Moral error theory is the doctrine that our first-order moral commitments are pervaded by systematic error. It has been objected that this makes the error theory itself a position in first-order moral theory that should be judged by the standards of competing first-order moral theories :87–139, 1996) and Kramer. Kramer: “the objectivity of ethics is itself an ethical matter that rests primarily on ethical considerations. It is not something that can adequately be contested or confirmed through non-ethical reasoning” [2009, 1]). (...) This paper shows that error theorists can resist this charge if they adopt a particular understanding of the presuppositions of moral discourse. (shrink)
This paper defends views like rule consequentialism by distinguishing between two sorts of ideal world objections. It aims to show that one of those sorts of objections is question-begging. Its success would open up a path forward for such views.
Hybrid metaethical theories have significant promise; they would have important upshots if they were true. But they also face severe problems. The problems are severe enough to make many philosophers doubt that they could be true. My ambition is to show that the problems are just instances of a highly general problem: a problem about what are sometimes called ‘intensional anaphora'. I'll also show that any adequate explanation of intensional anaphora immediately solves all the problems for the hybrid theorist. We (...) should regard hybrid tools as among the most legitimate tools in our toolkit—at least when we use them properly. (shrink)
I introduce a new formulation of rule consequentialism, defended as an improvement on traditional formulations. My new formulation cleanly avoids what Parfit calls “ideal world” objections. I suggest that those objections arise because traditional formulations incorporate counterfactual comparisons about how things could go differently. My new formulation eliminates those counterfactual comparisons. Part of the interest of the new formulation is as a model of how to reformulate structurally similar views, including various kinds of contractualism.
This paper develops an argument that, if rule consequentialism is true, it’s not possible to defend it as the outcome of reflective equilibrium. Ordinary agents like you and me are ignorant of too many empirical facts. Our ignorance is a defeater for our moral intuitions. Even worse, there aren’t enough undefeated intuitions left to defend rule consequentialism. The problem I’ll describe won’t be specific to rule consequentialists, but it will be especially sharp for them.
Aristotle and Aquinas may have held that the things we believe and assert can have different truth-values at different times. Stoic logicians did; they held that there were “vacillating assertibles”—assertibles that are sometimes true and sometimes false. Frege and Russell endorsed the now widely accepted alternative, where the propositions believed and asserted are always specific with respect to time. This paper brings a new perspective to this question. We want to figure out what sorts of propositions speakers believe. Some philosophers (...) have argued that we must take agents to believe temporalist propositions—propositions that are inspecific with respect to time—if we’re to explain the agent’s own thoughts and inferences. I’ll explore another strategy. I’ll focus on our ability to think and reason about the beliefs that other people have. I’ll suggest that an adequate account of that ability requires that we take others to believe some temporalist propositions. I also ask whether all propositions can be specific with respect to worlds, and close by exploring some general issues. (shrink)