Elliot Salinger FPO

"Moral Aboutness: Independence, Objectivity, and Disagreement"
May 28, 2024, 10:00 am12:00 pm
201 Wooten Hall



Event Description

Metaethical realists standardly object that metaethical anti-realism violates the independence of normative ethics from metaethics, fails to respect the objectivity of morals, and cannot account for moral disagreement. This dissertation analyzes the notions of independence (ch. 1), objectivity (ch. 2), and disagreement (ch. 3) in terms of subject matter and explores anti-realist responses to the objections on this basis.

Chapter 1 addresses the objection that expressivism is revisionary of ordinary moral
thought. The standard response to this objection is best understood as follows: expressivism is
independent of normative ethics if non-cognitivism about moral judgment does not rule out any
plan about what to blame for. Although this response secures the taxonomic independence of
expressivism from normative ethics, it does not secure its moral independence.

Chapter 2 develops an account of objectivity as not being about the subject (the relevant
thinker or speaker or judge). Something is about a subject matter S in the relevant, restricted
sense if it foregrounds S. So a domain remains objective in the relevant sense even if the subject
is in the background. Our concern for restricted objectivity stems from our concern for moral
aboutness: not foregrounding oneself when morally significant interests are at stake. The account
classifies as objective not only expressivism, but also anthropocentric forms of cognitivism and
perhaps even error-theoretic cognitivism.

Chapter 3 develops an account of (dis)agreement in terms of subject matter or questions.
Whenever A and B (dis)agree, there is some question S that their (dis)agreement is about. A and
B agree about S when they accept the same answer to S; they disagree about S when they accept
incompatible answers to S. To accept an answer to S is to have a committing attitude toward a content that answers S, and answers are incompatible when non-jointly-realizable relative to S. This account countenances doxastic and practical disagreement, but not disagreement in attitude. It also sheds light on solutions to the problem of normative disagreement: the expressivist and contextualist, but not the relativist, have accounts on which normative disagreement is genuine and so on which the normative is objective.