Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 6, pp 1453–1471 | Cite as

Attributing error without taking a stand

  • Caleb PerlEmail author
  • Mark Schroeder


Moral error theory is the doctrine that our first-order moral commitments are pervaded by systematic error. It has been objected that this makes the error theory itself a position in first-order moral theory that should be judged by the standards of competing first-order moral theories (Here we are thinking, for example, of Dworkin (Philos Public Aff 25(2):87–139, 1996) and Kramer (Moral realism as a moral doctrine. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). Kramer: “the objectivity of ethics is itself an ethical matter that rests primarily on ethical considerations. It is not something that can adequately be contested or confirmed through non-ethical reasoning” [2009, 1]). This paper shows that error theorists can resist this charge if they adopt a particular understanding of the presuppositions of moral discourse.


Error theory Presupposition Normative neutrality 



We are very grateful to the audience at the 2017 Oberlin Colloquium in Philosophy and to Bart Streumer for very helpful comments and questions. We are especially grateful to our commentator, David Copp, for several rounds of incisive comments on the paper that led to dramatic improvements.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shandong UniversityJinanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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