Can We Defend Normative Error Theory?

European Journal of Analytic Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Normative error theorists aim to defend an error theory which says that normative judgments ascribe normative properties, and such properties, including reasons for belief, are never instantiated. Many philosophers have raised objections to defending a theory which entails that we cannot have reason to believe it. Spencer Case objects that error theorists simply cannot avoid self-defeat. Alternatively, Bart Streumer argues that we cannot believe normative error theory but that, surprisingly, this helps its advocates defend it against these objections. I think that if Streumer's argument is successful, it provides error theorists an escape from Case's self-defeat objection. However, I build upon and improve Case’s argument to show that we could never even successfully defend normative error theory whether we can believe it or not. So, self-defeat remains. I close by offering some reasons for thinking our inability to defend normative error theory means that we should reject it, which, in turn, would mean that it's false.

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Joshua Taccolini
Saint Louis University


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