This paper defends moral realism against Sharon Street’s “Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value” (this journal, 2006). I argue by separation of cases: From the assumption that a certain normative claim is true, I argue that the first horn of the dilemma is tenable for realists. Then, from the assumption that the same normative claim is false, I argue that the second horn is tenable. Either way, then, the Darwinian dilemma does not add anything to realists’ epistemic worries.
On the traditional approach to metaethics, theories are expected to be faithful to ordinary normative discourse – or at worst (if we think the ordinary discourse is metaphysically unsound) to deviate from it as little as possible. -/- This paper develops an alternative, “conceptual engineering” approach to metaethical enquiry, which is not in this way restricted by our present discourse. On this approach, we will seek to understand the psychology, semantics, metaphysics and epistemology, not just of our present concepts, but (...) also of other possible normative concepts. The ultimate point of the enquiry is to choose between the available alternatives: to decide what kinds of normative concepts to use, going forward. -/- The paper aims to make this suggestion precise, in a way that a) answers worries about circularity, b) answers worries about “changing the subject”, c) retains metaethics as a truth-seeking enquiry, and d) leads to an independently plausible methodology. (shrink)
The article defends a mild form of pessimism about moral deference, by arguing that deference is incompatible with authentic interaction, that is, acting in a way that communicates our own normative judgment. The point of such interaction is ultimately that it allows us to get to know and engage one another. This vindication of our intuitive resistance to moral deference is upheld, in a certain range of cases, against David Enoch’s recent objection to views that motivate pessimism by appealing to (...) moral autonomy or understanding. Enoch is right to point out that the value of autonomy or understanding cannot provide reason not to defer, if deferring would reduce the risk of treating others wrongly. But in the kind of case where we would want other people to act authentically towards us, even at the cost of a greater risk of wrongdoing, we should do the same towards them. (shrink)
This article seeks to cause trouble for a brand of consequentialism known as ‘desertarianism’. In somewhat different ways, views of this kind evaluate outcomes more favourably, other things equal, the better the fit between the welfare different people enjoy and the welfare they each deserve. These views imply that we can improve outcomes by redistributing welfare to fit desert, which seems plausible enough. Unfortunately, they also imply that we can improve outcomes by redistributing desert to fit welfare: in other words, (...) by making happy people more deserving, at the cost of making unhappy people less deserving. Extant versions of desertarianism predict that such ‘deservingness transfers’ are improvements and that we ought to carry them out. Even worse, they will sometimes rank deservingness transfers higher than simply benefitting deserving people who are poorly off. (shrink)