© 2018

Moral Error Theory


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Moral Error Theory

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Wouter Floris Kalf
      Pages 3-26
    3. Wouter Floris Kalf
      Pages 27-79
    4. Wouter Floris Kalf
      Pages 81-117
    5. Wouter Floris Kalf
      Pages 119-156
  3. Normative Ethics

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 157-157
    2. Wouter Floris Kalf
      Pages 159-196
    3. Wouter Floris Kalf
      Pages 197-225
    4. Wouter Floris Kalf
      Pages 227-240
    5. Wouter Floris Kalf
      Pages 241-242
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 243-246

About this book


This book provides a novel formulation and defence of moral error theory. It also provides a novel solution to the so-called now what question; viz., the question what we should do with our moral thought and talk after moral error theory. The novel formulation of moral error theory uses pragmatic presupposition rather than conceptual entailment to argue that moral judgments carry a non-negotiable commitment to categorical moral reasons. The new answer to the now what question is pragmatic presupposition substitutionism: we should substitute our current moral judgments, which pragmatically presuppose the existence of categorical moral reasons with ‘schmoral’ judgments that pragmatically presuppose the existence of a specific class of prudential reasons. These are prudential reasons that, when we act on them, contribute to the satisfaction of what the author calls ‘the fundamental desire’; namely, the desire to live in a world with mutually beneficial cooperation.


metaethics normative morality Moral error theory rationality moral discourse

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

About the authors

Wouter Floris Kalf is Postdoctoral Researcher and Assistant Professor in philosophy at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Dr Kalf has taught philosophy at the universities of York, Bristol, Leeds, and various universities in the Netherlands. He has published on metaethics in such journals as Philosophical Studies and The Journal of Value Inquiry.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Moral Error Theory
  • Authors Wouter Floris Kalf
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-77287-5
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-08419-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-77288-2
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIII, 246
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Ethics
    Moral Philosophy
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


“In his thorough, lucid, rich, and valuable book Wouter Kalf investigates how we should understand the error theory, what the best arguments for it are, and what we should do if we come to accept it. … It is essential reading for all of those interested in whether there are any genuine moral obligations.” (Richard Rowland, The Philosophical Quarterly, May 30, 2019)