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I Might Be Fundamentally Mistaken

by Michael Ridge

Quasi-realism aspires to preserve the intelligibility of the realist-sounding moral judgments of ordinary people. These judgments include ones of the form, “I believe that p, but I might be mistaken,” where “p” is some moral content. The orthodox quasi-realist strategy (famously developed by Simon Blackburn) is to understand these in terms of the agent’s worrying that some improving change would lead one to aban-don the relevant moral belief. However, it is unclear whether this strate-gy generalizes to cases in which the agent takes their error to be funda-mental in a sense articulated by Andy Egan. In an influential paper, Egan argues that it does not. Egan suggests that Blackburn’s approach is the only game in town for the quasi-realist when it comes to making sense of judgment of fallibility, and therefore concludes that Blackburn’s ina-bility to handle worries about fundamental moral error refutes quasi-realism tout court. Egan’s challenge has generated considerable discus-sion. However, in my view, we have not yet gotten to the heart of the matter. I argue that what is still needed is a fully general, quasi-realist-friendly theory of the nature of first-person judgments of fallibility, such that these judgments are demonstrably consistent with judging that the belief is stable in Egan’s sense. In this article, I develop and defend a fully general quasi-realist theory of such judgments, which meets this demand. With this theory in hand, I argue that Egan’s challenge can be met. Moreover, my discussion of how the challenge is best met provides an elegant diagnosis of where Egan’s argument against goes wrong. On my account, Egan’s argument equivocates at a key point between a “could” and a “would.”

ISSN 1559-3061
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