On the Possibility of Wholesale Moral Error

Ratio 34 (3):236-247 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


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.

Similar books and articles

Moral Error Theory and the Argument from Epistemic Reasons.Richard Rowland - 2012 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 7 (1):1-24.
Epistemology shmepistemology: moral error theory and epistemic expressivism.Stephen Ingram - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (7):649-669.
The belief problem for moral error theory.Wouter Floris Kalf - 2023 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 66 (4):492-513.
Naturalism and the Error Theory.Frank Jackson - forthcoming - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism.
The possibility of morality.Phil Brown - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 163 (3):627-636.
Moral Error Theory and the Belief Problem.Jussi Suikkanen - 2013 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics: Volume 8. Oxford University Press. pp. 168-194.
On The Validity of a Simple Argument for Moral Error Theory.Kasper Højbjerg Christensen - 2016 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24 (4):508-517.
Pain for the Moral Error Theory? A New Companions-in-Guilt Argument.Guy Fletcher - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (3):474-482.
Hybridizing Moral Expressivism and Moral Error Theory.Toby Svoboda - 2011 - Journal of Value Inquiry 45 (1):37-48.
Parsimony and the Argument from Queerness.Justin Morton & Eric Sampson - 2014 - Res Philosophica 91 (4):609-627.
Moral Cognitivism vs. Non-Cognitivism.Mark van Roojen - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2013 (1):1-88.


Added to PP

407 (#34,213)

6 months
59 (#32,641)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Farbod Akhlaghi
Cambridge University

References found in this work

On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Being Realistic About Reasons.Thomas Scanlon - 2014 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Taking Morality Seriously: A Defense of Robust Realism.David Enoch - 2011 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.

View all 39 references / Add more references