Stefan Fischer
Universität Konstanz
This paper takes stock of Parfit’s latest defence of his meta-ethical view, non-realist cognitivism. In the third volume of On What Matters, Parfit gives his account a new—as I am going to show: conceptual—spin. Also, quite surprisingly, he takes back much of his earlier criticism of rival theories and claims instead that he and his opponents, Allan Gibbard and Peter Railton, are climbing the same meta-ethical mountain on different sides.Mainly focusing on the new spin in Volume III, I argue for the following four claims. Firstly, non-realist cognitivism can easily be accepted by all those believing in the irreducibility of normative concepts. Secondly, Parfit succeeds in avoiding Mackie-style queerness objections. However, thirdly, once we fully grasp the conceptual rather than metaphysical core of non-realist cognitivism, it becomes clear that the view, if successful, would accomplish much less than Parfit’s talk about irreducible, non-natural normative facts may have previously suggested. Finally, I argue that the conceptual spin generates a problem regarding one of the crucial pillars of non-realist cognitivism, namely the status of normative facts as objective or mind-independent. It remains entirely unclear how the view could account for this status. All in all, non-realist cognitivism doesn’t clear up the mists covering the heights of the meta-ethical mountain. It is still a long climb to the summit, and in order to reach it, we have to answer many questions Parfit doesn’t address.
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DOI 10.1007/s42048-019-00044-5
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