09:00 – 10:00 Farbod Akhlaghi-Ghaffarokh – An Argument for the Metaphysical Necessity of Moral Principles
The widely-held view that at least some moral claims are metaphysically necessary is rarely argued for. But recent doubts have been raised about its plausibility, and such concerns generate newfound pressure for proponents to provide a plausible argument for the view. In this paper, I provide a novel argument for the claim that general moral principles are metaphysically necessary. The argument shows that assuming such principles to be metaphysically contingent is inconsistent with two plausible claims: one of our knowledge of morality, the other of a necessary condition on knowledge. Given this mutual inconsistency, I argue we should deny that general moral principles are contingent.
10:15 – 11:15 Philip Stratton-Lake – Self-evidence and basic justifiers: A revised intuitionist epistemology
Robert Audi makes a significant advance over earlier accounts of self-evidence by replacing the idea that an adequate understanding of a self-evident proposition justifies, rather than compels, belief. But our understanding of a proposition is a rather odd thing to regard as justifying the proposition understood. If asked why I believe some putative self-evident proposition, it would be very odd to reply “because I understand it”. I think this oddity is explained by the fact that our understanding lacks an appropriate relation to the truth of that proposition. But in a recent paper, Audi develops his account in a way that seems to offer a response to this criticism. He claims that our understanding of a self-evident proposition puts us in direct contact with the truth-makers of that proposition, and so is appropriately related to truth. I consider two ways in which his account can be understood. According to one interpretation, understanding would justify, but would also compel belief, and then loses the advantage of his justificatory account. According to the second understanding, he avoids compulsion, but loses justification. I suggest that replacing understanding with intuition as the basic justifier avoids these difficulties.
11:30 – 12:30 Elizabeth Ventham – Weighing Desires
This paper argues for an account of the weight (or ‘strength’) of our desires when we reason. I don’t aim to show that such an account is simple; indeed, I will show that the factors that affect a desire’s weight interact in a complex way, and that there’s more work to do. But what I will do is propose three relevant criteria by which we should judge a desire’s normative weight: 1) the strength of the phenomenology of the desire, 2) the desire’s persistence, 3) the extent to which the desire coheres with the subject’s other desires.
My paper will begin by explaining the methodology I use to determine the criteria: working out those things such that if all else is equal, a change in the criterion would result in a change of the strength of the desire. I will then turn to each of the criteria, give examples of why we should think they’re relevant to the strength of desire, and defend each against an objection. Having done this, I will argue that such an understanding of the normative strength of our desires is in keeping with both our common-sense understanding of desire, and also to the subjective spirit of desire-based theories of normativity.
14:00 – 15:00 Guy Fletcher – Whither Prudential Error Theory?
The history of metaethics has featured various moral error theorists. By contrast, there have been few, if any,error theorists about prudential discourse. (By prudential discourse I mean: (i) evaluative prudential discourse — claims about well-being, about what is good for us, what harms and benefits us, etc) and (ii) directive prudential discourse — claims about prudential reasons, what we prudentially ought to do, etc.) This is plausibly because of the widespread, but implicit, assumption of: Non Starter: Prudential error theory is implausible and more implausible than moral error theory.
In this paper I focus on assessing arguments for this thesis. More specifically, I examine arguments to the effect that moral discourse and prudential discourse are importantly different in some way that makes Non Starter true. I start by pointing out various debates where the assumption of Non Starter is significant. I then proceed to examine and reject arguments for the thesis. I close by examining the implications of rejecting these arguments for Non Starter.
15:15 – 16:15 Ragnar Francén – Normative Disagreement and Practical Direction
Whenever A judges that x-ing is morally wrong and B judges that x-ing is not morally wrong, we think that they disagree. The two standard types of accounts of such moral disagreements both presuppose that the class of moral wrong-judgments is uniform, though in different ways. According to the belief account, the disagreement is doxastic: A and B have beliefs with conflicting cognitive contents. This presupposes “belief-uniformity”: that the cognitive content of moral concepts and beliefs is invariant between judges and contexts. According to the attitude account, moral disagreements are non-doxastic: A and B have clashing practical attitudes, e.g., desires that cannot be satisfied simultaneously. This presupposes “attitude-uniformity”: that moral judgments are always accompanied by, or consist of, desire-like attitudes. This paper proposes a new account of moral disagreements, available also for theories which imply the denial of both uniformity claims. The idea is that a non-doxastic account is possible also without attitude-uniformity: even if moral judgments are not desires, and are not always accompanied by desires, it is characteristic of them that they have practical direction in this sense: they are judgments that can be acted in accordance (or discordance) with. I argue in two steps. First, I argue that moral disagreement can be accounted for in terms of practical direction: When two people (e.g., A and B above) morally disagree, they disagree in the sense that they accept moral judgments such that there is at least some possible action (e.g., x-ing) which is in accordance with one of the judgments but in discordance with the other. Second, I argue that moral judgments can have practical direction without being necessarily (accompanied by) desires. All we need is the fairly uncontroversial assumption that moral judgments have a practical action-oriented role in our moral practice.
16:30 – 17:45 Pekka Väyrynen – Normative Explanation Unchained
This paper argues that normative explanation – a kind of non-causal explanation of why things have the normative features they do – fails to satisfy standard transitivity principles. I first illustrate the structure of the kind of normative explanations on whose transitivity I focus. Next I describe an impasse in the existing literature regarding the transitivity of normative explanation and briefly dismiss three possible ways out as insufficient. I then defend a novel proposal, which is based on the claim that at least some explanations of normative facts are subject to a certain kind of normative justification condition. I briefly motivate this condition, and then argue that its satisfaction may fail to transfer transitively along the kinds of explanatory chains that we find in the kind of examples on which I focus. The rest of the paper develops this proposal further by defending it against some worries and potential complications.