Can normative words like "good," "ought," and "reason" be defined in non-normative terms? StephenFinlay argues that they can, advancing a new theory of the meaning of this language and providing pragmatic explanations of the specially problematic features of its moral and deliberative uses which comprise the puzzles of metaethics.
Central to the lives of the religiously committed are not simply religious convictions but also religious practices. The religiously committed, for example, regularly assemble to engage in religious rites, including corporate liturgical worship. Although the participation in liturgy is central to the religious lives of many, few philosophers have given it attention. In this collection of essays, TerenceCuneo turns his attention to liturgy, contending that the topic proves itself to be philosophically rich and rewarding. Taking the liturgical (...) practices of Eastern Christianity as its focal point, Ritualized Faith examines issues such as what the ethical importance of ritualized religious activities might be, what it is to immerse oneself in such activities, and what the significance of liturgical singing and iconography are. In doing so, Cuneo makes sense of these liturgical practices and indicates why they deserve a place in the religiously committed life. (shrink)
TerenceCuneo presents a new argument for moral realism. According to the normative theory of speech, speech acts are generated by an agent's altering her normative position with regard to her audience. In doing so she takes on rights and responsibilities, some of which are moral and objective: these are a necessary condition of speech.
G.E. Moore's philosophical legacy is ambiguous. On the one hand, Moore has a special place in the hearts of many contemporary analytic philosophers. He is, after all, one of the fathers of the movement, his broadly commonsensical methodology informing how many contemporary analytic philosophers practise their craft. On the other hand, many contemporary philosophers keep Moore's own substantive positions at arm's distance. According to many epistemologists, one can find no finer example of how to beg the question than Moore's case (...) against the sceptic. And, according to many moral philosophers, one can find no more vivid case of philosophical extravagance than Moore's non-naturalism. Given this ambiguity, one wonders: How should we assess Moore's legacy in epistemology and ethics – the two areas of philosophy in which Moore did most of his work?That is the task of this welcome collection of 16 essays. The list of contributors to the book is impressive: Crispin Wright, Ernest Sosa, Ram Neta, William Lycan, C.A.J. Cody, Paul Snowdon, Michael Huemer and Roy Sorenson consider Moore's work in epistemology. Stephen Darwall, Terry Horgan, Mark Timmons, Richard Fumerton, Charles Pigden, Robert Shaver, Joshua Gert, Jonathan Dancy and the editors of the book explore Moore's views in ethics. As one might expect, given this list of contributors, the quality of the essays is very high. Moreover, there is a decidedly constructive tone to many of them. While not willing to overlook Moore's mistakes, many of the essays endeavour to explore what is valuable in Moore's thought, critically engaging with positions that, not too long …. (shrink)
I believe that normative force depends on desire. This view faces serious difficulties, however, and has yet to be vindicated. This paper sketches an Argument from Voluntary Response, attempting to establish this dependence of normativity on desire by appeal to the autonomous character of our experience of normative authority, and the voluntary character of our responses to it. I first offer an account of desiring as mentally aiming intrinsically at some end. I then argue that behaviour is only voluntary if (...) it results from such aiming; hence all voluntary behaviour is produced by desire. Full-blooded responses to normativity, I then argue, are voluntary actions: motivation to act arises voluntarily from perception of reasons to act. This fits the desire-based model of normativity but not its rivals. However this argument concludes merely that our responses to normativity are desire-based. I end with some observations about how I think we can bridge the gap from the nature of response to normativity to the nature of normativity itself. (shrink)
Moral assertions express attitudes, but it is unclear how. This paper examines proposals by David Copp, Stephen Barker, and myself that moral attitudes are expressed as implicature (Grice), and Copp's and Barker's claim that this supports expressivism about moral speech acts. I reject this claim on the ground that implicatures of attitude are more plausibly conversational than conventional. I argue that Copp's and my own relational theory of moral assertions is superior to the indexical theory offered by Barker and (...) Jamie Dreier, and that since the relational theory supports conversational implicatures of attitude, expressive conventions would be redundant. Furthermore, moral expressions of attitude behave like conversational and not conventional implicatures, and there are reasons for doubting that conventions of the suggested kind could exist. (shrink)
Speech and thought about what the law is commonly function in practical ways, to guide or assess behavior. These functions have often been seen as problematic for legal positivism in the tradition of H.L.A. Hart. One recent response is to advance an expressivist analysis of legal statements (Toh), which faces its own, familiar problems. This paper advances a rival, positivist-friendly account of legal statements which we call “quasi-expressivist”, explicitly modeled after Finlay’s metaethical theory of moral statements. This consists in (...) a descriptivist, “rule-relational” semantics combined with a pragmatic account of the expressive and practical functions of legal discourse. We argue that this approach is at least as well-equipped as expressivism to explain the motivational and prescriptive features of “internal” legal statements, as well as a fundamental kind of legal disagreement, while being better positioned to account for various “external” uses of the same language. We develop this theory in a Hartian framework, and in the final part of the paper argue (particularly against Toh’s expressivist interpretation) that Hart’s own views in The Concept of Law are best reconstructed along such quasi-expressivist lines. (shrink)
Our project in this essay is to showcase nonnaturalistic moral realism’s resources for responding to metaphysical and epistemological objections by taking the view in some new directions. The central thesis we will argue for is that there is a battery of substantive moral propositions that are also nonnaturalistic conceptual truths. We call these propositions the moral fixed points. We will argue that they must find a place in any system of moral norms that applies to beings like us, in worlds (...) similar to our own. By committing themselves to true propositions of these sorts, nonnaturalists can fashion a view that is highly attractive in its own right, and resistant to the most prominent objections that have been pressed against it. (shrink)
Moral realism of a paradigmatic sort -- Defending the parallel -- The parity premise -- Epistemic nihilism -- Epistemic expressivism : traditional views -- Epistemic expressivism : nontraditional views -- Epistemic reductionism -- Three objections to the core argument.
Bernard Williams's motivational reasons-internalism fails to capture our first-order reasons judgements, while Derek Parfit's nonnaturalistic reasons-externalism cannot explain the nature or normative authority of reasons. This paper offers an intermediary view, reformulating scepticism about external reasons as the claim not that they don't exist but rather that they don't matter. The end-relational theory of normative reasons is proposed, according to which a reason for an action is a fact that explains why the action would be good relative to some end, (...) where the relevant end for any ascription of reasons is determined by the speaker's conversational context. Because these ends need not be the agent's ends, Williams is wrong to reject the existence of external reasons. But contra Parfit, a reason for action is only important for an agent if it is motivationally internal to that agent. (shrink)
This paper advances a reductive semantics for ‘ought’ and a naturalistic theory of normativity. It gives a unified analysis of predictive, instrumental, and categorical uses of ‘ought’: the predictive ‘ought’ is basic, and is interpreted in terms of probability. Instrumental ‘oughts’ are analyzed as predictive ‘oughts’ occurring under an ‘in order that’ modifer (the end-relational theory). The theory is then extended to categorical uses of ‘ought’: it is argued that they are special rhetorical uses of the instrumental ‘ought’. Plausible conversational (...) principles explain how this end-relational ‘ought’ can perform the expressive functions of the moral ‘ought’. The notion of an ‘ought-simpliciter’ is also discussed. (shrink)
Moral error theory of the kind defended by J. L. Mackie and Richard Joyce is premised on two claims: (1) that moral judgements essentially presuppose that moral value has absolute authority, and (2) that this presupposition is false, because nothing has absolute authority. This paper accepts (2) but rejects (1). It is argued first that (1) is not the best explanation of the evidence from moral practice, and second that even if it were, the error theory would still be mistaken, (...) because the assumption does not contaminate the meaning or truth-conditions of moral claims. These are determined by the essential application conditions for moral concepts, which are relational rather than absolute. An analogy is drawn between moral judgements and motion judgements. (shrink)
This essay explains for a general philosophical audience the central issues and strategies in the contemporary moral realism debate. It critically surveys the contribution of some recent scholarship, representing expressivist and pragmatist nondescriptivism, subjectivist and nonsubjectivist naturalism, nonnaturalism and error theory. Four different faces of ‘ moral realism ’ are distinguished: semantic, ontological, metaphysical, and normative. The debate is presented as taking shape under dialectical pressure from the demands of capturing the moral appearances and reconciling morality with our understanding of (...) the mind and world. (shrink)
We defend a contextualist account of deontic judgments as relativized both to (i) information and to (ii) standards or ends, against recent objections that turn on practices of moral disagreement. Kolodny & MacFarlane argue that information-relative contextualism cannot accommodate the connection between deliberation and advice; we suggest in response that they misidentify the basic concerns of deliberating agents. For pragmatic reasons, semantic assessments of normative claims sometimes are evaluations of propositions other than those asserted. Weatherson, Schroeder and others have raised (...) parallel objections to standard-relative contextualism; we argue for a parallel solution. (shrink)
Some intuitive normative principles raise vexing 'detaching problems' by their failure to license modus ponens. I examine three such principles (a self-reliance principle and two different instrumental principles) and recent stategies employed to resolve their detaching problems. I show that solving these problems necessitates postulating an indefinitely large number of senses for 'ought'. The semantics for 'ought' that is standard in linguistics offers a unifying strategy for solving these problems, but I argue that an alternative approach combining an end-relational theory (...) of normativity with a comparative probabilistic semantics for 'ought' provides a more satisfactory solution. (shrink)
Analyses of moral value judgements must meet a practicality requirement: moral speech acts characteristically express pro- or con-attitudes, indicate that speakers are motivated in certain ways, and exert influence on others' motivations. Nondescriptivists including Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard claim that no descriptivist analysis can satisfy this requirement. I argue first that while the practicality requirement is defeasible, it indeed demands a connection between value judgement and motivation that resembles a semantic or conceptual rather than merely contingent psychological link. I (...) then show how a form of descriptivism, the interest-relational theory, satisfies the requirement as a pragmatic and conversational feature of value judgement – thereby also accommodating its defeasibility. The word ``good'' is always indexed to some set of motivations: when this index is unarticulated in many contexts the speaker conversationally implicates possession of those motivations. (shrink)
This paper investigates whether different philosophers’ claims about “normativity” are about the same subject or (as recently argued by Derek Parfit) theorists who appear to disagree are really using the term with different meanings, in order to cast disambiguating light on the debates over at least the nature, existence, extension, and analyzability of normativity. While I suggest the term may be multiply ambiguous, I also find reasons for optimism about a common subject-matter for metanormative theory. This is supported partly by (...) sketching a special kind of hybrid view of normative judgment, perspectivism, that occupies a position between cognitivism and noncognitivism, naturalism and nonnaturalism, objectivism and subjectivism, making it more plausible that radically different metanormative theories could be about the same thing. I explore three main fissures: between (i) the “normativity” of language/thought versus that of facts and properties, (ii) abstract versus substantive senses, and (iii) formal versus robust senses. (shrink)
A critical survey of various positions on the nature, use, possession, and analysis of normative concepts. We frame our treatment around G.E. Moore’s Open Question Argument, and the ways metaethicists have responded by departing from a Classical Theory of concepts. In addition to the Classical Theory, we discuss synthetic naturalism, noncognitivism (expressivist and inferentialist), prototype theory, network theory, and empirical linguistic approaches. Although written for a general philosophical audience, we attempt to provide a new perspective and highlight some underappreciated problems (...) about normative concepts. (shrink)
In his response to my paper ?The Error in the Error Theory? criticizing his and J. L. Mackie's moral error theory, Richard Joyce finds my treatment of his position inaccurate and my interpretation of morality implausible. In this reply I clarify my objection, showing that it retains its force against their error theory, and I clarify my interpretation of morality, showing that Joyce's objections miss their mark.
This paper addresses the nature and relationship of morality and self-interest, arguing that what we morally ought to do almost always conflicts with what we self-interestedly ought to do. The concept of morality is analyzed as being essentially and radically other-regarding, and the category of the supererogatory is explained as consisting in what we morally ought to do but are not socially expected to do. I express skepticism about whether there is a coherent question, ‘Which ought I all things considered (...) to obey?’ and suggest that the best substitute is a question about which is more important for me. Importance for a person, in turn, is explained as dependent upon what a person is disposed to care about. I suggest that morality and self-interest are both relatively unimportant for us when compared with our other ends. (shrink)
Some philosophers hold that „ought‟ is ambiguous between a sense expressing a propositional operator and a sense expressing a relation between an agent and an action. We defend the opposing view that „ought‟ always expresses a propositional operator against Mark Schroeder‟s recent objections that it cannot adequately accommodate an ambiguity in „ought‟ sentences between evaluative and deliberative readings, predicting readings of sentences that are not actually available. We show how adopting an independently well-motivated contrastivist semantics for „ought‟, according to which (...) „ought‟ is always relativized to a contrast set of relevant alternatives, enables us to explain the evaluative-deliberative ambiguity and why the availability of these readings depends on sentential grammar. (shrink)
In his fine book The Wisdom to Doubt, J. L. Schellenberg builds a case for religious scepticism by advancing a version of the Hiddenness Argument. This argument rests on the claim that God could not love, in an admirable way, those who seek God while also remaining hidden from them. In this article, I distinguish two arguments for this claim. Neither argument succeeds, I contend, as each rests on an unsatisfactory understanding of the nature of admirable love, whether human or (...) divine. (shrink)
Since its publication in 1979, Bernard Williams' "Internal and External Reasons" has been one of the most influential and widely discussed papers in ethics. I suggest here that the paper's argument has nevertheless been universally misunderstood. On the standard interpretation, his argument—which he subsequently elaborated and defended in further discussions—is perplexingly weak. In the first section I sketch this Standard (or, more provocatively, "Supposed") argument, and detail just how terrible it is. The badness of the argument itself may not be (...) a conclusive reason not to ascribe it even to a great philosopher—perhaps every philosopher is guilty of having offered some terrible arguments—but Williams himself seems to point out blithely the very flaws that make it so terrible, making the standard reading difficult to justify. The second section proposes an interpretation on which he offers an Alternative (or, more provocatively, the "Actual") argument, one which is immune to the objections that seem fatal to the Standard argument. On this interpretation, better supported by the textual evidence and the principle of charity, Williams' conclusion seems to follow validly from defensible premises, including a substantive and interesting analysis of the concept of a normative reason. (shrink)
Some of the opponents of desire-based views of normativity seek to undermine them by arguing that even the existence of instrumental normativity (reasons to pursue the means to your ends) entails the existence of a desire-independent rational norm, the instrumental norm. Once we grant the existence of one such norm, there seems to be no principled reason for not allowing others. I clarify this alleged norm, identifying two criteria that any satisfactory candidate must meet: reasonable expectation and possible violation. Some (...) interpretations meet the first criterion and others meet the second, but there are no interpretations that meet both. After surveying the interpretations of Sidgwick, Hampton, and Korsgaard, I suggest that there is no instrumental norm of reason. The final section offers an alternative, desire-based account of instrumental normativity, on which individual normative requirements to pursue means derives from each individual desire for an end. (shrink)
The overarching aim of this essay is to argue that moral realists should be "causalists" or claim that moral facts of certain kinds are causally efficacious. To this end, I engage in two tasks. The first is to develop an account of the sense in which moral facts of certain kinds are causally efficacious. After having sketched the concept of what I call a "configuring" cause, I contend that the exercise of the moral virtues is plausibly viewed as a configuring (...) cause. The second is to show that the causalist position I develop can withstand objections inspired by the work of Robert Audi and Jaegwon Kim. (shrink)
In his recent book, The Moral Problem , Michael Smith presents a number of arguments designed to expose the difficulties with so-called 'extcrnalist' theories of motivation. This essay endeavors to defend externalism from Smith's attacks. I attempt three tasks in the essay. First, I try to clarify and reformulate Smith's distinction between internalism and externalism. Second, I formulate two of Smith's arguments- what I call the 'reliability argument' and 'the rationalist argument' -and attempt to show that these arguments fail to (...) damage externalism. Third, I undertake to expose and question some of the motivations that drive internalism. (shrink)
Often, when there is a reason for you to do something, it is the kind of thing to motivate you to do it. For example, if Max and Caroline are deciding whether to go to the Alcove for dinner, Caroline might mention as a reason in favor, the fact that the Alcove serves onion rings the size of doughnuts, and Max might mention as a reason against, the fact that it is so difficult to get parking there this time of (...) day. It is some sign—perhaps not a perfect sign, but some sign—that each of these really is a reason, that Max and Caroline feel the tug in each direction. Mention of the Alcove's onion rings makes them feel to at least some degree inclined to go, and mention of the parking arrangements makes them feel to at least some degree inclined not to. According to some philosophers, reasons for action always bear some relation like this to motivation. This idea is variously known as ‘ reasons internalism’, ‘internalism about reasons ’, or ‘the internal reasons theory’. According to other philosophers, not all reasons are related to motivation in any of the ways internalists say. This idea is known as ‘ reasons externalism’ or ‘externalism about reasons ’. (shrink)
The religious inquirer is, however, in a tough spot, for she is subject to norms that it appears she cannot jointly satisfy. On the one hand, there are norms for the conduct of one's doxastic life, which do not emanate from any particular religious tradition, that enjoin us to be conscientious in our believings. In her view, conforming to these norms does not license having religious beliefs: there are simply too many evidential impediments to having such beliefs, ranging from deep (...) theoretical challenges to the fundamental religious claims to questions about the reliability of the fundamental religious texts and traditions. Call these norms, which the religious inquirer holds that religious belief does not satisfy, external epistemic norms. On the other hand, there are norms that emanate from within the religious traditions themselves that speak against engaging in a religious way of life in order to enjoy its considerable goods by doing such things as playing the role of a believer or going through the ritualistic motions. Instead, these norms seem to call for genuine faith, which is understood to be something approximating what the true believer has. Call these norms, which place restrictions on how one could legitimately engage in a religious way of life, the internal religious norms. (shrink)
Hume bequeathed to rational intuitionists a problem concerning moral judgment and the will – a problem of sufficient severity that it is still cited as one of the major reasons why intuitionism is untenable.1 Stated in general terms, the problem concerns how an intuitionist moral theory can account for the intimate connection between moral judgment and moral motivation. One reason that this is still considered to be a problem for intuitionists is that it is widely assumed that the early intuitionists (...) made little progress towards solving it. In this essay, I wish to challenge this assumption by examining one of the more subtle intuitionist responses to Hume, viz., that offered by Thomas Reid. For reasons that remain unclear to me, Reid's response to Hume on this issue has been almost entirely neglected. I shall argue that it is nonetheless one that merits our attention, for at least two reasons. In the first place, Reid's response to Hume's challenge to rational intuitionism bears a close affinity to the type of response that he offers to Hume's broadly skeptical challenge to realist views regarding our perception of the external world. Since Reid's strategy in the latter case is widely regarded as exhibiting significant promise, it is natural to wonder whether, when applied to the moral domain, this type of strategy displays similar promise.2 I will suggest that it does. That is, I will suggest that since Reid's broadly nativist position in perception is one well worth considering, then so also is his broadly nativist account of moral motivation. Second, Reid's position regarding moral motivation represents an intriguing attempt to blend a broadly intuitionist view with important insights from the sentimentalist tradition. In this respect, Reid's view is a genuine hybrid position unlike that offered by other intuitionists such as Richard Price. The synthetic character of Reid's position, I claim, gives it a unique type of theoretical richness, since it incorporates some very attractive features of both rational intuitionism and sentimentalism. (shrink)
Most work in religious epistemology has concerned itself with propositional knowledge of God. In this essay, I explore the role of knowing how to engage God in the religious life. Specifically, I explore the role of knowing how to engage God in the context of ritualized liturgical activity, exploring the contribution that knowing how to perform liturgical rites of various sorts can make to knowing God. The thesis I defend is that the liturgy provides both activities of certain kinds and (...) conceptions of God such that knowing how to perform those activities under those conceptions is a species of what I call ritual knowledge. (shrink)
The central purpose of this essay is to consider some of the more prominent reasons why realists have rejected the Humean theory of motivation. I shall argue that these reasons are not persuasive, and that there is nothing about being a moral realist that should make us suspicious of Humeanism.
What does it mean to call something a “reason”? This paper offers a unifying semantics for the word ‘reason’, challenging three ideas that are popular in contemporary philosophy; (i) that ‘reason’ is semantically ambiguous, (ii) that the concept of a normative reason is the basic normative concept, and (iii) that basic normative concepts are unanalyzable. Nonnormative uses of ‘reason’ are taken as basic, and as meaning explanation why. Talk about normative reasons for action is analyzed in terms of explanations why (...) acting would be good in some way. I show how a number of obstacles for this idea—including extending the analysis to normative reasons for attitudes—can be overcome by adopting a reductive, end-relational analysis of the meaning of ‘good’ which I have defended elsewhere. Finally, I analyze talk of “motivating” reasons in terms of (supposed) normative reasons for which agents act. (shrink)
A substantial collection of seminal articles, Foundations of Ethics covers all of the major issues in metaethics. Covers all of the major issues in metaethics including moral metaphysics, epistemology, moral psychology, and philosophy of language. Provides an unparalleled offering of primary sources and expert commentary for students of ethical theory. Includes seminal essays by ethicists such as G.E. Moore, Simon Blackburn, Gilbert Harman, Christine Korsgaard, Michael Smith, Bernard Williams, Jonathan Dancy, and many other leading figures of ethical theory.
Christine Korsgaard’s 1996 book, The Sources of Normativity, attracted a great deal of attention. And rightly so. It is a highly engaging attempt to answer what she calls the normative question, which is the question of what could justify morality’s demands. Korsgaard’s latest book, Self-Constitution, develops and defends the broadly Kantian account of action and agency that hovers in the background of Sources, drawing out its implications for the normative question. In this review, we present the main lines of argument (...) in Self-Constitution, raising objections to both Korsgaard’s account of action and agency and her most recent attempt to address the normative question. (shrink)
According to content-relativist theories of moral language, different speakers use the same moral sentences to say different things. Content-relativism faces a well-known problem of lost disagreement. Recently, numerous content-relativists (including the author) have proposed to solve this problem by appeal to various kinds of non-content-based, or broadly pragmatic, disagreement. This presents content-relativists with a new problem—of found agreement. Which (if any) of these newly identified kinds of conflict is correctly identified as the lost moral disagreement we were looking for? This (...) paper offers a critical comparison of different content-relativist proposals. It divides them into two broad categories, quasi-expressivist theories (QED) and metalinguistic theories (MLD). Objections to each are considered, and QED is tentatively found to be superior. (shrink)
This is an essay on two topics—singing and liturgy—that lie well outside the standard repertoire of topics that form the subject matter of contemporary philosophy of religion, let alone Anglo-American philosophy more generally. Nonetheless, I maintain that thinking through the topic of liturgical singing can bear philosophical fruit. My discussion takes as its starting point the striking fact that the liturgies of Eastern Christianity are almost entirely sung. I explore the question why this would be especially fitting. The answer I (...) offer draws upon recent work in philosophy of literature, collective action, and musical cognition, arguing that what I call the secondary form of the liturgy and its content mesh in such a way that, when an assembly sings the content of the liturgical script, it thereby instantiates important dimensions of its content. (shrink)
Rationalists including Nagel and Korsgaard argue that motivation to the means to our desired ends cannot be explained by appeal to the desire for the end. They claim that a satisfactory explanation of this motivational connection must appeal to a faculty of practical reason motivated in response to desire-independent norms of reason. This paper builds on ideas in the work of Hume and Donald Davidson to demonstrate how the desire for the end is sufficient for explaining motivation to the means. (...) Desiring is analyzed as having motivation towards making the end so, which is analyzed as engaging in mental activity aimed at facilitating that end. I conclude that it is constitutive of an agent’s desiring an end that he is motivated towards what he believes to be means. (shrink)
David Shoemaker argues from (A) psychopaths’ emotional deficiency, to (B) their insensitivity to moral reasons, to (C) their lack of criminal responsibility. This response observes three important ambiguities in this argument, involving the interpretation of (1) psychopaths’ emotional deficit, (2) their insensitivity to reasons, and (3) their moral judgements. Resolving these ambiguities presents Shoemaker with a dilemma: his argument either equivocates or it is falsified by the empirical evidence. An alternative perspective on psychopaths’ moral and criminal responsibility is proposed.
Normative concepts have a special taste, which many consider to be proof that they cannot be reductively analyzed into entirely nonnormative components. This paper demonstrates that at least some intuitively normative concepts can be reductively analyzed. I focus on so-called ‘hypothetical imperatives’ or ‘anankastic conditionals’, and show that the availability of normative readings of conditionals is determined by features of grammar, specifically features of tense. Properly interpreted, these grammatical features suggest that these deontic modals are analyzable in terms of conditional (...) necessity with a certain temporal structure. (shrink)