Ethical Anti-Archimedeanism and Moral Error Theory
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Moral error theory has been criticized from many perspectives. Some argue that it fails to do justice to ordinary moral discourse, because its diagnosis of deep-seated error is misguided.1 Others accept the diagnosis of error but endorse an alternative theory such as moral fictionalism.2 Mackie worried that his theory might be taken to have “pernicious” moral upshots.3 But even the staunchest critics rarely dispute Mackie’s contention that the error theory is a purely second-order metaethical doctrine that does not depend on any substantive moral claims.4 That is so because most philosophers are, like Mackie, ethical Archimedeans.
In recent years, a new challenge to error theory has emerged from an anti-Archimedean perspective that disavows Mackie’s starting point. Anti-Archimedeans believe that all metaethical truths are substantive moral truths. There is nowhere to stand outside of ethics to justify metaethical theses.5If so, the new worry for error theorists is not...