Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 6, pp 1409–1416 | Cite as

Moral supervenience and distinctness: comments on Dreier

  • Joshua GertEmail author


Jamie Dreier has argued that the supervenience of the moral on the non-moral requires explanation, and that attempts by the non-naturalist to provide it, or to sidestep the issue, have so far failed. These comments on Dreier first examine the notion of distinctness at work in the idea that non-natural properties are distinct from natural ones, pointing out that distinctness cannot be understood in modal terms if supervenience is to be respected. It then suggests that Dreier’s implicit commitment to the existence of infinite Boolean combinations of properties plays a significant role in the challenge to non-naturalism, and that the non-naturalist has some principled reasons for rejecting it. It also suggests that the real problem for non-naturalists isn’t explaining supervenience, but is rather the well-known problem of explaining our capacity to know anything about non-natural properties. That is, if the latter epistemological problem can be solved, the former metaphysical one might well disappear, at least as a distinctive problem for non-naturalist realists about morality.


Supervenience Hume’s Dictum Distinctness Non-naturalism Moral epistemology 



  1. Blackburn, S. (1993). Essays in quasi-realism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Enoch, D. (2011). Taking morality seriously. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Fitzpatrick, W. (2012). Ethical non-naturalism and normative properties. In M. Brady (Ed.), New waves in metaethics (pp. 7–35). London: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  4. Mabrito, R. (2005). Does Shafer-Landau have a problem with supervenience? Philosophical Studies, 126(2), 297–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. McGrath, S. (2018). Moral perception and its rivals. In A. Bergqvist & R. Cowan (Eds.), Evaluative perception (pp. 161–182). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Ridge, M. (2007). Anti-reductionism and supervenience. Journal of Moral Philosophy, 4(3), 330–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Schroeder, M. (2005). Realism and reduction: The quest for robustness. Philosophers’ Imprint, 5(1), 1–18.Google Scholar
  8. Shafer-Landau, R. (2003). Moral realism: A defence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Stoljar, D. (2007). The consequences of intentionalism. Erkenntnis, 66(1/2), 247–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Streumer, B. (2008). Are there irreducibly normative properties? Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 86(4), 537–561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Wilson, J. (2010). What is Hume’s Dictum, and why believe it? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 80(3), 596–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The College of William and MaryWilliamsburgUSA

Personalised recommendations