Error Theory Exam Questions

  • Created by: Elena.S
  • Created on: 27-03-17 11:30

What is error theory? (3)

  • key philosopher: Mackie
  • cognitive anti-realism
  • ethical language rests on mistake (making objective claims about moral reality when moral reality doesn't exist)
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Mackie's objective claims (5)

1) something we know

2) true or false

3) its truth is independent of what we want/choose

4) about something mind-independent

5) about something that is part of the "fabric of the world" (something that actually exists)

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Defence of error theory (5) (1/2)

  • ethical language isn't objective
  • mistake is systematic due to asserting claims that can be true/false but are always false bc they don't exist

1) argument from relativity

  • moral relativism: moral values vary between people, cultures etc
  • variation explained by moral codes reflecting different life experiences > different perceptions of objective moral values

2) argument from queerness

  • Mackie: moral realism demands strong + unfeasible commitments to ontology (what kind of things exist in world) + epistemology (how we come to know things)
  • moral realists have to justify existence of queer/odd properties + undefinable moral sense
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Defence of error theory (5) (2/2)

2a) epistemological queerness

  • Mackie: intuitionist claims/reason/perception are unacceptable bc they don't explain moral knowledge
  • what is connection between natural + moral properties i.e "it's cruel to torture animals" + "torturing animals is cruel ∴ wrong"? (Undeducible + synthetic)
  • better to argue no objective property of wrongness + moral judgements as subjective reactions to certain actions + situations

2b) metaphysical queerness

  • if moral properties existed, they would have to be v different from anything else in universe (rests on connection between morality + motivation - moral judgements are motivating)
  • ∴ if moral properties exist then knowing good + bad is enough to motivate us to act in certain ways + "goodness" would have to contain "to-be-pursuedness"
  • how can objective properties motivate? Is there a definite relation between some fact of world + desires?)
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Behaviour in accordance with moral values (5)

  • psychological explanation
  • social arrangements make us internally create moral code that we protect out onto world as if they were true
  • ∴ we treat projections as if they were objectively real
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Criticisms (12)

  • why should we suppose moral properties should be like anything else in world?
  • are psychological states "part of fabric of world"? They exist but are mind-independent so perhaps moral facts are facts about minds ∴ not queer at all
  • Kant: intellect + wills are rational + built in + potential for argument that whether actions have properties of being wrong/right depends upon facts about rational mind (can they universalise it?) - what makes it true/false is rationality as property of mind
  • Mill: experiences give evidence of what is good (desirable) and ∴ no epistemological difficulty in discovering moral properties
  • Mill: if we say goodness = happiness, no metaphysical queerness bc it's natural
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