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Moral Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence

Oxford University Press (2014)

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  1. There’s Nothing Quasi About Quasi-Realism: Moral Realism as a Moral Doctrine.Matthew H. Kramer - 2017 - The Journal of Ethics 21 (2):185-212.
    This paper seeks to clarify and defend the proposition that moral realism is best elaborated as a moral doctrine. I begin by upholding Ronald Dworkin’s anti-Archimedean critique of the error theory against some strictures by Michael Smith, and I then briefly suggest how a proponent of moral realism as a moral doctrine would respond to Smith’s defense of the Archimedeanism of expressivism. Thereafter, this paper moves to its chief endeavor. By differentiating clearly between expressivism and quasi-realism, the paper highlights both (...)
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  • Why Moral Error Theorists Should Become Revisionary Moral Expressivists.Toby Svoboda - 2015 - Journal of Moral Philosophy:1-25.
    Moral error theorists hold that morality is deeply mistaken, thus raising the question of whether and how moral judgments and utterances should continue to be employed. Proposals include simply abolishing morality, adopting some revisionary fictionalist stance toward morality, and conserving moral judgments and utterances unchanged. I defend a fourth proposal, namely revisionary moral expressivism, which recommends replacing cognitivist moral judgments and utterances with non-cognitivist ones. Given that non-cognitivist attitudes are not truth apt, revisionary expressivism does not involve moral error. Moreover, (...)
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  • From Epistemic to Moral Realism.Spencer Case - forthcoming - Journal of Moral Philosophy:1-22.
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  • A New Route From Moral Disagreement to Moral Skepticism.Olle Risberg & Folke Tersman - 2019 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 5 (2):189-207.
    Moral disagreement is sometimes thought to pose problems for moral realism because it shows that we cannot achieve knowledge of the moral facts the realists posit. In particular, it is "fundamental" moral disagreement—that is, disagreement that is not due to distorting factors such as ignorance of relevant nonmoral facts, bad reasoning skills, or the like—that is supposed to generate skeptical implications. In this paper, we show that this version of the disagreement challenge is flawed as it stands. The reason is (...)
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  • Are the Moral Fixed Points Conceptual Truths?Daan Evers & Bart Streumer - 2016 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (1):1-9.
    Terence Cuneo and Russ Shafer-Landau have recently proposed a new version of moral nonnaturalism, according to which there are nonnatural moral concepts and truths but no nonnatural moral facts. This view entails that moral error theorists are conceptually deficient. We explain why moral error theorists are not conceptually deficient. We then argue that this explanation reveals what is wrong with Cuneo and Shafer-Landau’s view.
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  • Projection, Indeterminacy and Moral Skepticism.Hallvard Lillehammer - 2017 - In Diego Machuca (ed.), Moral Skepticism: New Essays. New York, USA: Routledge.
    According to moral error theory, morality is something invented, constructed or made; but mistakenly presents itself to us as if it were an independent object of discovery. According to moral constructivism, morality is something invented, constructed or made. In this paper I argue that constructivism is both compatible with, and in certain cases explanatory of, some of the allegedly mistaken commitments to which arguments for moral skepticism appeal. I focus on two particular allegations that are sometimes associated with moral skepticism. (...)
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  • What is Value? Where Does It Come From? A Philosophical Perspective.Christine Tappolet & Mauro Rossi - 2015 - In Tobias Brosch & David Sander (eds.), The Value Handbook: The Affective Sciences of Values and Valuation. pp. 3-22.
    Are values objective or subjective? To clarify this question we start with an overview of the main concepts and debates in the philosophy of values. We then discuss the arguments for and against value realism, the thesis that there are objective evaluative facts. By contrast with value anti-realism, which is generally associated with sentimentalism, according to which evaluative judgements are grounded in sentiments, value realism is commonly coupled with rationalism. Against this common view, we argue that value realism can be (...)
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  • If Nothing Matters.Guy Kahane - 2017 - Noûs 51 (2):327-353.
    The possibility that nothing really matters can cause much anxiety, but what would it mean for that to be true? Since it couldn’t be bad that nothing matters, fearing nihilism makes little sense. However, the consequences of belief in nihilism will be far more dramatic than often thought. Many metaethicists assume that even if nothing matters, we should, and would, go on more or less as before. But if nihilism is true in an unqualified way, it can’t be the case (...)
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  • Meta-Epistemic Defeat.J. Carter - 2018 - Synthese 195 (7):2877-2896.
    An account of meta-epistemic defeaters—distinct from traditional epistemic defeaters—is motivated and defended, drawing from case studies involving epistemic error-theory and epistemic relativism. Mechanisms of traditional epistemic defeat and meta-epistemic defeat are compared and contrasted, and some new puzzles are introduced.
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  • Essentially Grounded Non-Naturalism and Normative Supervenience.Toppinen Teemu - 2018 - Topoi 37 (4):645-653.
    Non-naturalism – roughly the view that normative properties and facts are sui generis and incompatible with a purely scientific worldview – faces a difficult challenge with regard to explaining why it is that the normative features of things supervene on their natural features. More specifically: non-naturalists have trouble explaining the necessitation relations, whatever they are, that hold between the natural and the normative. My focus is on Stephanie Leary's recent response to the challenge, which offers an attempted non-naturalism-friendly explanation for (...)
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  • The Supervenience Challenge to Non-Naturalism.Pekka Väyrynen - 2017 - In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics. Routledge. pp. 170-84.
    This paper is a survey of the supervenience challenge to non-naturalist moral realism. I formulate a version of the challenge, consider the most promising non-naturalist replies to it, and suggest that no fully effective reply has yet been given.
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  • From Punishment to Universalism.David Rose & Shaun Nichols - 2019 - Mind and Language 34 (1):59-72.
    Many philosophers have claimed that the folk endorse moral universalism. Some have taken the folk view to support moral universalism; others have taken the folk view to reflect a deep confusion. And while some empirical evidence supports the claim that the folk endorse moral universalism, this work has uncovered intra-domain differences in folk judgments of moral universalism. In light of all this, our question is: why do the folk endorse moral universalism? Our hypothesis is that folk judgments of moral universalism (...)
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  • Moral Skepticism: An Introduction and Overview.Diego E. Machuca - 2018 - In Diego E. Machuca (ed.), Moral Skepticism: New Essays. New York: Routledge. pp. 1-31.
    In this introductory chapter, I not only present the essays that make up this volume but also I offer an extensive critical overview of moral skepticism with the hope that it will turn out to be useful particularly to the uninitiated reader. I first provide a taxonomy of varieties of moral skepticism, then discuss the main arguments advanced in their favor, and finally summarize the ten essays here collected, which deal with one or more of those skeptical stances and arguments.
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  • Moral Skepticism, Fictionalism, and Insulation.Diego E. Machuca - 2018 - In Diego E. Machuca (ed.), Moral Skepticism: New Essays. New York: Routledge. pp. 213-234.
    It has been claimed that a key difference between ancient and contemporary skepticism is that, unlike the ancient skeptics, contemporary skeptics consider ordinary beliefs to be insulated from skeptical doubt. In the case of metaethics, this issue is related to the following question: what attitude towards ordinary moral thought and discourse should one adopt if one is a moral skeptic? Whereas moral abolitionists claim that one should do away with ordinary moral thought and discourse altogether, moral fictionalists maintain that, given (...)
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  • Norm-Expressivism and Regress.Tanyi Attila - 2017 - South African Journal of Philosophy 36 (3):362-376.
    This paper aims to investigate Allan Gibbard’s norm-expressivist account of normativity. In particular, the aim is to see whether Gibbard’s theory is able to account for the normativity of reason-claims. For this purpose, I first describe how I come to targeting Gibbard’s theory by setting out the main tenets of quasi-realism cum expressivism. After this, I provide a detailed interpretation of the relevant parts of Gibbard’s theory. I argue that the best reading of his account is the one that takes (...)
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  • Why Jonas Olson Cannot Believe the Error Theory Either.Bart Streumer - 2016 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4):419-436.
    Jonas Olson writes that "a plausible moral error theory must be an error theory about all irreducible normativity". I agree. But unlike Olson, I think we cannot believe this error theory. I first argue that Olson should say that reasons for belief are irreducibly normative. I then argue that if reasons for belief are irreducibly normative, we cannot believe an error theory about all irreducible normativity. I then explain why I think Olson's objections to this argument fail. I end by (...)
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  • Jonas Olson’s Evidence for Moral Error Theory.Daan Evers - 2016 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4):403-418.
    Jonas Olson defends a moral error theory in (2014). I will first argue that Olson is not justified in believing the error theory as opposed to moral nonnaturalism in his own opinion. I will then argue that Olson is not justified in believing the error theory as opposed to moral contextualism either (although the latter is not a matter of his own opinion).
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  • Further Problems with Projectivism.Thomas Pölzler - 2016 - South African Journal of Philosophy 35 (1):92-102.
    From David Hume onwards, many philosophers have argued that moral thinking is characterized by a tendency to “project” our own mental states onto the world. This metaphor of projection may be understood as involving two empirical claims: the claim that humans experience morality as a realm of objective facts (the experiential hypothesis), and the claim that this moral experience is immediately caused by affective attitudes (the causal hypothesis). Elsewhere I argued in detail against one form of the experiential hypothesis. My (...)
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  • The Mackiean Supervenience Challenge.Victor Moberger - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (1):219-236.
    Non-naturalists about normativity hold that there are instantiable normative properties which are metaphysically discontinuous with natural properties. One of the central challenges to non-naturalism is how to reconcile this discontinuity with the supervenience of the normative on the natural. Drawing on J. L. Mackie’s seminal but highly compressed discussion in Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, this paper argues that the supervenience challenge as usually conceived is merely a symptom of a more fundamental challenge in the vicinity.
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  • Can the Aim of Belief Ground Epistemic Normativity?Charles Côté-Bouchard - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (12):3181-3198.
    For many epistemologists and normativity theorists, epistemic norms necessarily entail normative reasons. Why or in virtue of what do epistemic norms have this necessary normative authority? According to what I call epistemic constitutivism, it is ultimately because belief constitutively aims at truth. In this paper, I examine various versions of the aim of belief thesis and argue that none of them can plausibly ground the normative authority of epistemic norms. I conclude that epistemic constitutivism is not a promising strategy for (...)
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  • Street on Evolution and the Normativity of Epistemic Reasons.Daan Evers - 2015 - Synthese 192 (11):3663-3676.
    Sharon Street argues that realism about epistemic normativity is false. Realists believe there are truths about epistemic reasons that hold independently of the agent’s attitudes. Street argues by dilemma. Either the realist accepts a certain account of the nature of belief, or she does not. If she does, then she cannot consistently accept realism. If she does not, then she has no scientifically credible explanation of the fact that our epistemic behaviours or beliefs about epistemic reasons align with independent normative (...)
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  • Moral Fixed Points and Conceptual Deficiency: Reply to Ingram (2015).Kyriacou Christos - 2017 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 2017 (3):1-9.
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  • Is Irreducible Normativity Impossibly Queer?Teemu Toppinen - 2016 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4):437-460.
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  • On the Defensibility and Believability of Moral Error Theory : Reply to Evers, Streumer, and Toppinen.Jonas Olson - 2016 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4):461-473.
    This article is a response to critical articles by Daan Evers, Bart Streumer, and Teemu Toppinen on my book Moral Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence. I will be concerned with four main topics. I shall first try to illuminate the claim that moral facts are queer, and its role in the argument for moral error theory. In section 2, I discuss the relative merits of moral error theory and moral contextualism. In section 3, I explain why I still find the (...)
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  • Not Just Errors: A New Interpretation of Mackie’s Error Theory.Victor Moberger - 2017 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 5 (3).
    J. L. Mackie famously argued that a commitment to non-existent objective values permeates ordinary moral thought and discourse. According to a standard interpretation, Mackie construed this commitment as a universal and indeed essential feature of moral judgments. In this paper I argue that we should rather ascribe to Mackie a form of semantic pluralism, according to which not all moral judgments involve the commitment to objective values. This interpretation not only makes better sense of what Mackie actually says, but also (...)
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  • Précis of Moral Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence.Jonas Olson - 2016 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4):397-402.
    _ Source: _Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 397 - 402 Moral error theorists and moral realists agree about several disputed metaethical issues. They typically agree that ordinary moral judgments are beliefs and that ordinary moral utterances purport to refer to moral facts. But they disagree on the crucial ontological question of whether there are any moral facts. Moral error theorists hold that there are not and that, as a consequence, ordinary moral beliefs are systematically mistaken and ordinary moral judgments uniformly (...)
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  • The Metaphysics of Reasons.Jonas Olson - 2018 - In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 255-274.
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  • Pain for the Moral Error Theory? A New Companions-in-Guilt Argument.Guy Fletcher - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (3):474-482.
    The moral error theorist claims that moral discourse is irredeemably in error because it is committed to the existence of properties that do not exist. A common response has been to postulate ‘companions in guilt’—forms of discourse that seem safe from error despite sharing the putatively problematic features of moral discourse. The most developed instance of this pairs moral discourse with epistemic discourse. In this paper, I present a new, prudential, companions-in-guilt argument and argue for its superiority over the epistemic (...)
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  • Moral Supervenience.Anandi Hattiangadi - 2018 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (3-4):592-615.
    It is widely held, even among nonnaturalists, that the moral supervenes on the natural. This is to say that for any two metaphysically possible worlds w and w′, and for any entities x in w and y in w′, any isomorphism between x and y that preserves the natural properties preserves the moral properties. In this paper, I put forward a conceivability argument against moral supervenience, assuming non-naturalism. First, I argue that though utilitarianism may be true, and the trolley driver (...)
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  • Gripped by Authority.Terry Horgan & Mark Timmons - 2018 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (3-4):313-336.
    Moral judgments are typically experienced as being categorically authoritative – i.e. as having a prescriptive force that is motivationally gripping independently of both conventional norms and one’s pre-existing desires, and justificationally trumps both conventional norms and one’s pre-existing desires. We argue that this key feature is best accommodated by the meta-ethical position we call ‘cognitivist expressivism’, which construes moral judgments as sui generis psychological states whose distinctive phenomenological character includes categorical authoritativeness. Traditional versions of expressivism cannot easily accommodate the justificationally (...)
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  • Bad News for Moral Error Theorists: There Is No Master Argument Against Companions in Guilt Strategies.Ramon Das - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (1):58-69.
    A ‘companions in guilt’ strategy against moral error theory aims to show that the latter proves too much: if sound, it supports an implausible error-theoretic conclusion in other areas such as epistemic or practical reasoning. Christopher Cowie [2016 Cowie, C. 2016. Good News for Moral Error Theorists: A Master Argument Against Companions in Guilt Strategies, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94/1: 115–30.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®] [Google Scholar]] has recently produced what he claims is a ‘master argument’ against (...)
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  • No, We Cannot.Bart Streumer - 2016 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24 (4):537-546.
    Marianna Bergamaschi Ganapini argues that we can believe the error theory. In this reply, I explain why I still think we cannot.
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  • Why We Can Still Believe the Error Theory.Marianna Bergamaschi Ganapini - 2016 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24 (4):523-536.
    The error theory is a metaethical theory that maintains that normative judgments are beliefs that ascribe normative properties, and that these properties do not exist. In a recent paper, Bart Streumer argues that it is impossible to fully believe the error theory. Surprisingly, he claims that this is not a problem for the error theorist: even if we can’t fully believe the error theory, the good news is that we can still come close to believing the error theory. In this (...)
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  • Good News for Moral Error Theorists: A Master Argument Against Companions in Guilt Strategies.Christopher Cowie - 2016 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (1):115-130.
    Moral error theories are often rejected by appeal to ‘companions in guilt’ arguments. The most popular form of companions in guilt argument takes epistemic reasons for belief as a ‘companion’ and proceeds by analogy. I show that this strategy fails. I claim that the companions in guilt theorist must understand epistemic reasons as evidential support relations if her argument is to be dialectically effective. I then present a dilemma. Either epistemic reasons are evidential support relations or they are not. If (...)
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  • Rule Following, Error Theory and Eliminativism.Alexander Miller - 2015 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 23 (3):323-336.
    In this paper, I argue for three main claims. First, that there are two broad sorts of error theory about a particular region of thought and talk, eliminativist error theories and non-eliminativist error theories. Second, that an error theory about rule following can only be an eliminativist view of rule following, and therefore an eliminativist view of meaning and content on a par with Paul Churchland’s prima facie implausible eliminativism about the propositional attitudes. Third, that despite some superficial appearances to (...)
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  • Review of The Social Psychology of Morality. [REVIEW]Michael Klenk - 2016 - Metapsychology Online 20 (48):1-8.
    If you put chimpanzees from different communities together you can expect mayhem - they are not keen on treating each other nicely. There is closely related species of apes, however, whose members have countless encounters with unrelated specimen on a daily basis and yet almost all get through the day in one piece - that species is us, homo sapiens. But what makes us get along, most of the time? Morality as such is, perhaps surprisingly, not a mainstream research topic (...)
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  • Why We Really Cannot Believe the Error Theory.Bart Streumer - forthcoming - In Diego E. Machuca (ed.), Moral Skepticism: New Essays. Routledge.
    According to the error theory, normative judgments are beliefs that ascribe normative properties, but these properties do not exist. I have argued elsewhere (in "Can We Believe the Error Theory?") that we cannot believe this theory. Several philosophers have replied to this argument. In this chapter, I respond to their replies.
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  • Mahdollisuus.Ilkka Niiniluoto, Tuomas Tahko & Teemu Toppinen (eds.) - 2016 - Helsinki: Philosophical Society of Finland.
    Proceedings of the 2016 "one word" colloquium of the The Philosophical Society of Finland. The word was "Possibility".
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  • Rationalism Vs. Sentimentalism: Reviewing Price's Review.Jonas Olson - 2014 - Philosophical Papers 43 (3):429-445.
    This paper revisits Richard Price’s Review of the Principal Questions in Morals. Price was a defender of rationalism about ethics and he anticipated many views and arguments that became influential as the metaethical and ethical debates evolved over the later centuries. The paper explores and assesses Price’s arguments in favour of rationalism and against sentimentalism, with a view to how they bear on the modern metaethical debate.
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  • Essays in Moral Skepticism, Written by Richard Joyce.Jonas Olson - 2018 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 8 (1):66-71.
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  • Error Theory in Metaethics.Jonas Olson - 2017 - In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics. Routledge. pp. 58-71.
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  • Willing Belief.Mark Schroeder - forthcoming - Brill.
    _ Source: _Page Count 22 In _Unbelievable Errors_, Bart Streumer offers resourceful arguments against each of non-reductive realism, reductive realism, and non-cognitivism, in order to motivate his version of the normative error theory, according to which normative predicates ascribe properties that do not exist. In this contribution, I argue that none of the steps of this master argument succeed, and that Streumer’s arguments leave puzzles about what it means to ascribe a property at all.
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  • The Moral Fixed Points: New Directions for Moral Nonnaturalism.Terence Cuneo & Russ Shafer-Landau - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 171 (3):399-443.
    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 (...)
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  • Are Moral Properties Impossible?Wouter F. Kalf - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (7):1869-1887.
    Perhaps the actual world does not contain moral properties. But might moral properties be impossible because no world, possible or actual, contains them? Two metaethical theories can be argued to entail just that conclusion; viz., emotivism and error theory. This paper works towards the strongest formulation of the emotivist argument for the impossibility of moral properties, but ultimately rejects it. It then uses the reason why the emotivist argument fails to argue that error-theoretic arguments for the impossibility of moral properties (...)
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  • Why Companions in Guilt Arguments Still Work: Reply to Cowie.Ramon Das - forthcoming - Philosophical Quarterly:pqv078.
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  • After Moral Error Theory, After Moral Realism.Stephen Ingram - 2015 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 53 (2):227-248.
    Moral abolitionists recommend that we get rid of moral discourse and moral judgement. At first glance this seems repugnant, but abolitionists think that we have overestimated the practical value of our moral framework and that eliminating it would be in our interests. I argue that abolitionism has a surprising amount going for it. Traditionally, abolitionism has been treated as an option available to moral error theorists. Error theorists say that moral discourse and judgement are committed to the existence of moral (...)
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  • A New Explanatory Challenge for Nonnaturalists.Christopher Cowie - 2014 - Res Philosophica 91 (4):661-679.
    According to some contemporary nonnaturalists about normativity , normative facts exist in an ontologically non-committing sense. These nonnaturalists face an explanatory burden. They must explain their claim that normative facts exist in such a sense. I identify criteria for an adequate explanation, and extract five distinct candidate explanations from the writings of these authors . I assess each. None is both informative and recognizable as a version of contemporary nonnaturalism. In light of this, I assess the best options for proponents (...)
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  • Evolutionary Debunking of Morality: Epistemological or Metaphysical?Ramon Das - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (2):417-435.
    It is widely supposed that evolutionary debunking arguments against morality constitute a type of epistemological objection to our moral beliefs. In particular, the debunking force of such arguments is not supposed to depend on the metaphysical claim that moral facts do not exist. In this paper I argue that this standard epistemological construal of EDAs is highly misleading, if not mistaken. Specifically, I argue that the most widely discussed EDAs all make key and controversial metaphysical claims about the nature of (...)
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  • Parsimony and the Argument From Queerness.Justin Morton & Eric Sampson - 2014 - Res Philosophica 91 (4):609-627.
    In his recent book Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence, Jonas Olson attempts to revive the argument from queerness originally made famous by J.L. Mackie. In this paper, we do three things. First, we eliminate four untenable formulations of the argument. Second, we argue that the most plausible formulation is one that depends crucially upon considerations of parsimony. Finally, we evaluate this formulation of the argument. We conclude that it is unproblematic for proponents of moral non-naturalism—the target of the argument from (...)
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