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Not my area, really, but the following stood out to me: "[I]t is controversial [...] whether [...] if we grant that children or psychopaths are excused on the basis of genuine moral ignorance, this is so because of their inability to appreciate mind-independent moral facts, or whether it is due to the fact that they suffer from impaired or immature emotional sensibilities." I could imagine someone trying to argue that this is not genuinely an exclusive disjunction, i.e. that impaired or immature emotional sensibilities might be the exact thing preventing someone from appreciating mind-independent moral facts.

Very interesting and thought provoking! Statement #1 is framed in terms of a "should," while statement #2 is framed in terms of a "does not." Perhaps you need to use the same language in both to get to #3. Also, does it matter that getting to #3 might (at least for some) imply that #1 and #2 have no truth value? (#1 and #2 speak of exculpation which presumably here means something like "mind-independent exculpation". Is there an impediment to reaching #3 in that accepting #3 could require the denial of the truth value of the statements that led one to reach it?

Hi Thomas,

thanks for your question! This is certainly a possible view, and it escapes most of the problems I intend to raise for the realist. But I would like to emphasize that it is a very rare minority view, as moral realists typically want to be cognitivists in moral epistemology (cognitivism and realism are the two views which happen to be most strongly correlated in Chalmers and Bourget's paper on views of philosophers). So most versions of realism actually held by anyone should be liable to the challenge. I also happen to think that there are independent grounds for rejecting this view -- it just doesn't seem very plausible to me that emotional sensibilities are in the business of tracking mind-independent facts. Most (disgust, fear, etc.) do not, so why would moral emotions be able to do this?

Hi Adam,

thanks for your question! I suppose the "does/should" difference between (1) and (2) can be confusing, so I should probably rephrase this. But let me clarify that the "should" in (1) is not a straigthforwardly normative one (as in: this is what we ought to do), it's more like a "If there were any mind-independent moral facts, we should expect that non-moral ignorance is treated this way".

I would be grateful if you could you perhaps clarify your second question, I am not sure I catch your point properly (but I am sure that's my fault)!

Oh, I'm not at all sure I have a good point. This is roughly what I had in mind though:

The structure of your argument is:
If x then y.
Not y.
Therefore, not x.

Here, "not x" is "it is not the case that there are mind-independent moral facts." Suppose that this conclusion implies (with the addition of other views I guess) that moral statements are neither true or false. If so, that means that "not y" is neither true nor false since "not y" is a statement about morality. Now do we still have a valid argument when "not y" is neither true nor false?

Maybe this is not something we need to worry about. Could it be that once you reach the conclusion "not x" it no longer matters if one of the logical steps that led you to reach "not x" has no truth value?

@Adam: I see -- thanks for clarifying! I take it that this is essentially a Frege-Geach worry about how propositions which are thoroughly expressive (and thus have no truth value at all) could figure in valid inferences. I think the inference above *is* valid, so it cannot be the case that (2) has no truth value whatsoever, even though it is evidently a moral statement (and thus, by (3), not true in virtue of objective facts). This means that (2) will have to be "correct" in some other way than by corresponding to a mind-independent fact. For minimalists, this is no big deal, because for them, "p" is true = p and nothing more. But if we want to say more about this, (2) could be correct in virtue of constructed properties, our social practices, or something else. I am simply not sure what my favorite account is here.


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