Metaethics: Keys Terms and Arguments

Taxonomy of Meta-Ethical Theories

Q1. Do moral claims state facts?

A. No (non-cognitivism)

i. Emotivism

ii. Expressivism

B. Yes (cognitivism)

Q2. Are some moral claims true?

i. No (nihilism)

a. Error Theory

ii. Yes

Q3. Are some moral claims objective?

a. No

i. Subjectivism (relativism)

ii. Constructivism

b. Yes (realism)

Q4. Are moral facts natural?

i. No (non-naturalism)

ii. Yes (naturalism)

Moral Realism

A. Moral judgments are beliefs that are meant to describe the way things really are.

B. Some of these beliefs are true.

C. Moral judgments are made true in some way other than by attitudes taken toward them by any actual or idealized agent.

Moral Rationalism = moral obligations entail reasons for action.

Humean theory of motivation

A. Beliefs and desires are distinct and do not entail one another.

B. Desires are necessary for motivation.

C. Beliefs are never sufficient for motivation.

Argument for Realism based on Philosophy

1. Ethics is a species of philosophy.

2. A species inherits the essential features of its genus.

3. One essential feature of philosophy is the realistic status of its truths.

4. Therefore moral realism is true.

Reasons Internalist Argument

1. Reasons Internalism is true: reasons must be capable of motivating for those for whom they are reasons.

2. Desires are required for motivation. (motivational Humeanism)

3. Moral obligations apply to agents independently of their desires.

4. Therefore Moral Rationalism is false.

Rational Egoist Argument

1. Rational egoism is true.

2. Ethical egoism is false.

3. Therefore Moral Rationalism is false.

Non-Cognitivist Argument

1. Necessarily, if one sincerely judges an action right, then one is motivated to some extent to act in accordance with that judgment.

(Motivational Judgment Internalism)

2. When taken by themselves, beliefs neither motivate nor generate any motivationally efficacious states.

(Motivational Humeanism)

3. Therefore moral judgments are not beliefs.

(Moral Non-Cognitivism)

Argument from Direction of Fit

1. Having motivating reasons is, inter alia, having a goal.

2. Having a goal is being in a state with which the world must fit.

3. Being in a state with which the world must fit is desiring.

4. Therefore, having a motivating reason is, inter alia, desiring.

Argument from Relativity

1. Moral disagreement is far greater than disagreement in the sciences.

2. Moral variation is best explained by the error theory and scientific agreement by scientific realism.

Argument from Queerness

1. If there are genuine moral requirements, then they must be intrinsically motivating and intrinsically reason giving.

2. Nothing is either intrinsically motivating or intrinsically reason giving.

3. Therefore, there are no genuine moral requirements.

The Argument from Extrinsic Reasons

1. If Moral Rationalism is true, then moral facts are intrinsically reason-giving.

2. There are no intrinsically reason-giving facts.

3. Therefore Moral Rationalism is false.

Causal Inefficacy Argument

1. If something exists and is best construed realistically, it must possess causal powers.

2. Moral facts possess no independent causal powers.

3. Therefore, moral facts don't exist, or their existence is not best construed realistically.

The Moral Problem (Desire Dependence Argument)

1. Moral Rationalism - moral obligations entail reasons for action.

2. Reasons Internalism - reasons must be capable of motivating for those for whom they are reasons.

3. Motivational Humeanism - desires are necessary for motivation.

4. One can only be obligated to do what one desires.

O = obligation; R = reason; M = motivation; D = desire

1. O --> R

2. R --> M

3. M --> D

4. O --> D