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Tristram McPherson
Ohio State University
  1. Against Quietist Normative Realism.Tristram McPherson - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 154 (2):223-240.
    Recently, some philosophers have suggested that a form of robust realism about ethics, or normativity more generally, does not face a significant explanatory burden in metaphysics. I call this view metaphysically quietist normative realism . This paper argues that while this view can appear to constitute an attractive alternative to more traditional forms of normative realism, it cannot deliver on this promise. I examine Scanlon’s attempt to defend such a quietist realism, and argue that rather than silencing metaphysical questions about (...)
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  2. Ethical Non-Naturalism and the Metaphysics of Supervenience.Tristram McPherson - 2012 - In Oxford Studies in Metaethics Vol 7. pp. 205.
    It is widely accepted that the ethical supervenes on the natural, where this is roughly the claim that it is impossible for two circumstances to be identical in all natural respects, but different in their ethical respects. This chapter refines and defends the traditional thought that this fact poses a significant challenge to ethical non-naturalism, a view on which ethical properties are fundamentally different in kind from natural properties. The challenge can be encapsulated in three core claims which the chapter (...)
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  3. A Case for Ethical Veganism.Tristram McPherson - 2014 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 11 (6):677-703.
    This paper argues for ethical veganism: the thesis that it is typically wrong to consume animal products. The paper first sets out an intuitive case for this thesis that begins with the intuitive claim that it is wrong to set fire to a cat. I then raise a methodological challenge: this is an intuitive argument for a revisionary conclusion. Even if we grant that we cannot both believe that it is permissible to drink milk, and that it is wrong to (...)
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  4.  25
    Authoritatively Normative Concepts.Tristram McPherson - 2018 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 13:253-277.
    This chapter offers an analysis of the authoritatively normative concept PRACTICAL OUGHT that appeals to the constitutive norms for the activity of non-arbitrary selection. It argues that this analysis permits an attractive and substantive explanation of what the distinctive normative authority of this concept amounts to, while also explaining why a clear statement of what such authority amounts to has been so elusive in the recent literature. The account given is contrasted with more familiar constitutivist theories, and briefly shows how (...)
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  5. What is at Stake in Debates Among Normative Realists?Tristram McPherson - 2015 - Noûs 49 (1):123-146.
    One class of central debates between normative realists appears to concern whether we should be naturalists or reductionists about the normative. However, metaethical discussion of naturalism and reduction is often inconsistent, murky, or uninformative. This can make it hard to see why commitments relative to these metaphysical categories should matter to normative realists. This paper aims to clarify the nature of these categories, and their significance in debates between normative realists. I develop and defend what I call the joint-carving taxonomy, (...)
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  6. Authoritatively Normative Concepts.Tristram McPherson - forthcoming - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics. Oxford University Press.
    This paper offers an analysis of the authoritatively normative concept PRACTICAL OUGHT that appeals to the constitutive norms for the activity of non-arbitrary selection. I argue that this analysis permits an attractive and substantive explanation of what the distinctive normative authority of this concept amounts to. I contrast my account with more familiar constitutivist theories, and briefly show how it answers ‘schmagency’-style objections to constitutivist explanations of normativity. Finally, I explain how the account offered here can be used to help (...)
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  7. Why I Am a Vegan (and You Should Be One Too).Tristram McPherson - 2015 - In Philosophy Comes to Dinner. Routledge. pp. 73-91.
    This paper argues for what I call modest ethical veganism: the view that it is typically wrong to use or eat products made from or by animals such as cows, pigs, or chickens. The argument has three central parts. First, I argue that a central explanation for the wrongness of causing suffering rests upon what it is like to experience such suffering, and that we have good reasons to think that animals suffer in ways that are relevantly analogous to humans. (...)
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  8. The Ethical Basis for Veganism.Tristram McPherson - 2018 - In Anne Barnhill, Mark Budolfson & Tyler Doggett (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    This chapter examines the ethical case that can be mounted for veganism. Because there has been comparatively little discussion in ethics focused directly on veganism, the central aim of this chapter is threefold: to orient readers to (some of) the most important philosophical literature relevant to the topic, to provide a clear explanation of the current state of the ethical case for veganism, and to focus attention on the most important outstanding or underexplored questions in this domain. The chapter examines (...)
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  9. Moral Attitudes for Non-Cognitivists: Solving the Specification Problem.Gunnar Björnsson & Tristram McPherson - 2014 - Mind 123 (489):1-38.
    Moral non-cognitivists hope to explain the nature of moral agreement and disagreement as agreement and disagreement in non-cognitive attitudes. In doing so, they take on the task of identifying the relevant attitudes, distinguishing the non-cognitive attitudes corresponding to judgements of moral wrongness, for example, from attitudes involved in aesthetic disapproval or the sports fan’s disapproval of her team’s performance. We begin this paper by showing that there is a simple recipe for generating apparent counterexamples to any informative specification of the (...)
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  10. Reference Magnetism as a Solution to the Moral Twin Earth Problem.Billy Dunaway & Tristram McPherson - 2016 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 3.
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  11. The Methodological Irrelevance of Reflective Equilibrium.Tristram McPherson - 2015 - In Chris Daly (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophical Methods. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 652-674.
    John Rawls’ method of reflective equilibrium is the most influential methodology in contemporary ethics.This paper argues that this influence is undeserved, for two reasons. First, reflective equilibrium fails to accomplish two tasks that give us reason to care about methodology. On the one hand, it fails to explain how (or whether) moral knowledge is possible.This is because the method is explicitly oriented towards the distinct (and less interesting) task of characterizing our moral sensibilities. On the other hand, the method fails (...)
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  12.  3
    Ethical Non-Naturalism and the Metaphysics of Supervenience.Tristram McPherson - 2012 - Oxford Studies in Metaethics 7.
    It is widely accepted that the ethical supervenes on the natural, where this is roughly the claim that it is impossible for two circumstances to be identical in all natural respects, but different in their ethical respects. This chapter refines and defends the traditional thought that this fact poses a significant challenge to ethical non-naturalism, a view on which ethical properties are fundamentally different in kind from natural properties. The challenge can be encapsulated in three core claims which the chapter (...)
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  13. What Do You Mean “This Isn’T the Question”?David Enoch & Tristram McPherson - 2017 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (6):820-840.
    This is a contribution to the symposium on Tim Scanlon’s Being Realistic about Reasons. We have two aims here: First, we ask for more details about Scanlon’s meta-metaphysical view, showing problems with salient clarifications. And second, we raise independent objections to the view – to its explanatory productivity, its distinctness, and the argumentative support it enjoys.
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  14. Engineering Social Justice Into Traffic Control for Self-Driving Vehicles?Milos N. Mladenovic & Tristram McPherson - 2016 - Science and Engineering Ethics 22 (4):1131-1149.
    The convergence of computing, sensing, and communication technology will soon permit large-scale deployment of self-driving vehicles. This will in turn permit a radical transformation of traffic control technology. This paper makes a case for the importance of addressing questions of social justice in this transformation, and sketches a preliminary framework for doing so. We explain how new forms of traffic control technology have potential implications for several dimensions of social justice, including safety, sustainability, privacy, efficiency, and equal access. Our central (...)
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  15.  33
    Deliberative Indispensability and Epistemic Justification.Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett - 2015 - In Oxford Studies in Metaethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 104-133.
    Many of us care about the existence of ethical facts because they appear crucial to making sense of our practical lives. On one tempting line of thought, this idea can also play a central role in justifying our belief in those facts. David Enoch has developed this thought into a formidable new proposal in moral epistemology: that the deliberative indispensability of ethical facts gives us epistemic justification for believing in such facts. This chapter argues that Enoch’s proposal fails because it (...)
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  16. Moorean Arguments and Moral Revisionism.Tristram McPherson - 2009 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (2):1-25.
    G. E. Moore famously argued against skepticism and idealism by appealing to their inconsistency with alleged certainties, like the existence of his own hands. Recently, some philosophers have offered analogous arguments against revisionary views about ethics such as metaethical error theory. These arguments appeal to the inconsistency of error theory with seemingly obvious moral claims like “it is wrong to torture an innocent child just for fun.” It might seem that such ‘Moorean’ arguments in ethics will stand or fall with (...)
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  17. Ethical Judgment and Motivation.David Faraci & Tristram McPherson - 2017 - In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics. Routledge. pp. 308-323.
    This chapter explores the relationship between ethical judgement writ large (as opposed to merely moral judgement) and motivation. We discuss arguments for and against views on which ethical judgement entails motivation, either alone or under conditions of rationality or normalcy, either at the individual or community level.
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  18. The Nature and Explanatory Ambitions of Metaethics.Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett - 2017 - In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics. Routledge. pp. 1-28.
    This volume introduces a wide range of important views, questions, and controversies in and about contemporary metaethics. It is natural to ask: What, if anything, connects this extraordinary range of discussions? This introductory chapter aims to answer this question by giving an account of metaethics that shows it to be a unified theoretical activ- ity. According to this account, metaethics is a theoretical activity characterized by an explanatory goal. This goal is to explain how actual ethical thought and talk—and what (...)
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  19.  60
    Ardent Realism Without Referential Normativity.Tristram McPherson - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-20.
    This paper addresses a central positive claim in Matti Eklund’s Choosing Normative Concepts: that a certain kind of metaphysically ambitious realist about normativity – the ardent realist – is committed to the metasemantic idea that the distinctive inferential role of normative concepts suffices to fix the extension of those concepts. I argue first that commitment to this sort of inferential role metasemantic view does nothing to secure ardent realism. I then show how the ardent realist can address Eklund’s leading challenge (...)
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  20. Mark Schroeder’s Hypotheticalism: Agent-Neutrality, Moral Epistemology, and Methodology. [REVIEW]Tristram McPherson - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 157 (3):445-453.
    Symposium contribution on Mark Schroeder's Slaves of the Passions. Argues that Schroeder's account of agent-neutral reasons cannot be made to work, that the limited scope of his distinctive proposal in the epistemology of reasons undermines its plausibility, and that Schroeder faces an uncomfortable tension between the initial motivation for his view and the details of the view he develops.
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  21. Unifying Moral Methodology.Tristram McPherson - 2012 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 93 (4):523-549.
    This article argues that the best way to pursue systematic normative ethical theorizing involves metaethical enquiry. My argument builds upon two central claims. First, I argue that plausible metaethical accounts can have implications that can help to resolve the methodological controversies facing normative ethics. Second, I argue that metaethical research is at least roughly as well supported as normative ethical research. I conclude by examining the implications of my thesis. Inter alia, it shows that the common practice of engaging in (...)
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  22. A Moorean Defense of the Omnivore?Tristram McPherson - 2016 - In Ben Bramble & Bob Fischer (eds.), The Moral Complexities of Eating Meat. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 118-134.
    Philosophers have offered several apparently powerful arguments against the permissibility of eating meat. However, the idea that it is okay to eat meat can seem like a bit of ethical common sense. This paper examines the attempt to adapt one of the most influential philosophical defenses of common sense –G. E. Moore’s case against the skeptic andthe idealist –in support of the omnivore. I first introduce and explain Moore’s argument against the skeptic. I then explain how that argument can be (...)
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  23.  23
    Ardent Realism Without Referential Normativity.Tristram McPherson - 2020 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 63 (5):489-508.
    ABSTRACT This paper addresses a central positive claim in Matti Eklund’s Choosing Normative Concepts: that a certain kind of metaphysically ambitious realist about normativity – the ardent realist – is committed to the metasemantic idea that the distinctive inferential role of normative concepts suffices to fix the extension of those concepts. I argue first that commitment to this sort of inferential role metasemantic view does nothing to secure ardent realism. I then show how the ardent realist can address Eklund’s leading (...)
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  24. How to Argue for (and Against) Ethical Veganism.Tristram McPherson - 2016 - In Anne Barnhill, Mark Budolfson & Tyler Doggett (eds.), Food, Ethics, and Society. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
    This paper has two goals. The first is to offer a carefully reasoned argument for ethical veganism: the view that it is (at least typically) wrong to eat or otherwise use animal products. The second goal is to give you, the reader, some important tools for developing, evaluating, and replying to reasoned arguments for ethical conclusions. I begin by offering you a brief essay, arguing that it is wrong to eat meat. This essay both introduces central elements of my case (...)
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  25. Metaethics & the Autonomy of Morality.Tristram McPherson - 2008 - Philosophers' Imprint 8:1-16.
    Some philosophers have been attracted to the idea that morality is an autonomous domain. One version of this idea is the thesis that non-moral claims are irrelevant to the justification of fundamental normative ethical theories. However, this autonomy thesis appears to be in tension with a pair of apparent features of metaethical theorizing. On one hand, metaethics seemingly aims to explain how morality fits into our broader conception of the world. On the other, metaethical theorizing appears to have potential normative (...)
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  26. Moral Steadfastness and Meta-Ethics.James Fritz & Tristram McPherson - 2019 - American Philosophical Quarterly 56 (1):43-56.
    Call the following claim Asymmetry: rationality often requires a more steadfast response to pure moral disagreement than it does to otherwise analogous non-moral disagreement. This paper briefly motivates Asymmetry and explores its implications for meta-ethics. Some philosophers have thought that anti-realists are better-placed than realists to explain Asymmetry because, if anti-realism is true, disagreement cannot provide evidence against the reliability of one's thinking about objective moral facts. This paper argues that this simple diagnosis fails to support otherwise plausible anti-realisms. It (...)
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  27. Naturalistic Moral Realism, Moral Rationalism, and Non-Fundamental Epistemology.Tristram McPherson - 2018 - In Karen Jones & Francois Schroeter (eds.), The Many Moral Rationalisms. Oxford University Press. pp. 187-209.
    This paper takes up an important epistemological challenge to the naturalistic moral realist: that her metaphysical commitments are difficult to square with a plausible rationalist view about the epistemology of morality. The paper begins by clarifying and generalizing this challenge. It then illustrates how the generalized challenge can be answered by a form of naturalistic moral realism that I dub joint-carving moral realism. Both my framing of this challenge and my answer advertise the methodological significance of non-fundamental epistemological theorizing, which (...)
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  28.  46
    Evaluative Predicates as Classificatory Devices?Tristram McPherson - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (6):1439-1451.
    In “Value Ascriptions: Rethinking Cognitivism,” Sigrún Svavarsdóttir offers a novel account of the semantic function of evaluative predication, according to which such predicates function as “linguistically encoded classificatory devices.” This short paper raises three questions about Svavarsdóttir’s account: how it relates to familiar sorts of projects in and about semantics, how to understand the nature of “linguistic encoding,” and how to understand the significance of the account’s central use of sets.
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  29.  34
    A Case For Ethical Veganism: Intuitive And Methodological Considerations.Tristram Mcpherson - 2013 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 10 (4).
    This paper argues for ethical veganism: the thesis that it is typically wrong to consume animal products. The paper first sets out an intuitive case for this thesis that begins with the intuitive claim that it is wrong to set fire to a cat. I then raise a methodological challenge: this is an intuitive argument for a revisionary conclusion. Even if we grant that we cannot both believe that it is permissible to drink milk, and that it is wrong to (...)
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  30. Deliberative Indispensability and Epistemic Justification.Tristram McPherson - 2015 - In Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. 10. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 104-133.
    Many of us care about the existence of ethical facts because such facts appear crucial to making sense of our practical lives. On one tempting line of thought, this idea does more than raise the metaethical stakes: it can also play a central role in justifying our belief in those facts. In recent work, David Enoch has developed this tempting thought into a formidable new proposal in moral epistemology, that aims to explain how the deliberative indispensability of ethical facts gives (...)
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  31. Explaining Practical Normativity.Tristram McPherson - 2016 - Topoi:1-10.
    Ethical non-naturalists often charge that their naturalist competitors cannot adequately explain the distinctive normativity of moral or more broadly practical concepts. I argue that the force of the charge is mitigated, because non-naturalism is ultimately committed to a kind of mysterianism about the metaphysics of practical norms that possesses limited explanatory power. I then show that focusing on comparative judgments about the explanatory power of various metaethical theories raises additional problems for the non-naturalist, and suggest grounds for optimism that a (...)
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  32. Ethical Principles for the Design of Next-Generation Traffic Control Technology.Milos N. Mladenovic & Tristram McPherson - manuscript
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  33.  30
    Explaining Practical Normativity.Tristram McPherson - 2018 - Topoi 37 (4):621-630.
    Ethical non-naturalists often charge that their naturalist competitors cannot adequately explain the distinctive normativity of moral or more broadly practical concepts. I argue that the force of the charge is mitigated, because non-naturalism is ultimately committed to a kind of mysterianism about the metaphysics of practical norms that possesses limited explanatory power. I then show that focusing on comparative judgments about the explanatory power of various metaethical theories raises additional problems for the non-naturalist, and suggest grounds for optimism that a (...)
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  34. Semantic Challenges to Normative Realism.Tristram McPherson - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (2):126-136.
    Normative realists might be assumed to have few worries about semantics. After all, a realist might initially hope to simply adopt the best semantic theory about ordinary descriptive language. However, beginning with the non‐cognitivist appropriation of the open question argument, a number of philosophers have posed serious objections to the realist’s ability to offer a plausible semantic theory. This paper introduces the two most influential semantic challenges to normative realism: the open question argument, and the Moral Twin Earth argument. It (...)
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  35.  34
    Deliberative Authority and Representational Determinacy: A Challenge for the Normative Realist.Tristram McPherson - 2019 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6.
    Controversy about the credibility of normative realism is endemic to contemporary metaethics. Some take realism to be “obviously, the default position,” while others, to put it mildly, do not., In the face of such persistent controversy, it can be valuable to step back from the myriad arguments for and against realism, and seek to understand the challenges that face this view in their deepest and most general form. This paper aims to achieve this deeper understanding with respect to a pair (...)
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  36. Epistemology and Methodology in Ethics.Tristram McPherson - 2020 - Cambridge University Press.
    This Element introduces several prominent themes in contemporary work on the epistemology and methodology of ethics. Topics addressed include skeptical challenges in ethics, epistemic arguments in metaethics, what is epistemically distinctive of the ethical. Also considered are methodological questions in ethics, including questions about which ethical concepts we should investigate, and what our goals should be in ethical inquiry.
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  37.  83
    Moral Fictionalism. [REVIEW]Tristram McPherson - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (3):445-448.
    This is a short review of Mark Kalderon's book Moral Fictionalism.
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  38.  37
    Shafer-Landau, Russ, Ed. Oxford Studies in Metaethics. Vol. 5. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. 324. $99.00 ; $40.00. [REVIEW]Tristram McPherson - 2011 - Ethics 121 (4):828-832.
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  39. The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics.Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.) - 2017 - Routledge.
    This Handbook surveys the contemporary state of the burgeoning field of metaethics. Forty-four chapters, all written exclusively for this volume, provide expert introductions to: 1) the central research programs that frame metaethical discussions, 2) the central explanatory challenges, resources, and strategies that inform contemporary work in those research programs, an 3) debates over the status of metaethics, and the appropriate methods to use in metaethical inquiry. This is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in metaethics, from those coming (...)
     
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  40.  88
    Unnatural Normativity? Critical Notice of Ralph Wedgwood's Nature of Normativity. [REVIEW]Tristram Mcpherson - 2009 - Philosophical Books 50 (2):63-82.
    Ralph Wedgwood’s The Nature of Normativity significantly advances our understanding of metaethical realism. After briefly reviewing the overall structure of Wedgwood’s argument for a Platonist realism about normativity, this critical notice focuses on three of the central metaphysical and epistemological claims that he defends. I first explain and raise difficulties for Wedgwood’s core claim that the intentional is normative. I then argue that his innovative attempt to finesse the supervenience problem that faces metaethical Platonists fails. Finally, I critically examine his (...)
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  41.  18
    Evaluation Turned on Itself: The Vindicatory Circularity Challenge to the Conceptual Ethics of Normativity.David Plunkett & Tristram McPherson - forthcoming - In Oxford Studies in Metaethics.
    The conceptual ethics of normativity involves normative reflection on normative thought and talk. One motive for engaging in this project is to seek to either vindicate or improve one’s existing normative concepts. This paper clarifies and addresses a deep challenge to the conceptual ethics of normativity, when it is motivated in this way. The challenge arises from the fact that we need to use some of our own normative concepts in order to evaluate our normative concepts. This might seem objectionably (...)
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  42.  44
    Metaethics and the Conceptual Ethics of Normativity.David Plunkett & Tristram McPherson - forthcoming - In Conceptual Ethics and Conceptual Engineering. pp. 274-303.
    This chapter explores two central questions in the conceptual ethics of normative inquiry. The first is whether to orient one’s normative inquiry around folk normative concepts (like KNOWLEDGE or IMMORAL) or around theoretical normative concepts (like ADEQUATE EPISTEMIC JUSTIFICATION or PRO TANTO PRACTICAL REASON). The second is whether to orient one’s normative inquiry around concepts whose normative authority is especially accessible to us (such as OUGHT ALL THINGS CONSIDERED), or around concepts whose extension is especially accessible to us (such as (...)
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