Ratio 18 (1):82–92 (2005)
The nature of moral facts, and their relationship to rationality, imagination and sentiment, have been central and pressing issues in recent moral philosophy. In this paper, I discuss and criticise a meta-ethical theory put forward by Alison Denham, which views moral facts as being constituted by the responses of ideal, empathetic agents. I argue that Denham’s account is radically unstable, in that she has given us an account of the nature of such agents which is inconsistent with an independently plausible principle relating to concept acquisition. I go on to discuss one line of defence that Denham might employ, but argue that taking such a line entails abandoning what she takes to be an important advantage of her account over rival ideal-observer theories such as Michael Smith’s.
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