One of the alleged advantages of a constructivist theory in metaethics is that the theory avoids the epistemological problems with moral realism while reaping many of realism's benefits. According to evolutionary debunking arguments, the epistemological problem with moral realism is that the evolutionary history of our moral beliefs makes it hard to see how our moral beliefs count as knowledge of moral facts, realistically construed. Certain forms of constructivism are supposed to be immune to this argument, giving the view a (...) key advantage. This paper considers the challenge that evolutionary debunking arguments pose for the possibility of moral knowledge and concludes that such arguments do not reveal any advantages for constructivism. Furthermore, once we consider how defenders of moral knowledge should best respond to this epistemological objection, constructivists may face more difficulties, not less, explaining how our moral beliefs represent moral knowledge. (shrink)
This article raises a problem for Cornell varieties of moral realism. According to Cornell moral realists, we can know about moral facts just as we do the empirical facts of the natural sciences. If this is so, it would remove any special mystery that is supposed to attach to our knowledge of objective moral facts. After clarifying the ways in which moral knowledge is to be similar to scientific knowledge, I claim that the analogy fails, but for little-noticed reasons. A (...) preliminary conclusion of the article will be that this positive comparison to scientific knowledge hurts, rather than helps, the realist position. Yet, rather than spell trouble for moral realism altogether, I suggest that the apparent failure of Cornell realist moral epistemology points to a better way forward for moral realism. (shrink)
Objective moral facts are supposed to be independent from us, but it has proven difficult to provide a clear account of this independence condition. Objective moral facts cannot be overly independent of us, as even an objective morality would depend, in important respects, on features of us. The challenge is to respect these moral mind-dependencies without inappropriately counting too many moral facts as objective. In this paper, I delineate and evaluate several different versions of the independence condition in moral objectivity. (...) I raise problems for these ways of formulating moral objectivity and then develop a better account of moral objectivity, one that avoids the pitfalls of other proposals. (shrink)
This paper develops a form of realism about aesthetics that is stronger than typical versions of aesthetic realism. As I conceive of it, aesthetic realism is the view that there are some response-independent aesthetic facts. This kind of realism is unpopular in aesthetics and is often viewed as a non-starter. Against this pessimism, I argue that the prospects for this realist approach are more favorable than commonly supposed. I offer some reasons to prefer my brand of aesthetic realism to competing (...) realist and anti-realist positions. I also defend this aesthetic realism against what I call the ‘overly objective worry’ and correct misconceptions about what realism’s commitment to response-independence involves. (shrink)
According to moral intuitionism, moral properties are objective, but our cognitions of them are not always based on premises. In this paper, I develop a novel version of moral intuitionism and argue that this new intuitionism is worthy of closer attention. The intuitionistic theory I propose, while inspired by the early twentieth-century intuitionism of W. D. Ross, avoids the alleged errors of his view. Furthermore, unlike Robert Audi's contemporary formulation of intuitionism, my theory has the resources to account for the (...) noninferential character of particular, as opposed to merely general, moral beliefs. I achieve this result by avoiding the appeal to self-evidence to explain the possibility of noninferential moral knowledge. (shrink)
In a series of recent papers, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has developed a novel argument against moral intuitionism. I suggest a defense on behalf of the intuitionist against Sinnott-Armstrong’s objections. Rather than focus on the main premises of his argument, I instead examine the way in which Sinnott-Armstrong construes the intuitionistic position. I claim that Sinnott-Armstrong’s understanding of intuitionism is mistaken. In particular, I argue that Sinnott-Armstrong mischaracterizes non-inferentiality as it figures in intuitionism. To the extent that Sinnott-Armstrong’s account of intuitionism has (...) been adopted by others uncritically, intuitionists have cause for concern. I develop an alternative, and more accurate, reading of what is non-inferential about intuitionistic moral knowledge. In light of this alternative reading, certain elements of Sinnott-Armstrong’s case against intuitionism are significantly weakened. But perhaps more importantly, this paper helps clarify what circumspect intuitionists mean when they claim that some moral knowledge is non-inferential. (shrink)
Moral intuitionism is the view that we can know or justifiably believe some moral facts directly, without inferring them from other evidence or proof. While intuitionism is frequently dismissed as implausible, the theory has received renewed interest in the literature.See Robert Audi, The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004); Jill Graper Hernandez (ed.), The New Intuitionism (London: Continuum, 2011); Michael Huemer, Ethical Intuitionism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Sabine Roeser, Moral (...) Emotions and Intuitions (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism: A Defence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003); Philip Stratton-Lake (ed.), Ethical Intuitionism: Re-evaluations (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002). Several philosophers have defended updated intuitionistic theories and argue that the theory is not as objectionable as previously alleged.Contemporary reformulations of moral intuitionism ar. (shrink)
According to Cornell moral realists, we can know about moral facts in much the same way that we do the empirical facts of the natural sciences. In “Can Cornell Moral Realism Adequately Account for Moral Knowledge?” (2012), I argue that this positive comparison to scientific knowledge hurts, rather than helps, the moral realist position. Joseph Long has recently defended Cornell moral realism against my concerns. In this article, I respond to Long's arguments and clarify important issues in the present debate.
Many commentators suppose that morality, objectively construed, must possess a minimal sort of explanatory relevance if moral realism is to be plausible. To the extent that moral realists are unable to secure explanatory relevance for moral facts, moral realism faces a problem. Call this general objection an “explanatory objection” to moral realism. Despite the prevalence of explanatory objections in the literature, the connection between morality’s explanatory powers and moral realism’s truth is not clear. This paper considers several different reasons for (...) subjecting morality to explanatory scrutiny and concludes that none of them uncover a special or compelling explanatory problem for realism. In light of these difficulties, an alternative account of the connection between moral realism and moral explanation is developed. Not only does this account make sense of explanatory objections to realism, it turns out that realists may have the resources to defend themselves against this explanatory concern, properly understood. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to defend moral intuitionism, in its new formulations, against the criticism that there is something objectionably non-natural about its conception of moral properties. The force of this complaint depends crucially on what it means to be a non-natural property. I consider a number of ways of drawing the natural/non-natural distinction and argue that, once the notion of 'non-natural property' is sufficiently clarified, it fails to figure in a compelling argument against moral intuitionism.
Attributions of moral knowledge are common in everyday life. We say that we know that some actions are morally right or wrong, permitted or required. Yet, how do we know such moral claims? Moral intuitionism is a family of theories in moral epistemology that tries to answer this question. Intuitionists are not skeptics about moral knowledge. They think that there are moral truths for us to know, and further, that knowledge of these truths is possible. What distinguishes intuitionism from other (...) anti-skeptical moral epistemologies is the idea that we can know some moral truths directly, without inferring them from premises. According to many intuitionists, it is possible for us to know that keeping promises is morally right even if we do not hold this belief on the basis of further evidence or proof. While intuitionism was popular in the early twentieth century, it was since dismissed as implausible. Recently, there has been renewed interest in intuitionism. Philosophers have defended updated versions of the theory and argue that the view has been misunderstood. This chapter considers the merits of intuitionism in moral epistemology. In what follows, I examine different ways of being an intuitionist and indicate the relative strengths and weaknesses of various approaches within intuitionism. (shrink)
Sensibility theorists such as John McDowell have argued that once we appreciate certain similarities between moral values and secondary qualities, a new meta-ethical position might emerge, one that avoids the alleged difficulties with moral intuitionism and non-cognitivism. The aim of this paper is to examine the meta-ethical prospects of this secondary-quality analogy. Of particular concern will be the extent to which McDowell’s comparison of values to secondary qualities supports a viewpoint unique from that of the moral intuitionist. Once we disentangle (...) the various metaphysical and epistemological strands of McDowell’s analogy, McDowell’s position might appear closer to moral intuitionism than initially supposed. This discussion will also help clarify the intended meaning of the secondary-quality analogy, as well as its significance for ethics more generally. (shrink)
According to rationalists about moral knowledge, some moral truths are knowable a priori. Rationalists often defend their position by claiming that some moral propositions are self-evidently true. Copp 2007 has recently challenged this rationalist strategy. Copp argues that even if some moral propositions are self-evident, this is not enough to secure rationalism about moral knowledge, since it turns out that such self-evident propositions are only knowable a posteriori. This paper considers the merits of Copp’s challenge. After clarifying the rationalists’ appeal (...) to self-evidence, I show why this rationalist strategy survives Copp’s challenges to it. (shrink)
There are calls to expand the schema “ S knows that p ” to accommodate ways of knowing that are socially important but neglected in recent epistemology. A wider, more adequate conception of human knowing is needed that will include interested or motivated inquirers as “S,” and personal traits of persons as “ p .” Historically important treatments of knowing that accommodate these features deserve examination as part of the effort to create a broader epistemology. We find such a treatment (...) of knowing in Plato's Apology , 20 d-24 b, in which Socrates claims a bit of wisdom. We attend more carefully than others have to the concrete aspects of Socrates' encounters with interlocutors. (shrink)
This chapter considers a range of views in meta‐ethics and assesses their implications for atheism. Meta‐ethical theories such as moral realism, non‐cognitivism, subjectivism, error theory, moral rationalism, and moral intuitionism will be discussed and their compatibility with atheism considered. The main conclusion of this chapter is that meta‐ethical considerations do not pose any special or insurmountable challenges to being an atheist. Atheism supports most meta‐ethical perspectives, and in some cases, offers important meta‐ethical advantages over theism.