•  286
    In defense of moral error theory
    In Michael Brady (ed.), New Waves in Metaethics, Palgrave-macmillan. 2011.
    My aim in this essay is largely defensive. I aim to discuss some problems for moral error theory and to offer plausible solutions. A full positive defense of moral error theory would require substantial investigations of rival metaethical views, but that is beyond the scope of this essay. I will, however, try to motivate moral error theory and to clarify its commitments. Moral error theorists typically accept two claims – one conceptual and one ontological – about moral facts. The conceptual cla…Read more
  •  203
    Moral Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence
    Oxford University Press. 2014.
    Jonas Olson presents a critical survey of moral error theory, the view that there are no moral facts and so all moral claims are false. Part I explores the historical context of the debate; Part II assesses J. L. Mackie's famous arguments; Part III defends error theory against challenges and considers its implications for our moral thinking
  •  196
    Buck-passing and the wrong kind of reasons
    Philosophical Quarterly 54 (215). 2004.
    According to T.M. Scanlon's buck-passing account of value, to be valuable is not to possess intrinsic value as a simple and unanalysable property, but rather to have other properties that provide reasons to take up an attitude in favour of their owner or against it. The 'wrong kind of reasons' objection to this view is that we may have reasons to respond for or against something without this having any bearing on its value. The challenge is to explain why such reasons are of the wrong kind. This…Read more
  •  181
    Expressivism and moral certitude
    Philosophical Quarterly 59 (235): 202-215. 2009.
    Michael Smith has recently argued that non-cognitivists are unable to accommodate crucial structural features of moral belief, and in particular that non-cognitivists have trouble accounting for subjects' certitude with respect to their moral beliefs. James Lenman and Michael Ridge have independently constructed 'ecumenical' versions of non-cognitivism, intended to block this objection. We argue that these responses do not work. If ecumenical non-cognitivism, a hybrid view which incorporates bot…Read more
  •  179
    Brentano and the Buck-Passers
    with Sven Danielsson
    Mind 116 (463). 2007.
    According to T. M. Scanlon's 'buck-passing' analysis of value, x is good means that x has properties that provide reasons to take up positive attitudes vis-à-vis x. Some authors have claimed that this idea can be traced back to Franz Brentano, who said in 1889 that the judgement that x is good is the judgement that a positive attitude to x is correct ('richtig'). The most discussed problem in the recent literature on buckpassing is known as the 'wrong kind of reason' problem (the WKR problem): i…Read more
  •  145
    The so-called Wrong Kind of Reason (WKR) problem for Scanlon's account of value has been much discussed recently. In a recent issue of Utilitas Gerald Lang provides a highly useful critique of extant proposed solutions to the WKR problem and suggests a novel solution of his own. In this note I offer a critique of Lang's solution and respond to some criticisms Lang directs at a Brentano-style approach suggested by Sven Danielsson and me
  •  139
    Are desires de dicto fetishistic?
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 45 (1). 2002.
    In The Moral Problem Michael Smith presents what he claims is a decisive argument against moral externalism. Smith's claims that (i) moral externalists are committed to explain the connection between moral beliefs and moral motivation in terms of de dicto desires, and (ii) de dicto desires to perform moral acts amounts to moral fetishism. The argument is spelled out and the difference between desires de dicto and desires de re explained. The tenability of the fetishist argument (as it has been n…Read more
  •  137
    Fitting Attitude Analyses of Value and the Partiality Challenge
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (4): 365-378. 2009.
    According to ‘Fitting Attitude’ (FA) analyses of value, for an object to be valuable is for that object to have properties—other than its being valuable—that make it a fitting object of certain responses. In short, if an object is positively valuable it is fitting to favour it; if an object is negatively valuable it is fitting to disfavour it. There are several variants of FA analyses. Some hold that for an object to be valuable is for it to be such that it ought to be favoured; others hold that…Read more
  •  136
    G. E. Moore on goodness and reasons
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84 (4). 2006.
    Several proponents of the 'buck-passing' account of value have recently attributed to G. E. Moore the implausible view that goodness is reason-providing. I argue that this attribution is unjustified. In addition to its historical significance, the discussion has an important implication for the contemporary value-theoretical debate: the plausible observation that goodness is not reason-providing does not give decisive support to the buck-passing account over its Moorean rivals. The final section…Read more
  •  136
    Projectivism and Error in Hume’s Ethics
    Hume Studies 37 (1): 19-42. 2011.
    This essay argues that while Hume believes both that morality is grounded in our ordinary moral practices, sentiments, and beliefs, and that moral properties are real, he also holds that ordinary moral thinking involves systematically erroneous beliefs about moral properties. These claims, on their face, seem difficult to square with one another but this paper argues that on Hume’s view, they are reconcilable. The reconciliation is effected by making a distinction between Hume’s descriptive meta…Read more
  •  133
    Cognitivism is the view that the primary function of moral judgements is to express beliefs that purport to say how things are; expressivism is the contrasting view that their primary function is to express some desire-like state of mind. I shall consider what I call the freshman objection to expressivism. It is pretty uncontroversial that this objection rests on simple misunderstandings. There are nevertheless interesting metaethical lessons to learn from the fact that the freshman objection is…Read more
  •  126
    What Matters in Metaethics
    Analysis 79 (2): 341-349. 2019.
  •  118
    Moral particularism is commonly presented as an alternative to ‘principle- or rule-based’ approaches to ethics, such as consequentialism or Kantianism. This paper argues that particularists' aversions to consequentialism stem not from a structural feature of consequentialism per se, but from substantial and structural axiological views traditionally associated with consequentialism. Given a particular approach to value, there need be no conflict between moral particularism and consequentialism. …Read more
  •  97
  •  73
    Regimenting Reasons
    Theoria 61 (3): 203-214. 2005.
  •  72
    The Metaphysics of Reasons
    In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity, Oxford University Press. pp. 255-274. 2018.
  •  70
    Intrinsicalism and conditionalism about final value
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 7 (1): 31-52. 2004.
    The paper distinguishes between two rival views about the nature of final value (i.e. the value something has for its own sake) — intrinsicalism and conditionalism. The former view (which is the one adopted by G.E. Moore and several later writers) holds that the final value of any F supervenes solely on features intrinsic to F, while the latter view allows that the final value of F may supervene on features non-intrinsic to F. Conditionalism thus allows the final value of F to vary according to …Read more
  •  68
    This article is a response to critical articles by Daan Evers, Bart Streumer, and Teemu Toppinen on my book Moral Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence. I will be concerned with four main topics. I shall first try to illuminate the claim that moral facts are queer, and its role in the argument for moral error theory. In section 2, I discuss the relative merits of moral error theory and moral contextualism. In section 3, I explain why I still find the queerness argument concerning supervenienc…Read more
  •  66
    The ethics of care and empathy • by M. Slote
    Analysis 69 (1): 190-192. 2009.
    Most moral philosophers who have recently expressed sympathy with feminist or ‘care-based’ perspectives on ethical theory have thought that such perspectives can make valuable contributions to more comprehensive ethical theories. Few have thought that an ethics of care can offer a complete normative theory. However, Michael Slote is one of the ambitious few. In his recent book, The Ethics of Care and Empathy, he seeks to show that a care-based perspective can do a lot of service in first-order m…Read more
  •  60
    Moral and Epistemic Error Theory : The Parity Premise Reconsidered
    In Conor McHugh, Jonathan Way & Daniel Whiting (eds.), Metaepistemology, Oxford University Press. pp. 107-121. 2018.
    Many moral error theorists hold that moral facts are irreducibly normative. They also hold that irreducible normativity is metaphysically queer and conclude that there are no irreducibly normative reasons and consequently no moral facts. A popular response to moral error theory utilizes the so-called ‘companions in guilt’ strategy and argues that if moral reasons are irreducibly normative, then epistemic reasons are too. This is the Parity Premise, on the basis of which critics of moral error th…Read more
  •  55
    Debunking arguments in metaethics are often presented as particularly challenging for non‐naturalistic versions of moral realism. The first aim of this paper is to explore and defend a response on behalf of non‐naturalism. The second aim of the paper is to argue that although non‐naturalism’s response is satisfactory, this does not mean that debunking arguments are metaethically uninteresting. They have a limited and indirect role to play in the exchange between non‐naturalists and moral error t…Read more
  •  55
    Non-Cognitivism and Fundamental Moral Certitude: Reply to Eriksson and Francén Olinder
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (4): 794-799. 2017.
    Accommodating degrees of moral certitude is a serious problem for non-cognitivism about ethics. In particular, non-cognitivism has trouble accommodating fundamental moral certitude. John Eriksson and Ragnar Francén Olinder [2016] have recently proposed a solution. In fact, Eriksson and Francén Olinder offer two different proposals—one ‘classification’ account and one ‘projectivist’ account. We argue that the classification account faces the same problem as previous accounts do, while the project…Read more
  •  54
    Précis of Moral Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4): 397-402. 2016.
    _ Source: _Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 397 - 402 Moral error theorists and moral realists agree about several disputed metaethical issues. They typically agree that ordinary moral judgments are beliefs and that ordinary moral utterances purport to refer to moral facts. But they disagree on the crucial ontological question of whether there are any moral facts. Moral error theorists hold that there are not and that, as a consequence, ordinary moral beliefs are systematically mistaken and ordinary moral…Read more
  •  52
    Skorupski’s Middle Way in Metaethics
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (1): 192-200. 2012.
  •  50
    Rationalism vs. Sentimentalism: Reviewing Price's Review
    Philosophical Papers 43 (3): 429-445. 2014.
    This paper revisits Richard Price’s Review of the Principal Questions in Morals. Price was a defender of rationalism about ethics and he anticipated many views and arguments that became influential as the metaethical and ethical debates evolved over the later centuries. The paper explores and assesses Price’s arguments in favour of rationalism and against sentimentalism, with a view to how they bear on the modern metaethical debate.
  •  47
    The Personal and the Fitting
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 11 (3): 341-352. 2014.
    This paper is a critical notice of a recent significant contribution to the debate about fitting attitudes and value, namely Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen’s Personal Value . In this book, Rønnow-Rasmussen seeks to analyse the notion of personal value—an instance of the notion of good for a person—in terms of fitting attitudes. The paper has three main themes: Rønnow-Rasmussen’s discussion of general problems for fitting attitude analyses; his formulation of the fitting attitude analysis of personal valu…Read more
  •  46
    Against the Being For Account of Normative Certitude
    Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 6 (2): 1-8. 2012.
    Just as we can be more or less certain about empirical matters, we can be more or less certain about normative matters. Recently, it has been argued that this is a challenge for noncognitivism about normativity. Michael Smith presented the challenge in a 2002 paper and James Lenman and Michael Ridge responded independently. Andrew Sepielli has now joined the rescue operation. His basic idea is that noncognitivists should employ the notion of being for to account for normative certitude. We shall…Read more