I’m very honored that Ed Hackett has written an extensive response to one of my blog entries when I’m sure he is quite busy, being as it is the beginning of the semester. Aside from being deeply flattered by some of Ed’s comments, I also am very grateful for the opportunity to have a discussion about some particularly interesting issues in metaethics.
Before getting to the really interesting ideas Hackett presents I do want to note that I thought I had explicitly stated why I thought forms of moral realism that focus on actions and states of affairs do avoid Harman’s objection while virtue ethic versions do not: because Sturgeon’s counterfactual test response to Harman’s objection works for actions and states of affairs but not virtue ascriptions (Contra: “I want to ignore Sturgeon’s response to Harman, as Awestin thinks that the virtue ethicist falls at the feet of Harman from the get go, though other forms of moral realism are implicitly safe from this critique apart from virtue ethics (though to be fair we are never told why)”).
The truly fascinating defense of virtue ethics that Hackett proposes involves denying that values are best understood as properties, quite ingeniously noting that not thinking of values as properties uniquely sidesteps the issue of how to characterize mind-independence in a way that is true to folk concepts of objectivity while still honoring the idea that the “to-be-pursued-ness” built into moral properties entails the need for someone to perceive them. The idea seems to be that talk of properties presupposes a clear divide between subject and object, of which Hackett hints at being skeptical. While Hackett may only be suggesting that we should not venture outside of Kant’s phenomenal realm, one might begin to wonder if this is truly a fruitful way of defending virtue ethics, as we begin to near irrealist territory, at least of a constructivist sort. Of course, this might be something the virtue ethicist is not ashamed of, and my trepidation venturing into constructivist possibilities might just be me fighting against the tides that pull away from property-talk. Still, if it is possible to defend a conception of properties that captures the way in which they seem objective in not being decided by our whims and yet existing only through the experience of a subject (something like Stratton-Lake’s view) then I think we should favor talk of properties over Hackett’s non-property route, given the assertoric nature of moral discourse.
There is a lovely blog called AusomeAwestin, and for the purposes of this post, I will address the author as Awestin. I cannot tell to whom the blog belongs, but nobody just writes on Mark Timmons in metaethics without at the very least being either a graduate student or established scholar of ethics and metaethics. From what I can tell of the self-admitted survey, we have similar metaethical positions minus the untenability of virtue ethics, which is largely what I will be discussing today. At one time, I loved W. D. Ross, thought that moral properties were nonnatural, and thought that values should be described as moral properties. I am very sympathetic to these positions. Moreover, since I am doing House of Cards and Philosophy, I wanted to make a few brief comments about one particular post that struck my fancy. This would have never happened if they did…
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