The Dennes Room

Event Detail

Thu Dec 6, 2018
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
Graduate Research Colloquium
Rachel Rudolph (UC Berkeley)
Moral Language and Moral Metaphysics

Metaethicists are concerned with questions both about moral language and moral metaphysics. Do our views on either of these constrain our views on the other? Error theorists such as Mackie hold that realist semantics (the view that our moral discourse commits us to objective value) does not entail realist metaphysics (the view that objective value exists). More recently, Kahane has argued for the possibility of the opposite mismatch, or “reverse theory”: our moral discourse does not commit us to objective value, but it does exist. Just as our discourse can’t guarantee the existence of objective value (i.e. error theory is possible), neither – or so the thought goes – can it banish it from existence (i.e. reverse theory is possible). I bring out the challenges that reverse theory faces on several natural views of the relationship between semantic and metaphysical questions in metaethics, thus arguing that moral language can be relevant to moral metaphysics after all. I will also show how reverse theory is problematic in ways that error theory is not, revealing the asymmetry between these two possible ways moral language and metaphysics may come apart.