Tag Archives: mackie

Mackie and the Meaning of Moral Terms / Review of work on Frege

Volume 10.1 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published online, with full open-access:


It features an article by Tammo Lossau, entitled, “Mackie and the Meaning of Moral Terms.” Here is the abstract:

Moral error theory is comprised of two parts: a denial of the existence of objective values, and a claim about the ways in which we attempt to make reference to such objective values. John Mackie is sometimes presented as endorsing the view that we necessarily presuppose such objective values in our moral language and thought. In a series of recent papers, though, Victor Moberger (2017), Selim Berker (2019), and Michael Ridge (2020) point out that Mackie does not seem to commit himself to this view. They argue that Mackie thinks this reference to objective values can, and perhaps should, be detached from our moral statements and judgments. In this paper, I argue that Moberger, Berker, and Ridge are right to point out that Mackie stops short of claiming a necessary connection between moral language and a commitment to objective values, but that he does not endorse the contrary claim either. Instead, Mackie stays neutral on the question whether it is possible to assert moral statements or make moral judgments without presupposing objective value. This is because he does not need to take a position on this matter. Mackie only engages with the conceptual analysis of moral language and thought to the extent required to achieve his argumentative goals: he wants to reject revisionary analyses of moral language and to refute the idea that we can assume moral truths to be in alignment with ordinary moral language.

The volume also contains a review of Joan Weiner, Taking Frege at his Word (OUP, 2021), written by Hans Sluga.

JHAP is a free, open-access, peer-reviewed journal. It is available at https://jhaponline.org/. Submissions welcome!

Reinventing Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong

Volume 8.4 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published online, with full open-access.

It features an article by Michael Ridge entitled, “Reinventing Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong”. Here is an abstract:

I offer new arguments for an unorthodox reading of J. L. Mackie’s Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, one on which Mackie does not think all substantive moral claims are false, but allows that a proper subset of them are true.  Further, those that are true should be understood in terms of a “hybrid theory”. The proposed reading is one on which Mackie is a conceptual pruner, arguing that we should prune away error-ridden moral claims but hold onto those already free of error. This reading is very different from the standard ones found in the literature. I build on recent work by Moberger and argue that this reading is better corroborated by close attention to the way in which Mackie argues at length that terms like “good” and “ought” are systematically context-sensitive, as well as by considerable additional textual evidence. This reading, however, faces an important challenge—to explain in what sense, if any, morality retains its “normativity” on the proposed reading. I argue that this challenge can be met, at least given some of Mackie’s further assumptions about the nature of rationality.

JHAP is a free, open-access, peer-reviewed journal. It is available at https://jhaponline.org/. Submissions welcome!

Not Just Errors: A New Interpretation of Mackie’s Error Theory

Volume 5.3 of the Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published online.

It features an article by Victor Moberger entitled, “Not Just Errors: A New Interpretation of Mackie’s Error Theory”.

Here is an abstract:

J. L. Mackie famously argued that a commitment to non-existent objective values permeates ordinary moral thought and discourse. According to a standard interpretation, Mackie construed this commitment as a universal and indeed essential feature of moral judgments. In this paper I argue that we should rather ascribe to Mackie a form of semantic pluralism, according to which not all moral judgments involve the commitment to objective values. This interpretation not only makes better sense of what Mackie actually says, but also renders his error theory immune to a powerful objection.

The volume also contains a review of Cheryl Misak’s book, Cambridge Pragmatism: From Peirce and James to Ramsey and Wittgenstein, written by John Capps.

JHAP is a free and open-access journal. Submissions welcome at https://jhaponline.org.