The Ramifications of Error Theories about the Deontic
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Error theories about practical deontic judgements claim that no substantive practical deontic judgement is true. Practical deontic judgements are practical (rather than theoretical) in the sense that they concern actions (rather than beliefs), and they are deontic (rather than evaluative) in the sense that they are about reasons, rightness, wrongness, and obligations (rather than about goodness, badness, and so on). This paper assumes the truth of an error theory about practical deontic judgements in order to examine its ramifications. I defend three contentions. The first is that, if so-called fitting-attitude analyses of value fail, the truth of some substantive evaluative judgements would not be threatened by the fact that no substantive practical deontic judgment is true. Secondly, in light of the truth of these evaluative judgements, the best thing we could do is to continue to make practical deontic judgements despite the truth of an error theory about practical deontic judgements. My third contention is that, if some evaluative judgements are unaffected by an error theory about practical deontic judgements, then such an error theory will eventually lead us to some version of consequentialism.
KeywordsMoral error theory Deontic morality Values Consequentialism Ishtiyaque Haji
I am grateful to audiences at Humboldt University Berlin, Konstanz University, Saarland University, Stockholm University, and Uppsala University, where this paper or related papers were discussed, and to an anonymous referee. My research on the subject has been funded by a project grant from the German Research Foundation (grant no. TA 820/1-1).
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