Are normative properties descriptive properties?
- 306 Downloads
Some philosophers think that normative properties are identical to descriptive properties. In this paper, I argue that this entails that it is possible to say which descriptive properties normative properties are identical to. I argue that Frank Jackson’s argument to show that this is possible fails, and that the objections to this argument show that it is impossible to say which descriptive properties normative properties are identical to. I conclude that normative properties are not identical to descriptive properties. I then show that if we combine this conclusion with the conclusion of a different argument that Jackson has given to show that there are no irreducibly normative properties, it follows that there are no normative properties at all.
KeywordsMetaethics Normative properties Descriptive properties Naturalism Frank Jackson
For very helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper, I would like to thank Jonathan Dancy, Brian Feltham, Philip Goff, Hallvard Lillehammer, audiences in Reading and Birmingham, and two anonymous referees.
- Boyd, R. (1988). How to be a moral realist. In G. Sayre-McCord (Ed.), Essays on moral realism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Boyd, R. (1995). Postscript: Materialism and realism in metaethics. In P. K. Moser & J. D. Trout (Eds.), Contemporary materialism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Brown, C. (forthcoming). A new and improved supervenience argument for ethical descriptivism. In Shafer-Landau, R. (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 6. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Dancy, J. (1993). Moral reasons. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Horgan, T., & Timmons, M. (1991). New wave moral realism meets moral twin earth. Journal of Philosophical Research, 16, 447–465.Google Scholar
- Horgan, T., & Timmons, M. (2009). Analytical moral functionalism meets moral twin earth. In I. Ravenscroft (Ed.), Minds, ethics, and conditionals. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Jackson, F. (1998). From metaphysics to ethics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Jackson, F. (2000). Reply to Yablo: What do we communicate when we use ethical terms? Philosophical Books, 41, 24–29.Google Scholar
- Jackson, F. (2005). What are cognitivists doing when they do normative ethics? Philosophical Perspectives, 15, 94–106.Google Scholar
- Jackson, F. (2009). Replies to my critics. In I. Ravenscroft (Ed.), Minds, ethics, and conditionals. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Lewis, D. (1970). How to define theoretical terms. Journal of Philosophy 67, 427–446. (Reprinted in D. Lewis, Philosophical Papers, Vol. I, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.)Google Scholar
- Lewis, D. (1989). Dispositional theories of value. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 63, 113–138. (Reprinted in D. Lewis, Papers in Ethics and Social Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.)Google Scholar
- Mackie, J. L. (1977). Ethics: Inventing right and wrong. Harmondsworth, London: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Moore, G. E. (1903). Principia ethica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Scanlon, T. M. (1998). What we owe to each other. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Smith, M. (1994). The moral problem. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Streumer, B. Unpublished 1. Are normative judgements non-cognitive attitudes? Available at http://www.reading.ac.uk/~lds05bs/papers.html.
- Streumer, B. Unpublished 2. Can we believe the error theory? Available at http://www.reading.ac.uk/~lds05bs/papers.html.
- Sturgeon, N. L. (1985). Moral explanations. In D. Copp & D. Zimmerman (Eds.), Morality, reason, and truth. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld.Google Scholar
- Sturgeon, N. L. (2005). Ethical naturalism. In D. Copp (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of ethical theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Suikkanen, J. (2010). Non-naturalism: The Jackson challenge. In R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford studies in metaethics, Vol. 5. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Timmons, M. (1999). Morality without foundations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar