Moral Skepticism, Fictionalism, and Insulation

In Diego E. Machuca (ed.), Moral Skepticism: New Essays. New York: Routledge. pp. 213-234 (2018)
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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 that morality produces practical benefits, one should continue to make moral utterances and have moral thoughts, while at the same time refraining from asserting such utterances and believing such thoughts. Focusing particularly on Mackie’s skeptical stance, the present essay considers whether the view that first-order moral beliefs are unaffected by moral skepticism is defensible, whether moral fictionalism is compatible with moral insulation, and whether contemporary moral skeptics are in general committed to there being insulation between first- and second-order levels.

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