Moorean arguments are a popular and powerful way to engage highly revisionary philosophical views, such as nihilism about motion, time, truth, consciousness, causation, and various kinds of skepticism (e.g., external world, other minds, inductive, global). They take, as a premise, a highly plausible first-order claim (e.g., cars move, I ate breakfast before lunch, it’s true that some fish have gills) and conclude from it the falsity of the highly revisionary philosophical thesis. Moorean arguments can be used against nihilists in ethics (...) (error theorists), too. Recently, error theorists have recognized Moorean arguments as a powerful challenge and have tried to meet it. They’ve argued that moral Moorean premises seem highly credible to us, but aren’t, by offering various debunking explanations. These explanations all appeal to higher-order evidence—evidence of error in our reasoning. I argue that drawing attention to higher-order evidence is a welcome contribution from error theorists, but that the higher-order evidence actually counts further against error theoretic arguments—including their debunking explanations—and further in favor of Moorean arguments and the commonsense views they support. Along the way I answer a few prominent objections to Moorean arguments: that they are objectionably question-begging, rely on categorizing some facts as “Moorean Facts”, and that reports of one’s credence in a proposition bears no interesting relation to that proposition’s credibility. (shrink)
One of the deepest and longest-lasting debates in ethics concerns a version of the Euthyphro question: are choiceworthy things choiceworthy because agents have certain attitudes toward them or are they choiceworthy independent of any agents’ attitudes? Reasons internalists, such as Bernard Williams, Michael Smith, Mark Schroeder, Sharon Street, Kate Manne, Julia Markovits, and David Sobel answer in the first way. They think that all of an agent’s normative reasons for action are grounded in facts about that agent’s pro-attitudes (e.g., her (...) desires, valuing states, normative judgments). According to the most popular brand of internalism, idealizing internalism, an agent’s reasons are grounded, not in her actual pro-attitudes, but rather in what her pro-attitudes would be in suitably idealized conditions. Idealizing internalists presuppose that, for any agent with an irrational set of attitudes, there is one uniquely rational set that that agent would have if she were to undergo the relevant idealizing process. I argue that this assumption is false and that it raises two puzzles for idealizing internalism: one about the existence of practical reasons and another about their normative weight. I argue that idealizing internalists have an adequate solution to the first puzzle but not the second. Indeed, when they try to solve the second puzzle, they confront a dilemma. This second puzzle and the associated dilemma thus constitutes a powerful, but so far unnoticed, difficulty for idealizing internalism. (shrink)
Arguments from disagreement against moral realism begin by calling attention to widespread, fundamental moral disagreement among a certain group of people. Then, some skeptical or anti-realist-friendly conclusion is drawn. Chapter 2 proposes that arguments from disagreement share a structure that makes them vulnerable to a single, powerful objection: they self-undermine. For each formulation of the argument from disagreement, at least one of its premises casts doubt either on itself or on one of the other premises. On reflection, this shouldn’t be (...) surprising. These arguments are intended to support very strong metaphysical or epistemological conclusions about morality. They must therefore employ very strong metaphysical or epistemological premises. But, given the pervasiveness of disagreement in philosophy, especially about metaphysics and epistemology, very strong premises are virtually certain to be the subject of widespread, intractable disagreement—precisely the sort of disagreement that proponents of these arguments think undermine moral claims. Thus, these arguments undermine their own premises. If Chapter 2’s argument is sound, it provides realists with a single, unified strategy for responding to any existing or forthcoming arguments from disagreement. (shrink)
In his recent article entitled ‘Can We Believe the Error Theory?’ Bart Streumer argues that it is impossible (for anyone, anywhere) to believe the error theory. This might sound like a problem for the error theory, but Streumer argues that it is not. He argues that the un-believability of the error theory offers a way for error theorists to respond to several objections commonly made against the view. In this paper, we respond to Streumer’s arguments. In particular, in sections 2-4, (...) we offer several objections to Streumer’s argument for the claim that we cannot believe the error theory. In section 5, we argue that even if Streumer establishes that we cannot believe the error theory, this conclusion is not as helpful for error theorists as he takes it to be. (shrink)
In his recent book Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence, Jonas Olson attempts to revive the argument from queerness originally made famous by J.L. Mackie. In this paper, we do three things. First, we eliminate four untenable formulations of the argument. Second, we argue that the most plausible formulation is one that depends crucially upon considerations of parsimony. Finally, we evaluate this formulation of the argument. We conclude that it is unproblematic for proponents of moral non-naturalism—the target of the argument from (...) queerness. (shrink)
We often say that one reason is stronger, or weightier, than another. These are metaphors. What does normative strength or weight really consist in? Scanlon (2014) offers a novel answer to this question. His answer appeals to counterfactuals of various kinds. I argue that appealing to counterfactuals leads to deep problems for his view.
We provide a novel defense of the possibility of level-splitting beliefs and use this defense to show that the steadfast response to peer disagreement is not, as it is often claimed to be, unnecessarily dogmatic. To provide this defense, a neglected form of moral disagreement is analysed. Within the context of this particular kind of moral disagreement, a similarly neglected form of level-splitting belief is identified and then defended from critics of the rationality of level-splitting beliefs. The chapter concludes by (...) showing that proponents of the steadfast response to peer disagreement can adopt this form of level-splitting belief in the context of these moral disagreements while exemplifying intellectual humility, rather than dogmatism. (shrink)
People sometimes knowingly undermine the achievement of their own goals by, e.g., playing the lottery or borrowing from loan sharks. Are these agents acting irrationally? The standard answer is “yes.” But, in a recent award-winning paper, Jennifer Morton argues “no.” On her view, the norms of practical reasoning an agent ought to follow depend on that agent’s resource context (roughly, how rich or poor they are). If Morton is correct, the orthodox view that the same norms of practical rationality apply (...) to all agents needs revision. I argue that Morton’s arguments fail on empirical and philosophical grounds. What’s at stake? If Morton is correct, poverty relief agencies ought to re-design their incentives so resource-scarce agents can rationally respond to them. If I’m correct, resource-scarce agents do act irrationally in the cases under discussion, and we shouldn’t be shy about saying so. Instead of declaring them rational, we should try to understand the causes of their irrational behavior and help them better succeed by their own lights. (shrink)