Bad News for Moral Error Theorists: There Is No Master Argument Against Companions in Guilt Strategies

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (1):58-69 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX


A ‘companions in guilt’ strategy against moral error theory aims to show that the latter proves too much: if sound, it supports an implausible error-theoretic conclusion in other areas such as epistemic or practical reasoning. Christopher Cowie [2016 Cowie, C. 2016. Good News for Moral Error Theorists: A Master Argument Against Companions in Guilt Strategies, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94/1: 115–30.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]] has recently produced what he claims is a ‘master argument’ against all such strategies. The essence of his argument is that CG arguments cannot work because they are afflicted by internal incoherence or inconsistency. I argue, first, that Cowie's master argument does not succeed. Beyond this, I argue that there is no good reason to think that any such argument—one that purports to identify an internal incoherence in CG arguments—can succeed. Second, I argue that the main substantive area of disagreement between error theorists and CG theorists essentially concerns the conceptual profile of epistemic reasons—specifically, whether they are strongly categorical—not the ontological question of whether such reasons exist. I then develop an argument in favour of the CG theorist's position by considering the moral error theorist's arguments in support of the conceptual claim that moral reasons are strongly categorical. These include, notably, criticisms made by Joyce [2011] and Olson [2014] of Finlay's [2008] ‘end relational’ view of morality, according to which moral reasons are relative to some end or standard, hence not strongly categorical. Examining these criticisms, I argue that, based on what moral error theorists have said regarding the conceptual profile of moral reasons, there is a strong case to be made that moral reasons are strongly categorical if and only if epistemic reasons are.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,038

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Why Companions in Guilt Arguments Won't Work.C. Cowie - 2014 - Philosophical Quarterly 64 (256):407-422.
Rescuing Companions in Guilt Arguments.Richard Rowland - 2016 - Philosophical Quarterly 66 (262):161–171.
Moral Error Theory and the Argument from Epistemic Reasons.Richard Rowland - 2012 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 7 (1):1-24.
Mackie's Error Theory and Reasons.Douglas Farland - 2005 - South African Journal of Philosophy 24 (1):1-13.
On Believing the Error Theory.Alexander Hyun & Eric Sampson - 2014 - Journal of Philosophy 111 (11):631-640.
The possibility of morality.Phil Brown - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 163 (3):627-636.
After Moral Error Theory, After Moral Realism.Stephen Ingram - 2015 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 53 (2):227-248.
Parsimony and the Argument from Queerness.Justin Morton & Eric Sampson - 2014 - Res Philosophica 91 (4):609-627.
Moral Error Theory, Entailment and Presupposition.Wouter Floris Kalf - 2013 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (5):923-937.
Are moral properties impossible?Wouter F. Kalf - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (7):1869-1887.
Shame, Guilt and Morality.Fabrice Teroni & Otto Bruun - 2011 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 8 (2):223-245.


Added to PP

143 (#130,782)

6 months
17 (#148,503)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Ramon Das
Victoria University of Wellington

Citations of this work

Conceptions of Epistemic Value.Timothy Perrine - 2023 - Episteme 20 (2):213-231.
Pain for the Moral Error Theory? A New Companions-in-Guilt Argument.Guy Fletcher - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (3):474-482.
On Some Arguments for Epistemic Value Pluralism.Timothy Perrine - 2020 - Logos and Episteme 11 (1):77-96.
Companions in guilt arguments.Christopher Cowie - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (11):e12528.

View all 14 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Moral Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence.Jonas Olson - 2014 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The theory of epistemic rationality.Richard Foley - 1987 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
The normative web: an argument for moral realism.Terence Cuneo - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.

View all 21 references / Add more references