Abolishing Morality

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (5):499-513 (2007)

Richard Garner
Ohio State University
Moral anti-realism comes in two forms – noncognitivism and the error theory. The noncognitivist says that when we make moral judgments we aren’t even trying to state moral facts. The error theorist says that when we make moral judgments we are making statements about what is objectively good, bad, right, or wrong but, since there are no moral facts, our moral judgments are uniformly false. This development of moral anti-realism was first seriously defended by John Mackie. In this paper I explore a dispute among moral error theorists about how to deal with false moral judgments. The advice of the moral abolitionist is to stop making moral judgments, but the contrary advice of the moral fictionalist is to retain moral language and moral thinking. After clarifying the choice that arises for the moral error theorist, I argue that moral abolitionism has much to recommend it. I discuss Mackie’s defense of moral fictionalism as well as a recent version of the same position offered by Daniel Nolan, Greg Restall, and Caroline West. Then I second some remarks Ian Hinckfuss made in his defense of moral abolitionism and his criticism of “the moral society.” One of the worst things about moral fictionalism is that it undermines our epistemology by promoting a culture of deception. To deal with this problem Richard Joyce offers a “non-assertive” version of moral fictionalism as perhaps the last option for an error theorist who hopes to avoid moral abolitionism. I discuss some of the problems facing that form of moral fictionalism, offer some further reasons for adopting moral abolitionism in our personal lives, and conclude with reasons for thinking that abolishing morality may be an essential step in achieving the goals well-meaning moralists and moral fictionalists have always cherished.
Keywords Philosophy   Ontology   Political Philosophy   Ethics
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-007-9085-3
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References found in this work BETA

The Myth of Morality.Hallvard Lillehammer - 2004 - Mind 113 (452):760-763.
Essays in Quasi-Realism.Simon Blackburn - 1993 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Moral Nihilism and its Implications.Marc Krellenstein - 2017 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 38 (1):75-90.
The 'Now What' Problem for Error Theory.Matt Lutz - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 171 (2):351-371.

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