Årgång 10, Nr 1, 2023
This is a special issue
of Filosofiska Notiser. Most of the papers are on metaethics,
but the issue also includes some papers on other topics. More
articles will be added later.
Metaethics and the Limits of Philosophy
This paper is an investigation of the forces and commitments which
drive disagreement between different metaethical affiliations; an
investigation we might characterize as meta-metaethics. Various
prominent theorists are sorted into one or another of three meta-metaethical
camps. This sorting reveals that many instances of metaethical dispute
involve theorists talking past one another, and that many theorists
who might share a metaethical affiliation actually have more in
common methodologically with their opponents than with their compatriots.
The diversity of meta-metaethical conceptions is juxtaposed with
the ongoing debate concerning Archimedean points in moral
theory, and is also shown to be a new version of the general problem
of the criterion. Resources from both those debates are then
requisitioned to argue for a particular way of adjudicating between
competing metaethical theories.
Normative Judgments, Motivation, and Evolution
This paper first outlines a new taxonomy of different views concerning
the relationship between normative judgments and motivation. In
this taxonomy, according to the Type A views, a positive normative
judgment concerning an action consists at least in part of motivation
to do that action. According to the Type B views, motivation is
never a constituent of a positive normative judgment even if such
judgments have, due to the kind of states they are, a causal power
to produce motivation in an agent. Finally, according to the Type
C views, a normative judgment can produce motivation only with the
help of a third mental state or a distinct substantial local disposition.
This paper then outlines a novel evolutionary argument for the Type
B views. If we assume that normative judgments’ ability to shape
our motivations enabled efficient planning and co-operation, the
psychological mechanism responsible for this adaptation should be
understood as a proximal mechanism. This paper argues that it is
then more likely that we evolved to make normative judgments that
have direct causal powers to influence our motivations because such
Type B mechanisms are more reliable than the Type C mechanisms.
It also suggests that the Type A views are either empirically false
or collapse into the Type B views.
Meta-Ethics and Phenomenology
Does moral experience support Axiological Realism?
I argue that axiological realism (there are objective values in
ethics, aesthetics, and epistemology) receives prima facie evidential
support from experience. This is routinely overlooked by advocates
of the desire-preference account of value. I propose that in the
absence of defeaters, phenomenology makes axiological realism more
reasonable than its denial. Moreover, I contend that moral disagreements
do not count as evidence against axiological realism.
The Self-Made Person: Myth, Reality, and Promise
Many of us think we are self-made. Some of us may be, but only qualifiedly.
We do not make ourselves directly or from whole cloth. Each of us
is shaped by myriad genetic, familial, cultural, and governmental
forces. These forces do not eliminate self-control. They do, though,
limit some options, expand others, and make achieving still others
more or less difficult. Understanding these forces’ scope identifies
constraints on our self-making, shows why we are indebted to people
who enrich(ed) our lives, and informs and elevates control we do
have. This knowledge empowers us to be morally more re-sponsible
agents—ones who improve others’ lives, frequently by employing,
supporting, and enhancing vital governmental institutions.
Double Troubles for Sidgwick’s Dualism of Practical Reason
In The Point of View of the Universe, Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek
and Peter Singer attempt to resolve Henry Sidgwick’s ‘Dualism of
Practical Reason’ between the rationality of egoism and the rationality
of universal benevolence by undermining the former. I argue that,
according to their interpretation at least, this dualism involves
two troublesome steps: from egoism to impartial-ity and from impartiality
to universal benevolence. I try to show that their attempt to undermine
the rationality of egoism fails but go on to sketch another way
of undermining it and establish an impartiality or universaliz-ability
that is arguably enshrined in the concept of morality. In contrast,
the obstacles to the step from impartiality or universalizability
to universal benevolence – to which de Lazari-Radek and Singer pay
too scant attention – seem insurmountable. Questions about their
hedonist conception of well-being are also raised.
Detaching Betterness From Value
This paper discusses whether, as a matter of logic, better-than
relations require value-bearing relata. Must an x that is better
than y be in any sense good (or, where x is less disvaluable than
y, bad?) Examples I provide suggest the contrary—that it is possible
for something to be better than something else without having any
sort of value (other than betterness). Several reasons for being
suspicious of this notion of better-than are considered and questioned.
Alexander Miller and Seth
A Note on Error Theory and the Refined Moral Problem
In this paper, we argue that “The Moral Problem” identified by Michael
Smith in his book of that name as “the central organizing problem”
of metaethics needs to be refined in order to accommodate moral
error theories (in the style of J.L. Mackie), and we suggest a refinement
that allows it to do this. We conclude by drawing out some consequences
for the formulation of internalism about moral motivation.
Thomas L. Carson
Axiological Realism, Axiological Objectivism, and Moral Experience:
A Reply to Taliaferro
I argue that 1. moral experience is not evidence for the truth of
axiological realism as I define it, 2. because Taliaferro and I
give different definitions of axiological realism, he criticizes
me for views that I don’t hold, and 3. Taliaferro’s discussion of
moral disagreement can’t account for disagreements in which people
wield radically different moral concepts.
What Thrasymachus Should Have Said
In the Republic Thrasymachus argues that ‘justice is the
advantage of the stronger’, that is, that the laws and conventions
governing a society support the interests of the rulers or the ruling
class. Hence acting justly – obeying those laws and customs of one's
society in one's dealings with other people – is not necessarily,
not usually or maybe not even ever in an agent’s best interests.
This is a problem for Plato who wants to prove that it necessarily
pays to be just (though as the Republic unfolds, he turns out to
have a rather rarefied conception of self-interest as well as a
rather rarefied conception of justice). So his spokesman, Socrates,
leads Thrasymachus into a trap. Suppose (as surely happens from
time to time) the rulers make a mistake and enact laws (or foster
customs) that are not in their best interests. In that case justice
won’t be to ‘the advantage of the stronger’ and their subjects’
acting justly won’t be in the rulers’ best interests. Clitophon
offers Thrasymachus a lifeline. Perhaps justice is what the stronger
think is in their interests. But Thrasymachus won’t have
a bar of it. If a ruler makes a law or issues an order that is not
in his interests, he thereby ceases to be a real ruler. So justice
is always to the advantage of the stronger, since if it isn’t, the
stronger cease to be strong. This is both decidedly silly and gets
him into a lot of dialectical trouble. I suggest on Thrasymachus’
behalf a Darwinian response which entails that justice is usually
or at least often to ‘the advantage of the stronger’. This
in turn entails that it does not necessarily pay to be just, which
negates Plato’s desired conclusion. Indeed, for many people it pays
better to be relativisitically unjust, that is not
to have a settled commitment to obeying the norms of one’s society.
My reconstructed Thrasymachus will be less of a proto-fascist and
more of a radical democrat than Plato’s Thrasymachus appears to
Mark van Roojen
It is widely agreed that nonnaturalists incur a burden to explain
how it is that the normative or moral must supervene on the nonnormative
or nonmoral. This paper argues that every metaethical theory, including
naturalist theories, must carry that burden in one way or another.
Along the way it notes some troubles for making the naturalism/nonnaturalism
distinction precise and relatedly for formulating the supervenience
thesis to be explained. It then explores naturalistic options for
explaining supervenience, suggests that some of these are better
than others, and argues that parallel nonnaturalist theories can
generate parallel explanations to those offered by naturalists.