Projectivism, circularity and the moral attitude problem

Leonardo de Mello Ribeiro


A projectivist thesis about the nature of morality, broadly understood, aims to explain moral judgments from subjective causal reactions to the world—this world in itself devoid of moral value (in terms of objects, properties and relations). For the projectivist thesis to work, it seems to be necessary that it be capable of specifying the type(s) of subjective reaction(s) which is(are) on the basis of moral judgments and of doing it in non-moral terms, in order to avoid circularity. If the subjective reactions have conceptual priority over moral judgments and predication, then it seems to be necessary that they be specified without referring themselves to the very moral judgments and moral vocabulary that they purport to explain. The moral attitude problem consists in this challenge to moral projectivism. Here in this article, we shall argue that, on the one hand, the projectivist is not able to completely avoid the objection of circularity. However, on the other hand, we shall try to show that, despite incurring in one form of circularity, the projectivist has an answer to the moral attitude problem. The upshot of all this is that, properly conceived, the moral attitude problem is not an obstacle to projectivism, and that the traditional formulation of the problem confuses an epistemic question with a metaphysical one.

Keywords: metaethics; moral projectivism; circularity.

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ISSN: 1984-8234 - Best viewed in Mozilla Firefox

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