DISSOLVING HARROP'S SEMANTIC PARADOX CONCERNING MORAL ERROR THEORY

Author: Melvin A. Davila Martinez Faculty Mentor: Jorgen Hansen, Lecturer, Philosophy Dept., UVU Institution: Utah Valley University, Philosophy Dept. Institution Address: 800 W University Pkwy, Orem, UT 84058

Moral error theory is the anti-realist meta-ethical position that all moral predications of objective value are false, for their truth-conditions fail to be satisfied by any truthmakers, since those truthmakers, i.e., objective value-entities or objective value-properties, do not exist. Hence, if P is a moral predication of objective value, e.g., ‘X is [objectively] good,’ ‘X is [objectively] wrong,’ or ‘X is [objectively] permissible,’ etc., moral error theory holds that P is false, making ~P true. Some, such as (Harrop 2016), charge that moral error theory, as initially formulated by J.L. Mackie, is self-contradictory, in the sense of it being logically inconsistent, for affirming Mackie’s position permits the derivation of a semantic paradox; Harrop’s charge supposes that at least one negation ~P of at least one moral predication of objective value P is either itself a moral predication of objective value or entails a moral predication of objective value, thus permitting a proof in which both P and ~P are taken to be true. Harrop’s argument hinges on a particular translation of ~P. In this paper I argue that while at least one translation of ~P may prima facie appear to be a moral predication of objective value, this is so only as a result of conversational implicature. Indeed, no translation of ~P is, strictly speaking, either itself a moral predication of objective value or entails a moral predication of objective value, and therefore Harrop’s semantic paradox concerning moral error theory cannot be produced once this second-order position is embraced along with the following restriction to moral error theory: that it only applies to first-order positive atomic moral predications, rather than that it extends to the sort of negative existential predications Harrop relies upon.


Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Melvin Davila Martinez

Institution: Utah Valley University

Type: Oral

Subject: Philosophy & Ethics

Status: Approved


Time and Location

Session: Oral 5
Date/Time: Fri 9:20am-9:40am
Location: Jones Hall 243
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