Metaethics: A Contemporary Introduction by Mark van Roojen

7257c8b9f662f03.jpg Author Mark van Roojen
Isbn 9780415894425
File size 3.7 MB
Year 2015
Pages 337
Language English
File format PDF
Category philosophy


Metaethics Metaethics: A Contemporary Introduction provides a solid foundation in metaethics for advanced undergraduates by introducing a series of puzzles that most metaethical theories address. These puzzles involve moral disagreement, reference, moral epistemology, metaphysics, and moral psychology. From there, author Mark van Roojen discusses the many positions in metaethics that people will take in reaction to these puzzles. Van Roojen asks several essential questions of his readers, namely: What is metaethics? Why study it? How does one discuss metaethics, given its inherently controversial nature? Each chapter closes with questions, both for reading comprehension and for further discussion, and with annotated suggestions for further reading. Mark van Roojen is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nebraska– Lincoln. He works primarily in ethics and metaethics but remains interested in the rest of philosophy. His most widely read papers are on moral rationalism, expressivism, moral psychology, and the semantics of moral terms. Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy Series editor: Paul K Moser, Loyola University of Chicago This innovative, well-structured series is for students who have already done an introductory course in philosophy. Each book introduces a core general subject in contemporary philosophy and offers students an accessible but substantial transition from introductory to higher-level college work in that subject. The series is accessible to non-specialists and each book clearly motivates and expounds the problems and positions introduced. An orientating chapter briefly introduces its topic and reminds readers of any crucial material they need to have retained from a typical introductory course. Considerable attention is given to explaining the central philosophical problems of a subject and the main competing solutions and arguments for those solutions. The primary aim is to educate students in the main problems, positions, and arguments of contemporary philosophy rather than to convince students of a single position. Ancient Philosophy 2nd Edition Christopher Shields Metaphysics 3rd Edition Michael J. Loux Classical Modern Philosophy Jeffrey Tlumak Moral Psychology Valerie Tiberius Continental Philosophy Andrew Cutrofello Philosophy of Art Noël Carroll Epistemology 3rd Edition Robert Audi Philosophy of Biology Alex Rosenberg and Daniel W. McShea Ethics 2nd Edition Harry J. Gensler Philosophy of Economics Julian Reiss Metaethics Mark van Roojen Philosophy of Language 2nd Edition William G. Lycan Philosophy of Mathematics 2nd Edition James Robert Brown Philosophy of Mind 3rd Edition John Heil Philosophy of Perception William Fish Philosophy of Psychology José Luis Bermudez Philosophy of Religion Keith E. Yandell Philosophy of Science 3rd Edition Alex Rosenberg Forthcoming: Bioethics Jason Scott Robert Free Will Michael McKenna and Derk Pereboom Philosophy of Film Aaron Smuts Philosophy of Literature John Gibson Philosophy of Religion 2nd Edition Keith E. Yandell Philosophy of Social Science Mark Risjord Social and Political Philosophy 2nd Edition John Christman Social and Political Philosophy John Christman Virtue Ethics Liezl van Zyl This page intentionally left blank Metaethics A Contemporary Introduction Mark van Roojen First published 2015 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2015 Taylor & Francis The right of Mark van Roojen to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data   Van Roojen, Mark Steven.   Metaethics : a contemporary introduction / Mark van Roojen. — 1 [edition].    pages cm. — (Routledge contemporary introductions to philosophy)  1. Metaethics.  I. Title.   BJ1012.V36 2015  170'.42—dc23  2014046808 ISBN: 978-0-415-89441-8 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-415-89442-5 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-69705-5 (ebk) Typeset in Garamond Pro and Gill Sans by Apex CoVantage, LLC For my metaethics teachers, Gil, Michael, Jamie, and Mark, and for Jenny and Joe, who always come through when needed This page intentionally left blank Contents Acknowledgments 1 A Brief Introduction 1.1. What Metaethics Is 1.2. The Plan of Approach to the Topic 1.3. Charting the Territory 1.4. Why Do Metaethics? 1.5. Some Cautions and Encouragement 2 A Subject Matter for Ethics? 2.1. A Simple Minimally Realist View 2.2. Disagreement According to Minimal Realism 2.3. Disruptive Disagreement and Disruptive Doubt 2.4. Mackie’s Argument From Disagreement 2.5. The Open Question Argument 2.6. Speaker Relativism 2.7. Hare-Style Translation Arguments 2.8. Concluding Summary Questions Reading xiii 1 1 3 4 5 7 9 10 17 18 19 23 31 31 33 34 35 3 Moral Epistemology and the Empirical Underdetermination of Ethical Theory 37 3.1. Empirical Underdetermination 37 3.2. Coherence as the Ultimate Criterion? 40 3.3. Reductive Naturalism 43 3.4. Supervenience 44 3.5. Intuitionism 46 3.6. Does Evolution Undermine Intuitive Knowledge? 48 3.7. Skepticism About the Synthetic A Priori 49 3.8. Inference to the Best Explanation 50 Questions 52 Reading 53 x Contents 4 The Practicality of Morality and the Humean Conception of Reason and Motivation 4.1. Varieties of Internalism 4.2. Motivating Some Important Varieties of Internalism 4.3. Internalism Is In Tension With Other Plausible Claims About Morality Questions Reading Error Theory 5.1. Arguments for Error Theory 5.2. Error Theory and “Nonnegotiable” Commitments 5.3. A Worry About Charity and Some Replies 5.4. Epistemology and Reference 5.5. Error Theorists Owe Us a Theory of Error 5.6. Some Bookkeeping Matters: Error, Truth, Falsity, and Truth-Aptness 5.7. Summary and a Moral Questions Reading 5 6 Simple Subjectivism 6.1. What Simple Subjectivism Has Going for It 6.2. The Costs of the Simple Subjectivist View 6.3. Taking Stock Questions Reading 7 The Cognitivist Heirs of Simple Subjectivism: Ideal Observers and Ideal Agents 7.1. Enlarging the Relevant Group of Subjects Whose Attitudes Matter 7.2. The Strategy of Idealization 7.3. Response Dispositional Theories and the Color Analogy 7.4. Relativist Versus Absolutist Ideal Observer Theories 7.5. Which Attitudes? 7.6. Ideal Agent Theories 7.7. Recap Questions Reading 8 Noncognitivist Heirs of Simple Subjectivism 8.1. Two Negative Claims 8.2. Noncognitivism as Heir to Subjectivism 54 55 59 70 73 73 75 76 85 87 90 92 94 96 96 97 99 101 105 111 114 115 116 117 119 127 134 136 136 138 138 139 141 141 143 Contents xi 8.3. Moral Disagreement 146 8.4. Systematically Extending the Basic Account (the Frege-Geach Problem) 147 8.5. Noncognitivism and the Open Question Argument 157 8.6. Naturalism 158 8.7. Morals/Motives Judgement Internalism as Motivating Noncognitivism 159 8.8. Agent Internalism, Quasi-realism, and Reprehensible Judgements 161 8.9. Responding to the Modal Objection to Subjectivism 166 8.10. Moral Epistemology 167 8.11. A Brief Look Back 172 Questions 174 Reading 174 9 Fictionalism 9.1. Hermeneutic Fictionalism and Error Theory 9.2. Why Accept Hermeneutic Fictionalism? 9.3. Turning the Abstract Strategy Into a Flesh and Bones Model 9.4. Revolutionary Moral Fictionalism 9.5. Objections to Moral Fictionalism 9.6. Summary Questions Reading 176 177 178 10 Externalist Backlash 10.1. Philippa Foot’s Challenges to Noncognitivism and Internalism 10.2. The Paradox of Analysis and the Open Question Argument 10.3. David Brink’s Externalist Arguments Questions Reading 201 11 Scientific Naturalism I: Cornell Realism 11.1. Cornell Realism 11.2. Cornell Realism and Causal Moral Semantics 11.3. Realist Moral Epistemology and Causal Efficacy 11.4. Cornell Realism and Morals/Motives & Morals/ Reasons Externalism 11.5. The Moral Twin-Earth Objection Questions Reading 210 211 212 226 181 190 194 198 199 199 202 205 206 208 209 229 232 235 235 xii Contents 12 Scientific Naturalism II: Moral Functionalism and Network Analyses 237 12.1. Unobvious Analyticity 237 12.2. Defining Theoretical Terms via a Network Analysis 238 12.3. Internalism and Network Analyses 243 12.4. From the Rightness Realizing Role to Metaethical Naturalism244 12.5. The Permutation Problem 246 12.6. Moral Twin-Earth and Network Analyses 247 12.7. Stepping Back a Bit 249 Questions 252 Reading 252 13 Nonnaturalism and Antireductionism 253 13.1. The Just Too Different Motivation 254 13.2. A Pessimistic Induction? 262 13.3. A General Worry About Nonnaturalist Explanation 262 13.4. Explaining Supervenience 264 13.5. Moral Epistemology, Reliability, and the Because Desideratum271 13.6. Internalism 274 13.7. Nonnaturalism, Antireductionism, and Quietism? 275 Questions 276 Reading 276 14 Odds, Ends, and Morals 14.1. From Metaethics to Metanormativity 14.2. Supernaturalism 14.3. Constructivism and Contractualism 14.4. Rationalism and Reasons 14.5. Conclusion Reading Glossary Bibliography Index 279 279 281 286 290 291 291 293 297 305 Acknowledgments I have a number of people to thank. So many that I’m probably forgetting someone. I apologize for that. This book is an attempt to summarize and give shape to a tremendous amount of work by a huge number of people in metaethics. My understanding of that work depends in turn on the understanding of various other people who taught me a lot. Gil Harman, Michael Smith, Jamie Dreier, Mark Schroeder, Mark Kalderon, Mark Johnston, Peter Railton, Frank Jackson, and David Lewis all changed how I think of metaethics. At some points in the book the debts will be obvious, but the less evident debts are just as important. Various readers for the press gave hugely helpful input at several stages, from the first proposal and drafts of several early chapters to comments on a version of the whole manuscript. Most of them remain anonymous to me, but I know that Mark Timmons and Simon Kirchin each gave me tremendously helpful feedback on the early chapters. Tristram McPherson and a second reader gave me generous comments on a completed draft this past summer. Both readers made crucial suggestions that changed the structure of the book in important ways and clarified what I had to say at many points. Tristram’s extremely helpful and sympathetic comments were even more impressive for having been returned only a week after getting the draft. Thanks are due to the UNL philosophy department and to Greg Snow, then of the Arts and Sciences College dean’s office, for a semester-long course reduction while I worked on this and another project. A number of other people read various parts of the manuscript and gave me their helpful reactions at various stages. These include Aaron Elliot, Guy Fletcher, Shane George, Ben Henke, Robert Johnson, Jason Lemmon, Katerina Psaroudaki, Chelsea Richardson, Adam Thompson, and Preston Werner. Jason also kindly proofread the entire first draft. Aaron and Ben were extremely helpful in working on and suggesting options for the charts. In addition, my undergraduate ethical theory class in spring 2013 and my graduate seminar for fall 2013 each read several chapters in the course of the term, and their reactions provided useful feedback. xiv Acknowledgments Conversations (some via e-mail) with a number of people helped me figure things out as I was writing. Aaron Bronfman, John Brunero, Al Casullo, Jonathan Dancy, Julia Driver, Bill FitzPatrick, John Gibbons, Jennifer Haley, Reina Hayaki, David Henderson, Harry Ide, Simon Kirchin, Jennifer McKitrick, Colin McLear, Tristram McPherson, Joe Mendola, Hille Paakkunainen, Sarah Raskoff, Connie Rosati, Mark Schroeder, Daniel Star, Nick Sturgeon, Dan Threet, Mark Timmons, and Pekka Vayrynen served as useful sounding boards and offered helpful advice. My editor, Andrew Beck, was a pleasure to work with. The whole project was his idea, and he cleverly sent me several of the other books in the Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy series to aid in my deliberations. I wound up reading William Lycan’s philosophy of language volume, and it so impressed me that I agreed to try my hand at a metaethics text. Andy’s understanding and encouragement along the way were important to letting me enjoy much of the process despite insecurities and missed deadlines. Joe Mendola and Jennifer Haley read each chapter, sometimes more than once. Their comments saved many a passage from incoherence and helped me figure out what I should be trying to say. They also lent needed perspective. Without their help, this all would have been much more difficult. 1 A Brief Introduction 1.1.  What Metaethics Is When people talk about ethics, they are most often talking about normative ethics.1 That is, they are talking about what is right and wrong, good and bad, valuable or disvaluable. They may have in mind some very specific issue of this sort—whether lying is always wrong, for example. Or they may have something more general in mind—whether right actions always aim at the good. Most of us have considered such issues at one time or another. Metaethics also concerns ethics, but it looks at ethics in an even more general and more reflexive way than we do when we’re thinking only about such normative questions. Rather than focusing on more particular normative issues within ethics—issues about which actions are right or wrong, or which things are valuable or disvaluable, for example—our primary concern will be with some of the most abstract questions regarding ethics in general. You are likely familiar with ‘meta’ as a prefix used to designate topics that involve reflection on the subject named by the term to which it is prefixed.2 So metaethics involves reflecting on the nature of ethics. For instance, some people think that there are no ethical truths, or that all ethical truths are relative to the believer. Metaethics talks about issues like these. As it turns out it will be very hard to say anything uncontroversial about the nature of ethics, and metaethics reflects that difficulty. That’s partly what makes metaethics interesting—a characterization of ethics is one of the things metaethics aims to provide and controversy is inherent in that project. For instance, some people think that ethics has a lot to do with religion, whereas others think there is no special connection between the two. Some think that it involves social conventions; others think conventions have nothing to do with basic ethical matters. It is precisely because there isn’t an obviously correct, uniquely plausible way of picking out ethics and its nature that metaethics is part of philosophy. The topic itself leaves room for the sort of wonder, disagreement, and puzzlement that characterize philosophical topics. This book will start from some puzzles about ethics and from there go on to examine the range of positions in metaethics people wind up advocating as a result of reacting to them. 2  A Brief Introduction Metaethical enquiry arises very naturally out of normative ethical enquiry and isn’t necessarily distinct from it. You likely sometimes disagree with friends about the permissibility of some particular course of action. Sometimes such disagreements are pretty easy to resolve, or at least it is pretty easy to figure out what the two of you would need to know to resolve it. Some debates about health care policy may be like that. Both of you think the issue turns on whether the actions in question make people healthier or unhealthier. If you found out the effects of the law on human health and agreed on what they were, your dispute would be resolved. But other disagreements seem more recalcitrant. It can seem that these disagreements go “all the way down.” And these can very quickly lead to higher order reflection on ethics itself, that is to metaethics. For example, suppose you disagree with someone about the permissibility of legally banning gestation crates for pigs. You and your friend agree on many of the empirical facts. You agree that the crates are roughly 2 foot by 7 foot pens that many large hog farm operations use to house pregnant sows. You agree that they allow sows, who can weigh several hundred pounds, little freedom of movement and that the pens are too small for the sows to turn around in. You both know that many sows spend most of their lives in such pens.3 And neither of you has any doubt that animals feel emotions including pain, discomfort, fear, and unhappiness. Yet one of you thinks it would be wrong to ban such pens as some states have done, whereas the other thinks that morality requires legislation to outlaw the practice. The two of you present each other with arguments, first one way and then the other. You argue that hogs are intelligent animals capable of frustration and depression. Your friend agrees, but argues that our moral obligations don’t extend to species far from our own. Furthermore, your friend suggests, it is wrong of the government to interfere with people’s choices absent serious concerns about the well-being of other humans. The conversation goes on for quite a while. The discussion makes clear that each of you has both a consistent set of moral commitments and a reasonable grasp of the empirical facts about commercial farming, pigs, the pens at issue, farm regulations, and so on. And yet neither party changes her or his mind. Situations like this naturally lead many people to wonder about the nature of morality and our beliefs about it. It might seem that you and your friend have a fundamental disagreement about the nature of morality. Perhaps you are talking past one another because each of you has a different idea of what morality is about. You think it involves the treatment of all living things and your friend thinks ethics is silent on the treatment of animals. Perhaps knowing the true nature of moral obligation, rightness, and wrongness would help you settle the matter. If you each agreed on the subject matter perhaps you could also agree on what relevant evidence would settle the issue. Or perhaps there aren’t further facts about the subject matter of ethics that would help settle matters. Perhaps instead moral rightness is relative to a moral outlook. Insofar as each of you has a different coherent outlook fitting A Brief Introduction  3 with your judgement about gestation crates, maybe your judgements are true—that is true relative to the outlook you each accept. Or perhaps instead it isn’t that these issues are the sorts of issues about which there can be facts of the matter, even relative facts. Maybe what we take to be moral beliefs are really just complex pro or con attitudes themselves incapable of being assessed for correctness. Maybe our moral words just express emotions in the way that ‘boo!’ and ‘hurrah!’ express emotions. Maybe it’s just the fact that these attitudes clash that explains why we can seem to disagree despite the absence of facts to settle the disagreement. When faced with fundamental moral disagreement such thoughts are very natural. They ask us to put ethics itself under the microscope and figure out what it is, how it works, and what it is about. 1.2.  The Plan of Approach to the Topic Comprehensive metaethical theories aim to provide answers to these sort of questions in a consistent and coherent way. This book should provide an overview of the main approaches providing general answers to the question of what ethics is, the reasons at least some people find these approaches plausible, and the difficulties they face. One good way to understand metaethical theories is to see them as offering solutions to puzzles that arise in the course of more abstract reflection on the nature of ethics. Accordingly the first several chapters of this book will rehearse some intuitive ideas that lead to philosophical difficulties. In particular the first three chapters introduce three sets of loosely related puzzles that most metaethical theories will address in one way or another. I should emphasize that the puzzles in each chapter are loosely related to one another. They are grouped together for expository purposes and each of the three chapters discusses more than one kind of worry. There may be some underlying unity to be found, but then again there may not. I’ve talked about the puzzle sets without yet introducing them. I should give a brief summary here—one that the next three chapters fill out. Every well-developed metaethical theory will offer (a) an account of the subject matter of ethics, (b) an explanation of ethical judgement’s practical action-guiding role in people’s lives, and (c) an account of how we can come to know what it is we do know about ethics and morals. Most such theories will structure their account of the subject matter so as to facilitate the latter two explanatory tasks. As it turns out, each of the tasks—explaining the subject matter, explaining the practicality of morality, and explaining how we come to know what we know—is made more difficult by features that seem to be part and parcel of ethical thinking and ethical reality. (1) It is difficult to be confident of the subject matter of ethics and perhaps even to be confident that it has a subject matter because of widespread moral disagreement about many important ethical issues, as well as a lack of consensus about the nature of the subject. (2) It is hard to account for the practicality 4  A Brief Introduction that seems distinctive to ethics without taking on board either relativism about ethics or controversial commitments in the philosophy of mind and action. And (3) it is hard to provide an adequate epistemology of moral knowledge given the ways in which empirical evidence seems to underdetermine normative theory choice. In the next three chapters these issues and related issues in the vicinity will be developed in more detail. From there we’ll survey the range of metaethical positions that result partly or mainly from trying to confront one or more of the puzzles. 1.3.  Charting the Territory Metaethical theories can be taxonomized in various ways and no one typology is best for all purposes. Still it is useful to have some sense of the terrain before embarking on our tour. Accordingly I offer Chart 1.1 as a very rough guide. It classifies standard metaethical positions by the ways in which they answer important theoretical questions over which metaethical theories divide. Since I’m introducing the chart before we’ve discussed any particular position in detail, I don’t expect readers to fully grasp the details of any view on the chart. The chart can help a reader get a rough idea of the alternatives—an idea that will be further filled in as we study the positions in more detail. Hopefully the chart will also come in handy as we delve deeper into the different positions in subsequent chapters. The branching tree structure charted offers one way to think of metaethics. At each node there is some question about which metaethicists disagree, and then below it two or more ways to answer. These then yield subdivisions that can be divided yet further. The resulting positions are labeled with standard names, except for a few for which I have had to come up with the labels. We begin with a divide that is usually marked using the terms ‘cognitivism’ and ‘noncognitivism.’ But what separates the classic variants is actually disagreement about two different questions, one about language and the other about thought. Old-fashioned cognitivists and noncognitivists gave each question the same answer, but recently fictionalists have given a mixed answer. This then generates three branches at the beginning of our taxonomy. From there we get further subdivisions based on yet further questions. I trust the structure will be made relatively clear from the diagram, although the exact nature of each question may remain somewhat unclear until we discuss the variants in subsequent chapters. Chart 1.1 includes a set of claims I am calling “minimal realism.” That’s my term and because the position is minimal few writers would call it a genuinely realist position. I have it on the chart because I use the claims definitive of the position to develop various issues in forthcoming chapters. The positions below it on the chart commit to further things beyond the minimal commitments and thus aren’t as minimal. A Brief Introduction  5 1.4.  Why Do Metaethics? Readers of previous drafts have suggested I address this question—why should you, or anyone, pursue metaethics even for a semester? Typically when someone asks for a reason to do something they’re asking for an answer that shows the enquirer how, from her own point of view, she has a reason to do whatever she’s asking about. And typically there are two sorts of answers we can give to this sort of question. (1) The subject matter could be intrinsically worth pursuing regardless of how it connected with other

Author Mark van Roojen Isbn 9780415894425 File size 3.7 MB Year 2015 Pages 337 Language English File format PDF Category Philosophy Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Metaethics: A Contemporary Introduction provides a solid foundation in metaethics for advanced undergraduates by introducing a series of puzzles that most metaethical theories address. These puzzles involve moral disagreement, reference, moral epistemology, metaphysics, and moral psychology. From there, author Mark van Roojen discusses the many positions in metaethics that people will take in reaction to these puzzles. Van Roojen asks several essential questions of his readers, namely: What is metaethics? Why study it? How does one discuss metaethics, given its inherently controversial nature? Each chapter closes with questions, both for reading comprehension and further discussion, and annotated suggestions for further reading.     Download (3.7 MB) Oxford Studies In Agency And Responsibility, Volume 1 Philosophy and the Foundations of Dynamics Ontology and the Ambitions of Metaphysics Modality and Tense: Philosophical Papers Metaphysics: The Big Questions Load more posts

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