The belief problem for moral error theory

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 66 (4):492-513 (2023)
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Abstract

Moral error theorists think that moral judgments such as ‘stealing is morally wrong’ express truth-apt beliefs that ascribe moral properties to objects and actions. They also think that moral properties are not instantiated. Since moral error theorists think that moral judgments can only be true if they correctly describe moral properties, they think that no moral judgment is true. The belief problem for moral error theory is that this theory is inconsistent with every plausible theory of belief. I argue that moral error theorists can solve the belief problem. My argument is twofold. First, the belief problem rests on a false presupposition about how moral error theorists reason over time. Once we get clear on how would-be error theorists in fact reason towards the error theory and how, once they are error theorists, they subsequently reason about what they should do with their erroneous moral thought and talk, the belief problem evaporates. Second, even if my first argument fails and error theorists do face the belief problem, then we can still identify a plausible theory of belief that is consistent with moral error theory.

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Author's Profile

Wouter Kalf
Leiden University

References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
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Moral Error Theory.Wouter Floris Kalf - 2018 - Londen, Verenigd Koninkrijk: Palgrave Macmillan.
The error in the error theory.Stephen Finlay - 2008 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (3):347-369.
Direction of fit.I. Lloyd Humberstone - 1992 - Mind 101 (401):59-83.

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