Moral concepts: From thickness to response-dependence
- Nenad Miščević
- … show all 1 hide
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
The paper examines three tenets of Dancy’s meta-ethics, finds them incompatible, and proposes a response-dependentist (or response-dispositional) solution. The first tenet is the central importance of thick concepts and properties. The second is that such concepts essentially involve response(s) of observers, which Dancy interprets in a way that fits the pattern of context-dependent resultance: thick concepts are well suited for the particularist grounding of moral theory. However, and this is the third tenet, in his earlier paper (1986) Dancy forcefully argues against response-dispositional accounts of moral concepts and properties. The present paper argues that an anti-dispositional view is incompatible with the first two points concerning thick concepts. If thick concepts and properties are paramount and ubiquitous in moral thought and reality, and if they are essentially tied to human responses, then anti-dispositionalism is false. Dancy himself avoids obvious contradiction by characterizing thick items (concepts) differently from the usual characterization of response-dependent items. Actions that satisfy thick concepts do so in virtue of meriting a determinate response. The (non-reductionist) response-dependentist usually puts it slightly differently: such actions satisfy a given moral concepts in virtue of eliciting a merited response. I have argued at length that this tenuous difference in formulation is too weak to support a relevant difference in rebus. If the argument is right, Dancy is implicitly committed to a kind of response-dependentism. Finally, the particularist should embrace thick concepts and properties, and reject anti-dispositionalism. However, this would bring back the analogy with color and other secondary qualities. Since there are ceteris paribus laws governing such properties, the analogy suggests that moral properties might also be best accounted for by a ceteris paribus, or hedged account, a compromise between traditional generalism and the particularism of Dancy’s variety.
- Brower, B. W. (1993), “Dispositional Ethical Realism,” Ethics, 103.
- Cuneo, T. (2001), “Are Moral Qualities Response-dependent?,” Nous, 33:4, 569–591. CrossRef
- Dancy, J. (1993), Moral Reasons. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Dancy, J. (1986), ‘Two Conceptions of Moral Realism’ ASSV suppl. 60 167–.87; repr. in J. Rachels (ed.) (1998), Ethical Theory 1, Oxford: OUP, 227–244.
- Dancy, J. (1996), “In Defense of Thick Concepts,” in Peter A. French, Theodore E. Uehling, Jr., and Howard K. Wettstein (eds.), Moral Concepts, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Volume XX, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, pp. 263–79.
- Dancy, J. (2000), Practical Reality, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- D’Arms, J. D. (forthcoming), “Sensibility Theory and Projectivism,” in Copp, D. (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory, Oxford: OUP.
- Eklund, M. (2004), “What are thick concepts?” available on author’s webpage.
- Hare, R. (1963), Freedom and Reason, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Jackson, F. and Pettit, P. (2002), “Response-dependence without Tears” in Realism and Relativism, Philosophical Issues, 12, pp. 97–117.
- Johnston, M. (1992), “How to Speak of the Colors,” Philosophical Studies, v. 68, no. 3.
- Lance, M. and Little, M. (forthcoming) “Particularism & Anti-Theory,” available at M. Lance’s website.
- Lewis, D. (1989), “The Dispositional Theories of Value,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Suppl. volume, LXII.
- McDowell, (1988), “Values and Secondary Qualities,” first published in 1985 in Honderich, T. (ed.) Morality and Objectivity, London: Routledge, reprinted in McCord, G.S., Essays on Moral Realism, Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press.
- Menzies, P. (ed), (1998), Secondary Qualities Generalized, The Monist, v. 81.
- Miščević, N. (1998), “Apriority and response-dependence” in Menzies, P. (ed.), (1998).
- Peacocke, C. (2004), “Moral Rationalism,” Journal of Philosophy, v. 101, 499–526.
- Pettit, P. and Smith, M. (forthcoming), “External Reasons” in Macdonald, C. and Macdonald, G. (eds.), McDowell and His Critics, Oxford: Blackwell.
- Powell, M. (1997), “Realism or Response-Dependence,” The European Review of Philosophy, v. 3.
- Schiffer, S. (2003), The Things We Mean, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Stroud, B. (1988), “The Study of Human Nature and the Subjectivity of Value,” The Tanner Lectures on Human Value.
- Väyrynen, P., “A Theory of Hedged Moral Principles,” manuscript available on the author’s webpage.
- Wiggins, D. (1987), “A Sensible Subjectivism” in Needs, Values, Truth, Oxford: Blackwell.
- Williams, B. (1985), Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Fontana.
- Moral concepts: From thickness to response-dependence
Volume 21, Issue 1 , pp 3-32
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Springer Netherlands
- Additional Links
- thick concepts
- Nenad Miščević (1)
- Author Affiliations
- 1. Faculty of Education Department of Philosophy, University of Maribor, Koroska 160, 2000, Maribor, Slovenia