Reactionary Moral Fictionalism

Philosophia 48 (2):519-534 (2020)
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There is a debate among moral error theorists. It concerns what is to be done with moral discourse once it is believed to be systematically false or untrue. It has been called the ‘now what’ problem. Should error theorists abolish morality or insulate themselves in some way from this nihilistic consequence of belief in error theory? Assertive moral abolitionism aims to have error theorists avoid any insulation and abolish morality altogether. Revolutionary moral fictionalism aims for insulation by having error theorists start treating morality as a useful fiction. There are certain problems with assertive moral abolitionism and revolutionary moral fictionalism, however. This paper argues for a hybrid view that combines the best parts of both views. I call this position ‘reactionary moral fictionalism.’ It says it might be wise for certain individual error theorists to abolish morality in most cases, but remain quiet about their abolition. It also says that these error theorists should use morality as a fiction in those situations where it would be practically detrimental not to use moral discourse. In such situations, the error theorist should employ moral fictionalism. A fictionalist approach should thus be used only as a passive reaction to contexts where it cannot be avoided. The advice offered to certain individual error theorists by reactionary moral fictionalism is thus ‘abolish morality when one can, but use morality as a fiction when one has to.’ It is argued that this solution to the ‘now what’ problem offers superior therapeutic benefits for these individuals and could possibly serve as a compromise between assertive moral abolitionism and revolutionary moral fictionalism.



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Jason Dockstader
University College, Cork

Citations of this work

The Goal Problem in the 'Now What' Problem.Xinkan Zhao - 2022 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 21 (3).
A defence of the evolutionary debunking argument.Man Him Ip - 2021 - Dissertation, University of Birmingham

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References found in this work

The Myth of Morality.Richard Joyce - 2001 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Moral Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence.Jonas Olson - 2014 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Moral Grandstanding.Justin Tosi & Brandon Warmke - 2016 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 44 (3):197-217.
The Myth of Morality.Hallvard Lillehammer - 2004 - Mind 113 (452):760-763.

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