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.
Quasi-realist expressivists set themselves the task of developing a metaethical theory that at once captures what they call the “realist-sounding” elements of ordinary moral thought and discourse but is also distinctively antirealist. Its critics have long suspected that the position cannot have what it wants. In this essay, I develop this suspicion. I do so by distinguishing two paradigmatic versions of the view—what I call Thin and Thick expressivism respectively. I contend that there is a metaethical datum regarding our epistemic (...) achievements in the moral domain that presents challenges for each variety of expressivism. Thin expressivism opts not to accommodate and explain this datum but I contend that its rationale for not doing so rests on a suspect methodology. Thick expressivism looks as if it must accommodate and explain this datum but I argue that it is poorly situated to do so. I conclude that we have reason to believe that paradigmatic expressivism cannot have all that it wants. (shrink)
In this excellent, clearly written, and clear sighted book, Terence Cuneo defends moral realism from a variety of different attacks. Cuneo is particularly interested in the charge that the moral facts that realists posit are suspect because they are unnatural and queer. He addresses a number of arguments against realism, not least Mackie's Argument from Queerness. What makes the book distinctive is its strategy. Cuneo is keen to show that moral facts and epistemic facts are very similar, if not inseparably (...) intertwined in many cases, and to argue that we should not find moral realism odd since we do not find epistemic realism odd. Indeed, towards the start he begins with a number of quotations from those who have cast doubt on moral realism, including Mackie, who themselves point out that there could be parallels between the moral and epistemic cases, but who do not pursue those parallels to any great degree. Cuneo aims to fill this gap, and to do so in favour of the realist. I agree entirely with Cuneo's conclusions and …. (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)
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)
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)
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.
The project of this chapter is to examine how two key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment—Francis Hutcheson and Thomas Reid—think of the role of reason and passion in moral judgment. According to a standard way of categorizing these figures, Hutcheson is a sentimentalist, while Reid is a rationalist. Although this categorization can be illuminating in certain respects, it also distorts both Hutcheson’s and Reid’s views. For a close reading of both these men reveals that their views are more eclectic than (...) many have supposed. Hutcheson’s views have much more in common with the rationalists while Reid’s views have much more in common with the sentimentalists. (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.
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)
Widely acknowledged as the principal architect of Scottish common sense philosophy, Thomas Reid is increasingly recognized today as one of the finest philosophers of the eighteenth century. Combining a sophisticated response to the skeptical and idealist views of his day, Reid's thought stands as an important alternative to Humean skepticism, Kantian idealism and Cartesian rationalism. This volume is the first comprehensive overview of Reid's output and covers not only his philosophy in detail, but also his scientific work and his extensive (...) historical influence. (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)
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)
In his recent book, The Moral Problem, Michael Smith presents a number of arguments designed to expose the difficulties with so-called `externalist' 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)
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)
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)
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)
The philosophical and theological discussion regarding religious faith has primarily concerned itself with the abstract issues of what faith is, whether it can be rationally held, and how an agent can acquire, sustain, or deepen faith. The issue of how we should orient ourselves to the faith of others and the role such orientation might play in the religious life hasn’t been much discussed. It is this topic that I propose to address in this essay. I do so by considering (...) a little-known nineteenth-century saint of the Eastern Orthodox church, St. Jacob of Alaska, exploring the ways in which the liturgy calls for its participants to engage with St. Jacob’s life of faith. I develop and defend the claim that it calls for the religiously committed to align their lives with the lives of exemplars such as St. Jacob. (shrink)
For two millennia Christians have assembled on the “day of the sun” to celebrate the liturgy together. But why do it? Why structure one's life in such a way that participation in ritualized religious activity is a fixed point in the weekly rhythm of one's comings and goings? The project of this essay is to identify reasons to engage in such activity that emanate from the Christian ethical vision. Fundamental to this vision is a contrast between an ethic of proximity, (...) which enjoins us to attend to the needs of those near and dear, and an ethic of outwardness, which enjoins us to both attend to and open ourselves up to the needs of those who belong to various out-groups. The Christian ethical vision enjoins an ethic of outwardness. A close look at the liturgies of the Eastern Christian tradition reveals the ways in which they express this ethic. (shrink)
Thomas Reid has the unusual distinction of arriving at a metaethical position very much like G. E. Moore’s via a route very similar to that employed by the Kantians. That is, Reid embraces a version of nonnaturalist moral realism by appeal not to open question-style considerations but to a particular account of agency. In this essay, we reconstruct Reid’s agency-centered argument for his constitutivist version of moral nonnaturalism, highlighting its commitments. Having presented Reid’s argument, we close by considering a prominent (...) contemporary Kantian view, namely, Christine Korsgaard’s, and identifying where, despite their common commitments, Reid and Korsgaard part company. The comparison, we suggest, is instructive because it allows us to see more clearly why the link between agency-centered approaches to ethical theorizing and nonrealist, constitutivist views of morality, such as Korsgaard’s, is deeply contingent. (shrink)
In Essays on the Active Powers, Thomas Reid offers two different accounts of motives. According to the first, motives are the ends for which we act. According to the second, they are mental states, such as desires, that incite us to action. These two accounts, I claim, do not fit comfortably with Reid's agent causal account of human action. My project in this article is to explain why and then to propose a strategy for reconciling these two accounts with Reid's (...) views about action. (shrink)