Why Response-Dependence Theories of Morality are False

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 6 (3):275-294 (2003)
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Abstract

Many response-dependence theorists equate moral truth with the generation of some affective psychological response: what makes this action wrong, as opposed to right, is that it would cause (or merit) affective response of type R (perhaps under ideal conditions). Since our affective nature is purely contingent, and not necessarily shared by all rational creatures (or even by all humans), response-dependence threatens to lead to relativism. In this paper, I will argue that emotional responses and moral features do not align in the way predicted by the response-dependence theorist who wishes to tie morality to emotional affect. I further argue that since response-dependence accounts that tie morality to any sort of affect (be it an emotion, a desire, a desire to desire, or so on) cannot explain the objectivity and universality of morality; and since we do not need a psychological response to play a truth-constituting role in morality in order to explain the normativity or content of morality, we should reject such response-dependence accounts

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Jeremy Koons
Georgetown University

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