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Moorean Arguments and Moral Revisionism

by Tristram McPherson

G. E. Moore famously argued against skepticism and idealism by appealing to their inconsistency with alleged certainties, like the existence of his own hands. Recently, some philosophers have offered analogous arguments against revisionary views about ethics such as metaethical error theory. These arguments appeal to the inconsistency of error theory with seemingly obvious moral claims like “it is wrong to torture an innocent child just for fun.” It might seem that such ‘Moorean’ arguments in ethics will stand or fall with Moore’s own arguments in metaphysics and epistemology, in virtue of their shared structure. I argue that this is not so. I suggest that the epistemic force of the canonical Moorean arguments can best be understood to rest on asymmetries in indirect evidence. I then argue that this explanation suggests that Moorean arguments are less promising in ethics than they are against Moore’s own targets. I conclude by examining the competing attempt to vindicate Moorean arguments by appealing to Rawls’s method of reflective equilibrium.

ISSN 1559-3061
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