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Why Moral Paradoxes Support Error Theory

Cowie, Christopher (2022) 'Why Moral Paradoxes Support Error Theory.', The Journal of Philosophy .


The aim of this article is to present a somewhat pessimistic picture of what moral reasoning can hope to achieve, and to draw a striking metaethical conclusion from it. The pessimistic picture emerges from the various puzzles, paradoxes and impossibility results that contemporary moral philosophers struggle with; for example, the axiological paradoxes first developed by Parfit. These puzzles and paradoxes show that some troublingly counterintuitive moral claims must be true. Indeed rather a lot of them must be true. The striking metaethical conclusion is that this allows for a new and effective defence of moral error theory. Moral error theory is often thought to be problematic because of its counter-intuitive and troubling consequences for our ordinary ‘first order’ moral judgment. But the ubiquity of puzzles, paradoxes and impossibility results in ordinary moral philosophy shows that this is everybody’s problem. And indeed, there is a sense in which the problem is worse for the opponents of error theory than for error theory.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Date accepted:20 July 2022
Date deposited:21 July 2022
Date of first online publication:2022
Date first made open access:No date available

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