Moorean Arguments Against the Error Theory: A Defense

Oxford Studies in Metaethics (forthcoming)
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Moorean arguments are a popular and powerful way to engage highly revisionary philosophical views, such as nihilism about motion, time, truth, consciousness, causation, and various kinds of skepticism (e.g., external world, other minds, inductive, global). They take, as a premise, a highly plausible first-order claim (e.g., cars move, I ate breakfast before lunch, it’s true that some fish have gills) and conclude from it the falsity of the highly revisionary philosophical thesis. Moorean arguments can be used against nihilists in ethics (error theorists), too. Recently, error theorists have recognized Moorean arguments as a powerful challenge and have tried to meet it. They’ve argued that moral Moorean premises seem highly credible to us, but aren’t, by offering various debunking explanations. These explanations all appeal to higher-order evidence—evidence of error in our reasoning. I argue that drawing attention to higher-order evidence is a welcome contribution from error theorists, but that the higher-order evidence actually counts further against error theoretic arguments—including their debunking explanations—and further in favor of Moorean arguments and the commonsense views they support. Along the way I answer a few prominent objections to Moorean arguments: that they are objectionably question-begging, rely on categorizing some facts as “Moorean Facts”, and that reports of one’s credence in a proposition bears no interesting relation to that proposition’s credibility.

Author Profiles

Eric Sampson
University of North Texas
Eric Sampson
Purdue University


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