After Moral Error Theory, After Moral Realism

Southern Journal of Philosophy 53 (2):227-248 (2015)
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Abstract
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 properties, and that no such properties exist. After error theory is established, abolitionism is one potential way to proceed. However, many error theorists suggest that we retain moral discourse as a sort of fiction. I evaluate some attractions of both fictionalism and abolitionism, arguing that abolitionism is a plausible position. No one doubts that error theorists can be abolitionists. However, what has gone largely undiscussed is that it is open to others to be abolitionists as well. I argue that moral realists of a metaphysically robust sort can and perhaps should be abolitionists. ‘Realist abolitionism’ makes for a surprisingly neat theoretical package, and I conclude that it represents an interesting new option in the theoretical landscape
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