers should reject Conciliationism, as defended by David Christensen (2007, 2009, 2011) and others, and instead explore Thomas Kelly’s (2010) Total Evidence View as their background view on the epistemic significance of higher-order evidence of error. Then, I show that evolutionary debunkers face insuperable difficulties trying to successfully implement that strategy. Depending on the kind of higher-order evidence of error that evolutionary considerations putatively provide, they either struggle with evidential weight or are committed to inconsistent assumptions about evolutionary counterparts. Either way, the evolutionary debunking argument from higher-order evidence of error fails. (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)
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.
Moral realism and some of its constitutive theses, e.g., cognitivism, face the following challenge. If they are true, then it seems that we should predict that deference to moral testimony is appropriate under the same conditions as deference to non-moral testimony. Yet, many philosophers intuit that deference to moral testimony is not appropriate, even in otherwise ordinary conditions. In this paper I show that the challenge is cogent only if the appropriateness in question is disambiguated in a particular way. To (...) count against realism and its constitutive theses, moral deference must fail to be appropriate in specifically the way that the theses predict it is appropriate. I argue that this is not the case. In brief, I argue that realism and allied theses predict only that deference to moral testimony is epistemically appropriate, but that the intuitive data plausibly show only that it is not morally appropriate. If I am right, then there is reason to doubt the metaethical relevance of much of the skepticism regarding moral deference in recent literature. (shrink)
After considering two of Pellegrino’s papers that address the relation between philosophy of medicine and medical ethics, I identify several overarching problems in his account that revolve around his self-described essentialism and the lack of a systematic attempt to relate clinical medicine to biomedicine and public health. I address these from the critical realist position of Bernard Lonergan, who grounds both metaphysics and ethics on the normative structure of human inquiry and seeks to understand historical development, such as we are (...) witnessing in health science and health care, in terms of the dynamic structure of the human good. I conclude that Lonergan’s generalized empirical method and hierarchical account of world order provide a potentially dynamic framework on which to build a more comprehensive philosophy of medicine than one whose foundations rest primarily on a phenomenology of the clinical encounter and the telos of medicine. (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)
Should the norms of honor cultures be classified as a variety of morality? In this paper, we address this question by considering various empirical bases on which norms can be taxonomically organised. This question is of interest both as an exercise in philosophy of social science, and for its potential implications in meta-ethical debates. Using recent data from anthropology and evolutionary game theory, we argue that the most productive classification emphasizes the strategic role that moral norms play in generating assurance (...) and stabilizing cooperation. Because honor norms have a similar functional role, this account entails honor norms are indeed a variety of moral norm. We also propose an explanation of why honor norms occur in a relatively unified, phenotypically distinctive cluster, thereby explaining why it is tempting to regard them as taxonomically distinct. (shrink)
The meta-ethical commitments of folk respondents – specifically their commitment to the objectivity of moral claims – have recently become subject to empirical scrutiny. Experimental findings suggest that people are meta-ethical pluralists: There is both inter- and intrapersonal variation with regard to people’s objectivist commitments. What meta-ethical implications, if any, do these findings have? I point out that current research does not directly address traditional meta-ethical questions: The methods used and distinctions drawn by experimenters do not perfectly match those of (...) meta-ethicists. However, I go on to argue that, in spite of this mismatch, the research findings should be of interest to moral philosophers, including meta-ethicists. Not only do these findings extend the field of moral psychology with new data and hypotheses, but they also provide tentative evidence that touches on the adequacy of theses in moral semantics and moral metaphysics. Specifically, they put pressure on argum... (shrink)
This chapter focuses on Daoist praxeology and language in order to build something of a moral realist position (the contours of which may differ from most western versions insofar as it need not commit to moral cognitivism) that hinges on the seemingly paradoxical notions of ineffable moral truths and non-transferable moral skill.
Morally progressive social changes seem to have taken place with the onset of democratic governance, the abolition of slavery, the rise of gender equality, and other developments. This essay attempts to demonstrate that natural and objective moral facts are a plausible cause of some morally progressive social changes. Since this hypothesis is a version of naturalistic moral realism, I call it the Naturalist-Realist Hypothesis. To support the NRH, I argue that objective moral facts are natural facts pertaining to the impartial (...) promotion of well-being within a population of agents facing a social dilemma. I then describe a mechanism to explain how natural and objective moral facts so construed may cause some morally progressive social changes. I suggest that the NRH is a credible hypothesis because it is compatible with empirical findings from research on the evolution of moral cognition and on the sociology of mass political movements. (shrink)
Epistemological objections to moral realism allege that realism entails moral skepticism. Many philosophers have assumed that theistic moral realists can easily avoid such objections. In this article, I argue that things are not so easy: theists run the risk of violating an important constraint on replies to epistemological objections, according to which replies to such objections may not rely on substantive moral claims of a certain kind. Yet after presenting this challenge, I then argue that theists can meet it, successfully (...) replying to the objections without relying on the problematic kinds of substantive moral claims. Theists have a distinctive and plausible reply to epistemological objections to moral realism. (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)
Does moral vagueness require ontic vagueness? A central challenge for nonontic treatments of moral vagueness arises from the referential stability of moral terms across small changes in how they are applied: if moral vagueness is not ontic vagueness, it’s hard to explain this referential stability. Pointing to this challenge, Miriam Schoenfield has argued that moral vagueness is ontic vagueness, at least for a moral realist. I disagree. I argue that a moral realist can use a conceptual role semantics for moral (...) terms to give a purely semantic treatment of moral vagueness. (shrink)
Much thought has been devoted to how metaethical disagreement between moral realism and expressivism can be saved once minimalism starts creeping. Very little thought has been given to how creeping minimalism affects error-theories’ disagreement with their metaethical competitors. The reason for this omission, I suspect, is found in the belief that whilst locating distinctive moral realist and expressivist positions within a minimalist landscape poses a severe challenge, no such difficulties are encountered when differentiating error-theories from moral realism and expressivism. In (...) the first part of this paper, I show that this belief is mistaken: Insofar as moral realists and error-theorists are still taken to disagree, creeping minimalism renders their disagreement moral, but makes these positions metaethically indistinguishable. In the second part of the paper, I present a modified inferentialist solution to the problem of creeping minimalism which seeks to put error-theories back on the metaethical map. Yet, this too comes at a cost, in that it significantly modifies our interpretation of error-theories. Whichever way we turn, then, creeping minimalism not only forces us to re-phrase metaethical positions in a way that is compatible with minimalism, but also requires us to change our very understanding of these positions. (shrink)
T. M. Scanlon’s ‘Reasons Fundamentalism’ rejects any naturalistic reduction of normative truths and it also rejects the type of non-naturalism that invokes a ‘special metaphysical reality.’ Here I argue that this still does not commit Scanlon—as some have thought—to an extreme ‘metaethical minimalism’ according to which there are no ‘truth makers’ at all for normative truths. I emphasize that the issue here is not just about understanding Scanlon, since the actual position defended by Scanlon might, more significantly, point the way (...) toward a satisfying non-reductive position in metaethics, one that embodies the ontological modesty that disavows any appeal to a ‘special metaphysical reality’ in Scanlon’s sense. (shrink)
A basic challenge to naturalistic moral realism is that, even if moral properties existed, there would be no way to naturalistically represent or track them. Here, the basic structure for a tracking account of moral epistemology is given in empirically respectable terms, based on a eudaimonist conception of morality. The goal is to show how this form of moral realism can be seen as consistent with the details of evolutionary biology as well as being amenable to the most current understanding (...) of representationalist or correspondence theories of truth. (shrink)
In this paper, I provide an argument for pannormism, the view according to which there are normative properties all the way down. In particular, I argue for what I call the trickling down principle, which says that if there is a metaphysically basic normative property, then, if whatever instantiates it has a ground, that ground instantiates it as well.
If what we want from moral inquiry were the obtainment of objective moral truths, as moral realism claims it is, then there would be nothing morally unsatisfactory or lacking in a situation, in which we somehow had access to all moral truths, and were fundamentally finished with morality. In fact, that seems to be the realists’ conception of moral heaven. In this essay, however, I argue that some sort of moral wakefulness – that is, always paying attention to the subtleties (...) of life and people, and never taking for granted what their moral significance can possibly be – is an essential moral value, and, therefore, moral realism, which promotes a moral ideal that allows such moral lethargy and inattentiveness is morally objectionable. (shrink)
The puzzle is this: I argue that for Reid, moral sense needs benevolent affections – i.e. some of our animal, non-cognitive principles of action – to apply the rules of duty. But he also thinks that duty can conflict with benevolent affections. So what happens in these conflict cases? I will argue that Reid takes moral psychology seriously and that he believes that our natural benevolent affections can be used as indicators of duty. Although creative, his account has a major (...) problem, because he does not resolve certain conflicts that arise between what action a duty prescribes and what action a natural affection, associated to that duty, inclines us to do. (shrink)
Many people accept, at least implicitly, what I call the asymmetry claim: the view that moral realism is more defensible than aesthetic realism. This article challenges the asymmetry claim. I argue that it is surprisingly hard to find points of contrast between the two domains that could justify their very different treatment with respect to realism. I consider five potentially promising ways to do this, and I argue that all of them fail. If I am right, those who accept the (...) asymmetry claim have a significant burden of proof. (shrink)
Christos Kyriacou has recently proposed charging moral error theorists with intellectual vice. He does this in response to an objection that Ingram makes against the 'moral fixed points view' developed by Cuneo and Shafer-Landau. This brief paper shows that Kyriacou's proposed vice-charge fails to vindicate the moral fixed points view. I argue that any attempt to make an epistemic vice-charge against error theorists will face major obstacles, and that it is highly unlikely that such a charge could receive the evidential (...) support that it would need in order to play the dialectical role that Kyriacou has in mind for it. I conclude that the moral fixed points view remains in serious trouble. (shrink)
Dans ses écrits sur l’éthique, Brentano affirme que les propriétés morales — comme « bon » — sont l’objet d’une représentation intuitive non sensible dont le contenu est de nature « mentale ». Si la nature mentale de ces contenus en garantit le caractère d’évidence, elle en complexifie aussi l’élucidation ontologique et épistémologique, qui doit tenir compte de la classification brentanienne des actes psychiques. C’est justement cette complexité constitutive qui a fait de la théorie éthique de Brentano un passage obligé (...) pour beaucoup de courants philosophiques importants du xxe siècle, par exemple pour la phénoménologie des valeurs et l’intuitionnisme éthique. Le but de cette étude est de rappeler les aspects les plus significatifs de la théorie éthique de Brentano et de montrer si — et si oui, en quel sens — elle peut être qualifiée de « réaliste ». (shrink)
In Unbelievable Errors, Bart Streumer argues via elimination for a global error theory, according to which all normative judgments ascribe properties that do not exist. Streumer also argues that it is not possible to believe his view, which is a claim he uses in defending his view against several objections. I argue that reductivists and nonreductivists have compelling responses to Streumer's elimination argument – responses constituting strong reason to reject Streumer’s diagnosis of any alleged incredulity about his error theory.
Many prominent ethicists, including Shelly Kagan, John Rawls, and Thomas Scanlon, accept a kind of epistemic modesty thesis concerning our capacity to carry out the project of ethical theorizing. But it is a thesis that has received surprisingly little explicit and focused attention, despite its widespread acceptance. After explaining why the thesis is true, I argue that it has several implications in metaethics, including, especially, implications that should lead us to rethink our understanding of Reductive Realism. In particular, the thesis (...) of epistemic modesty in ethics implies a kind of epistemic modesty about the metaphysical nature of ethics, if Reductive Realism about the metaphysical nature of ethics is true, and it implies that normative concepts are indispensable to practical deliberation in a way that answers an influential objection to Reductive Realism from Jonathan Dancy, David Enoch, William FitzPatrick, and Derek Parfit. (shrink)
In her Natural Goodness, Philippa Foot argues both that a distinctive grammar of goodness applies to living things generally, and that moral goodness in human beings is a special instance of natural goodness. My goal in this chapter is to provide a sympathetic interpretation of Foots’ grammar of goodness, clarifying and expanding it in a few places, and defending it against some objections. I begin by sketching Foot’s grammar. As I understand it, that grammar includes four main notions: 1) THE (...) GOOD OF, 2) GOOD AS / GOOD IN, 3) GOOD FOR, and 4) GOODS / GOOD THINGS. I then consider the relation between GOOD FOR, on the one hand, and THE GOOD OF and GOOD AS, on the other. Is it always GOOD FOR a living thing to be GOOD AS the kind of thing it is? Could something be GOOD FOR an organism without being part of THE GOOD OF that kind of thing? I argue that GOOD FOR, GOOD AS, and THE GOOD OF are inseparable: what is GOOD FOR a living thing just is that which furthers or constitutes THE GOOD OF such a creature, and THE GOOD OF any creature is the actualization of those well-formed capacities that make it GOOD AS the kind of creature that it is. In the final part of this chapter, I consider how happiness fits into Foot’s grammar of goodness as applied to human beings, paying special attention to the idea that THE GOOD OF any living thing consists in a certain form of activity. (shrink)
This paper takes up an important epistemological challenge to the naturalistic moral realist: that her metaphysical commitments are difficult to square with a plausible rationalist view about the epistemology of morality. The paper begins by clarifying and generalizing this challenge. It then illustrates how the generalized challenge can be answered by a form of naturalistic moral realism that I dub joint-carving moral realism. Both my framing of this challenge and my answer advertise the methodological significance of non-fundamental epistemological theorizing, which (...) defends and deploys epistemological claims without adverting to the most fundamental epistemological facts. (shrink)
Parfit denies that the introduction of reasons into our ontology is costly for his theory. He puts forth two positions to help establish the claim: the Plural Senses View and the Argument from Empty Ontology. I argue that, first, the Plural Senses View for ‘exists’ can be expanded to allow for senses which undermine his ontological claims; second, the Argument from Empty Ontology can be debunked by Platonists. Furthermore, it is difficult to make statements about reasons true unless these statements (...) include reference to objects in reality. These arguments show the instability of Parfit’s claimed metaethical advantages over naturalism. [Open access]. (shrink)