Moral Judgments, Cognitivism and the Dispositional Nature of Belief: Why Moral Peer Intransigence is Intelligible

Philosophia 49 (4):1753-1766 (2021)


Richard Rowland has recently argued that considerations based on moral disagreement between epistemic peers give us reason to think that cognitivism about moral judgments, i.e., the thesis that moral judgments are beliefs, is false. The novelty of Rowland’s argument is to tweak the problem descriptively, i.e., not focusing on what one ought to do, but on what disputants actually do in the light of peer disagreement. The basic idea is that moral peer disagreement is intelligible. However, if moral judgments were beliefs, and beliefs track perceived evidence, then moral peer disagreement would not be intelligible. Hence, moral judgments are not beliefs. The argument is both novel and interesting, but this paper argues that it fails to establish the conclusion. Beliefs are plausibly analyzed as constituted by dispositions to respond to what is perceived as evidence, but dispositions can always be interfered with. Provided a background explanation of why the disposition is not manifested, peer intransigence is quite intelligible.

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Author Profiles

John Eriksson
University of Gothenburg
Marco Tiozzo
University of Gothenburg

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The Moral Problem.Michael Smith (ed.) - 1994 - Wiley.
Higher‐Order Evidence and the Limits of Defeat.Maria Lasonen-Aarnio - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (2):314-345.
Higher Order Evidence.David Christensen - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (1):185-215.

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