Values and Secondary Qualities

In Ted Honderich (ed.), Morality and objectivity: a tribute to J.L. Mackie. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 110-129 (1985)
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J.L. Mackie insists that ordinary evaluative thought presents itself as a matter of sensitivity to aspects of the world. And this phenomenological thesis seems correct. When one or another variety of philosophical non-cognitivism claims to capture the truth about what the experience of value is like, or (in a familiar surrogate for phenomenology) about what we mean by our evaluative language, the claim is never based on careful attention to the lived character of evaluative thought or discourse. The idea is, rather, that the very concept of the cognitive or factual rules out the possibility of an undiluted representation of how things are, enjoying, nevertheless, the internal relation to 'attitudes' or the will that would be needed to count as evaluative. On this view the phenomenology of value would involve a mere incoherence, if it were as Mackie says--a possibility that then tends (naturally enough) not to be so much as entertained. But, as Mackie sees, there is no satisfactory justification for supposing that the factual is, by definition, attitudinatively and motivationally neutral. This clears away the only obstacle to accepting his phenomenological claim; and the upshot is that non-cognitivism must offer to correct the phenomenology of value, rather than give an account of it. -/- In Machie's view the correction is called for. In this paper I want to suggest that he attributes an unmerited plausibility to this thesis, by giving a false picture of what one is committed to if one resists it.



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