Metaethical realists disagree about the nature of normative properties. Naturalists think that they are ordinary natural properties: causally efficacious, a posteriori knowable, and usable in the best explanations of natural and social sciences. Non-naturalist realists, in contrast, argue that they are sui generis: causally inert, a priori knowable and not a part of the subject matter of sciences. It has been assumed so far that naturalists can explain causally how the normative predicates manage to refer to normative properties, whereas non-naturalists (...) are unable to provide equally satisfactory metasemantic explanations. This article first describes how the previous non-naturalist accounts of reference fail to tell us how the normative predicates could have come to refer to the non-natural properties rather than to the natural ones. I will then use the so-called qua-problem to show how the causal theories of reference of naturalists also fail to fix the reference of normative predicates to unique natural properties. Finally, I will suggest that, just as naturalists need to rely on the non-causal mechanism of reference magnetism to solve the previous problem, non-naturalists, too, can rely on the very same idea to respond to the pressing metasemantic challenges that they face concerning reference. (shrink)
Jackson and Pettit argue that expressivism in metaethics collapses into subjectivism. A sincere utterer of a moral claim must believe that she has certain attitudes to be expressed. The truth-conditions of that belief then allegedly provide truth-conditions also for the moral utterance. Thus, the expressivist cannot deny that moral claims have subjectivist truth-conditions. Critics have argued that this argument fails as stated. I try to show that expressivism does have subjectivist repercussions in a way that avoids the problems of the (...) Jackson-Pettit argument. My argument, based on the norms for asserting moral sentences, attempts to tie expressivists to a more modest form of subjectivism than the previous arguments. (shrink)
Metaethics is often dominated by both realist views according to which moral claims are made true by either non-natural or natural properties and by non-cognitivist views according to which these claims express desire-like attitudes. It is sometimes suggested that constructivism is a fourth alternative, but it has remained opaque just how it differs from the other views. To solve this problem, this article first describes a clear constructivist theory based on Crispin Wright’s anti-realism. It then outlines an argumentative strategy that (...) can be used to argue against constructivist views about practical reasons. The rest of the article explains how the outlined constructivist metaethical framework, reasons, and contractualism in normative ethics can still be used to create a new viable metaethical constructivist position about right and wrong. (shrink)
This paper explores the so-called buck-passing accounts of value. These views attempt to use normative notions, such as reasons and ought to explain evaluative notions, such as goodness and value . Thus, according to Scanlon's well-known view, the property of being good is the formal, higher-order property of having some more basic properties that provide reasons to have certain kind of valuing attitudes towards the objects. I begin by tracing some of the long history of such accounts. I then describe (...) the arguments which are typically used to motivate these views. The rest of this article investigates how some of the central details of the buck-passing accounts should be specified, and what kind of problems these views face. (shrink)
In On What Matters, Derek Parfit defends a new metaethical theory, which he calls non-realist cognitivism. It claims that normative judgments are beliefs; that some normative beliefs are true; that the normative concepts that are a part of the propositions that are the contents of normative beliefs are irreducible, unanalysable and of their own unique kind; and that neither the natural features of the reality nor any additional normative features of the reality make the relevant normative beliefs true. The aim (...) of this article is to argue that Parfit’s theory is problematic because its defenders have no resources to make sense of the nature of normative truth, which is an essential element of their view. I do this by showing how the traditional theories of truth are not available for the non-realist cognitivists. (shrink)
Recently, it has been a part of the so-called consequentializing project to attempt to construct versions of consequentialism that can support agent-relative moral constraints. Mark Schroeder has argued that such views are bound to fail because they cannot make sense of the agent relative value on which they need to rely. In this paper, I provide a fitting-attitude account of both agent-relative and agent-neutral values that can together be used to consequentialize agent-relative constraints.
Many believe that, if true, reason-statements of the form ‘that X is F is a reason to φ’ describe a ‘favouring-relation’ between the fact that X is F and the act of φing. This favouring-relation has been assumed to share many features of other, more concrete relations. This combination of views leads to immediate problems. Firstly, unlike statements about many other relations, reason-statements can be true even when the relata do not exist, i.e., when the relevant facts do not obtain (...) and the relevant acts are not done. Secondly, the previous combination of views also makes it very difficult to draw the distinction between agent-relative and agent-neutral reasons. I argue that we should think that the predicate ‘is a reason to’ creates non-extensional contexts in the statements in which it is used. This would both solve the previous problems and avoid the awkward consequences of the so-called slingshot argument. (shrink)
In this article, I will defend the so-called buck-passing theory of value. According to this theory, claims about the value of an object refer to the reason-providing properties of the object. The concept of value can thus be analyzed in terms of reasons and the properties of objects that provide them for us. Reasons in this context are considerations that count in favour of certain attitudes. There are four other possibilities of how the connection between reasons and value might be (...) formulated. For example, we can claim that value is a property that provides us with reasons to choose an option that has this property. I argue that none of these four other options can ultimately be defended, and therefore the buck-passing account is the one we ought to accept as the correct one. The case for the buck-passing account becomes even stronger, when we examine the weak points of the most pressing criticism against this account thus far. (shrink)
This is a longer critical notice of T.M. Scanlon's book Moral Dimensions. The main crux of the article is to investigate how Scanlon's claims about the moral significance of intentions and reactive attitudes in this book fit with the earlier contractualist ethical theory which he presented in What We Owe to Each Other.
Judgment internalism about evaluative judgments is the view that there is a necessary internal connection between evaluative judgments and motivation understood as desires. The debate about judgment internalism has reached a standoff some time ago. In this paper, I outline a new argument for judgment internalism. This argument does not rely on intuitions about cases, but rather it has the form of an inference to the best explanation. I argue that the best philosophical explanations of how we know what we (...) desire require that judgment internalism is true, which gives us a good reason to believe that judgment internalism is true. (shrink)
This chapter offers an introduction to naturalist views in contemporary metaethics. Such views attempt to find a place for normative properties (such as goodness and rightness) in the concrete physical world as it is understood by both science and common sense. The chapter begins by introducing simple naturalist conceptual analyses of normative terms. It then explains how these analyses were rejected in the beginning of the 20th Century due to G.E. Moore’s influential Open Question Argument. After this, the chapter considers (...) what good general reasons there are for defending naturalism in metaethics. The bulk of the chapter will then survey new semantic and metaphysical forms of naturalism which in different ways attempt to address Moore’s objection to naturalism. These more recent versions of naturalism—using new resources from philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, philosophy of science and epistemology—attempt to explain why the Open Question Argument fails. (shrink)
This is a review of Michael Devitt's collection of previously published articles entitled Putting Metaphysics First: Essays on Metaphysics and Epistemology. The review also suggests a new way of formulation the realism/anti-realism contrast on the basis of Devitt's work. This contrast is understood in terms explanatory priority: should we in a given domain begin our theorizing from metaphysics (realism) or semantics (anti-realism)?
According to traditional forms of act-consequentialism, an action is right if and only if no other action in the given circumstances would have better consequences. It has been argued that this view does not leave us enough freedom to choose between actions which we intuitively think are morally permissible but not required options. In the first half of this article, I will explain why the previous consequentialist responses to this objection are less than satisfactory. I will then attempt to show (...) that agents have more options on consequentialist grounds than the traditional forms of act-consequentialism acknowledged. This is because having a choice between many permissible options can itself have value. (shrink)
Moral error theories claim that (i) moral utterances express moral beliefs, that (ii) moral beliefs ascribe moral properties, and that (iii) moral properties are not instantiated. Thus, according to these views, there seems to be conclusive evidence against the truth of our ordinary moral beliefs. Furthermore, many error theorists claim that, even if we accepted moral error theory, we could still in principle keep our first-order moral beliefs. This chapter argues that this last claim makes many popular versions of the (...) moral error theory incompatible with the standard philosophical accounts of beliefs. Functionalism, normative theories of beliefs, representationalism, and interpretationalism all entail that being sensitive to thoughts about evidence is a constitutive feature of beliefs. Given that many moral error theorists deny that moral beliefs have this quality, their views are in a direct conflict with the most popular views about the nature of beliefs. (shrink)
This is a review of three books by Thomas Hurka. The first one, Drawing Morals - Essays in Ethical Theory, is a collection of Hurka's previously published articles. The second one, The Best Things in Life, is a short book on happiness, pleasure and love intended for the general audience. Finally, the third book, Underivative Duty is a collection of articles edited by Hurka on British Moral Philosophers from Sidgwick to Ewing.
This article is an attempt to defend Scanlon's contractualism against the so-called aggregation problems. Scanlon's contractualism attempts to make sense of right and wrong in terms of principles which no one could reasonably reject. These principles are a function of what kind personal objections persons can make to alternative sets of moral principles. Because of this, it has been argued that contractualism is unable to account for how groups of different sizes are to be treated. In this article, I argue (...) that contactualism, even if with its focus on personal burdens, can come to plausible conclusions in the group cases. (shrink)
According to the popular Whole Life Satisfaction theories of happiness, an agent is happy when she judges that her life fulfils her ideal life-plan. Fred Feldman has recently argued that such views cannot accommodate the happiness of spontaneous or pre-occupied agents who do not consider how well their lives are going. In this paper, I formulate a new Whole Life Satisfaction theory which can deal with this problem. My proposal is inspired by Michael Smith’s advice-model of desirability. According to it, (...) an agent is happy when a more informed and rational hypothetical version of her would judge that the agent’s actual life matches the best life-plan for her. This view turns out to be a flexible model which can avoid many problems of the previous theories of happiness. (shrink)
I will begin this paper by identifying the problem within the theory of ethics, which contractualism as a moral theory is attempting to address. It is not that of solving the problem of moral motivation like the ‘arch-contractualist’, Thomas Scanlon, often claims, but rather that of describing a class of fundamental moral reasons – contractualist reasons for short. In the second section, I will defend the contractualist idea of how the nature of these moral reasons provides us with sufficient, independent (...) tools to construct the content of public moral principles. The rest of my paper is defensive. It addresses the main challenges set to the contractualist account of moral reasons. In the third section, I will discuss a frequent objection according to which the contractualist reasons are a redundant addition to the space of moral reasons. In the fourth section, I will examine the worry that acting from these reasons would not lead to morally admirable action but rather to vice. In the last section, I will investigate the criticism according to which the normative force of the contractualist reasons is insufficient for rationalising our moral actions in certain difficult circumstances. In this section, we get to the heart of the matter – what the reasons contractualism describes truly are, and how they can explain the generally overriding strength of our moral requirements. I hope to conclude that even after these serious challenges contractualism remains a philosophically viable account of morality's rationalistic appeal. (shrink)
This article is a critical examination of Harry Frankfurt's view of reasons. Frankfurt has argued in a number of recent books for the view which holds that all practical reasons are a function of what we love. This article examines Frankfurt's key argument for this claim. It uses the analogy of a similar argument in the domain of epistemic reasons to show where Frankfurt's argument fails. It also argues that there are a number of plausible views about practical reasons that (...) are available for us as a result. (shrink)
Most contractualist ethical theories have a subjunctivist structure. This means that they attempt to make sense of right and wrong in terms of a set of principles which would be accepted in some idealized, non-actual circumstances. This makes these views vulnerable to the so-called conditional fallacy objection. The moral principles that are appropriate for the idealized circumstances fail to give a correct account of what is right and wrong in the ordinary situations. This chapter uses two versions of contractualism to (...) illustrate this problem: Nicholas Southwood’s and a standard contractualist theory inspired by T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism. It then develops a version of Scanlon’s view that can avoid the problem. This solution is based on the idea that we also need to compare different inculcation elements of moral codes in the contractualist framework. This idea also provides a new solution to the problem of at what level of social acceptance should principles be compared. (shrink)
This paper is a short review of T.M. Scanlon's book What We Owe to Each Other. The book itself is already a philosophical classic. It defends a contractualist ethical theory but also has many interesting things to say about reasons, value, well-being, promises, relativism, and so on.
This paper is a defence of T.M. Scanlon's contractualism - the view that an action is wrong if it is forbidden by the principles which no one could reasonably reject. Such theories have been argued to be redundant in two ways. They are claimed to assume antecedent moral facts to explain which principles could not be reasonably rejected, and the reasons they provide to follow the non-rejectable principles are said to be unnecessary given that we already have sufficient reasons not (...) to do the acts that are forbidden by those principles. In this paper, I try to argue that neither one of these claims is true. (shrink)
Climate change is ‘a complex problem raising issues across and between a large number of disciplines, including physical and life sciences, political science, economics, and psychology, to name just a few’ (Gardiner 2006: 397). It is also a moral problem. Therefore, in this chapter, I will consider what kind of a contribution an ethical theory called ‘contractualism’ can make to the climate change debates. This chapter first introduces contractualism. It then describes a simple climate change scenario. The third section explains (...) what kind of moral obligations we would have in that situation according to contractualism. Finally, the last section discusses some of the advantages and problems of the sketched view. These discussions should help us to better understand contractualism and illustrate how contractualism could perhaps enable us to come to grips with some of the more difficult moral aspects of climate change. (shrink)
Frank Jackson has famously argued that there is no logical space for the view which understands moral properties as non-natural properties of their own unique kind. His argument is based on two steps: firstly, given supervenience and truth-aptness of moral claims, it is always possible to find a natural property which is necessarily co-instantiated with a given moral property, and secondly that there are no distinct necessarily co-instantiated properties. I argue that this second step of the argument must rely on (...) a controversial nominalist view of properties. In contrast, if we accept universals or tropes, there is logical space also for non-natural moral properties even if they are necessarily co-instantiated with natural properties. (shrink)
There is a classic disagreement in moral psychology about the mental states that constitute the sincere acceptance of moral claims. Cognitivists hold that these states are beliefs aiming at a correct description of the world; whereas non-cognitivists argue that they must be some other kind of attitude. Mark Eli Kalderon has recently presented a new argument for non-cognitivism. He argues that all cognitivist inquiries include certain epistemic obligations for the participants in cases of disagreement in the inquiry. I will provide (...) additional support for this claim. Kalderon then claims that our moral inquiry lacks the required epistemic obligation and that therefore it must be non-cognitive. I will show that Kalderon’s case against the required obligation fails and furthermore provide some evidence for the existence of this obligation. Therefore, his argument for non-cognitivism is not sound and provides no pressure against cognitivism. (shrink)
What makes you happy? Should you always do what is best for you, or what is best for everyone? What is the meaning of life – and how are we supposed to think about it? Should sacrifices be made to help future generations? This Is Ethics presents an accessible and engaging introduction to a variety of issues relating to contemporary moral philosophy. It reveals the intimate connection between timeless philosophical problems about right and wrong and offers timely and thought-provoking insights (...) on everyday practical concerns. Initial chapters focus on how philosophy can help us to think more clearly about how we can live happy and meaningful lives. Subsequent chapters address general ethical theories about what is right and wrong, followed by metaethical questions such as whether morality is relative and how we are motivated to do the right thing. A final series of chapters discuss moral responsibility, population growth, and climate change. Lively and engaging, This Is Ethics provides a solid foundation for making informed ethical decisions in today’s increasingly complex world. (shrink)