Chat with us, powered by LiveChat PHIL112 North Carolina Mackie's Moral Skepticism Paper | acewriters

– Your final paper should generally follow the topic and structure of your corrected and returned final prospectus.- Your final paper must be 9-10 pages, double-spaced (approx. 2500 words).- It is due by May 6 @ Noon. – Below is the the final prospectus that I did with my professor’s notes on what I should correct for my final paper. Take this into account when writing the paper please. – Also attached is are the two sources I used to collect information to support the argument.



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Richardson 1
Bryson Richardson
Professor Scarfone
PHIL 112
12 April 2019
Final Essay Prospectus
My essay will be critical scrutiny of moral skepticism according to John Mackie in his
article, “The Subjectivity of Values”. Mackie asserts that moral judgments are comprised of a
categorically imperative element meaning that they are done unconditionally. I will argue that
skepticism cannot dodge the cumbersome nature of human language in addition to the fact that
the human brain is the only tool people have to investigate the nature of existence.
Mackie views moral skepticism from two points: the first order where an individual
chooses to reject all morality and fails to take notice of it or the second order, which regards the
statutes of moral values, as well as the nature of moral valuing and where or how they fit within
the society. I will dwell on the second order view, which suggests that a person may have strong
moral views and in fact, ones whose content was comprehensively conservative while he
believes that such beliefs were simply policies and attitudes regarding conduct that the society
held. Mackie consults Kant’s distinction between categorical and hypothetical imperatives to
explain his second order view of moral skepticism. He describes hypothetical imperative as
where one has to do something because they must do it to obtain a final result (something
different) meaning that they do not want to something but it has to be done for what they want,
which is different to be obtained. The Categorical imperative, however, is where one does
something unconditionally. Mackie agrees with Kant that most moral judgments are comprised
of a categorically imperative element meaning that they are done unconditionally. He goes on to
argue the issue from the relativity argument where he acknowledges that people have different
moral codes based on different societies, eras, and moral beliefs between classes and groups. He
points out that anthropology supports second order ethics citing the example of monogamy.
Mackie points out that disagreements regarding moral codes are based on people’s participation
and compliance with different ways of lives. For instance, he argues that people approve of
monogamy because they take part in a monogamous way of life but not that they take part in a
monogamous way of life that the approve monogamy. Here he contradicts his earlier argument
that moral judgments should exclusively be unconditional. In my view, this means that
skepticism about monogamy is conditional on the idea that one does not participate in a
monogamous way of life. I will argue that skepticism cannot dodge the cumbersome nature of
human language in addition to the fact that the human brain is the only tool people have to
investigate the nature of existence. People are subject to disagreements as demonstrated in
courts, science, and other fields mainly because they reason and use their brain to judge between
what accommodate or dismiss.
In my essay, I will basically draw from Mackie’s “The Subjectivity of values” (1997).
The essay is based on critically examining his topic on moral skepticism; hence, his original
Richardson 2
work will be important here. Since my essay is based on moral theory and moral skepticism, in
particular, I will draw from the Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s chapter on moral epistemology as
Bryson -This is an okay prospectus. The topic is interesting and worth exploring in detail. In the
paper, be sure to present the views accurately and fairly (there are some missteps here).
But on the whole I don’t quite see the structure of your proposed essay. In what order are
you going to be doing these various things? What’s the structure of Mackie’s argument
that you’re objecting to?
Grade: 7/10
— Matthew
Grades Before Final
Discussion: 6/10
Prospectus 1: 5/5
Midterm: 16.25/25
Prospectus 2: 7/10
Attendance: 13.5/15 (if you attend the final session)
Total: 47.75/65
Richardson 3
Work Cited
1. Mackie, J, L. The Subjectivity of Values . 1-6, 1997.
2. Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. What is Moral Epistemology? n.d.
J. L. Mackie – The Subjectivity of Values
Moral Scepticism
There are no objective values. […]
The following excerpt is from Mackie’s “The Subjectivity of
Values,” originally published in 1977 as the first chapter in his
book, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong.
The claim that values are not objective, are not part of
the fabric of the world, is meant to include not only moral
goodness, which might be most naturally equated with moral
value, but also other things that could be more loosely called
moral values or disvalues—rightness and wrongness, duty,
obligation, an action’s being rotten and contemptible, and so
on. It also includes non-moral values, notably aesthetic ones,
beauty and various kinds of artistic merit. […]
Guiding Questions:
1. What does Mackie mean when he says that there are no
objective values? What does he not mean?
2. What is an “error theory”?
3. What is the argument from relativity? What are some
responses and what are Mackie’s replies?
4. What is the argument from queerness—both its
metaphysical and epistemological components?
Since it is with moral values that I am primarily
concerned, the view I am adopting may be called moral
scepticism. But this name is likely to be misunderstood: “moral
scepticism” might also be used as a name for either of two first
order views, or perhaps for an incoherent mixture of the two. A
moral sceptic might be the sort of person who says “All this
talk of morality is tripe,” who rejects morality and will take no
notice of it. Such a person may be literally rejecting all moral
judgements; he is more likely to be making moral judgements
of his own, expressing a positive moral condemnation of all
that conventionally passes for morality; or he may be confusing
these two logically incompatible views, and saying that he
rejects all morality, while he is in fact rejecting only a
particular morality that is current in the society in which he has
grown up. But I am not at present concerned with the merits or
faults of such a position. These are first order moral views,
positive or negative: the person who adopts either of them is
taking a certain practical, normative, stand. By contrast, what I
am discussing is a second order view, a view about the status
of moral values and the nature of moral valuing, about where
and how they fit into the world. These first and second order
views are not merely distinct but completely independent: one
could be a second order moral sceptic without being a first
order one, or again the other way round. A man could hold
strong moral views, and indeed ones whose content was
thoroughly conventional, while believing that they were simply
attitudes and policies with regard to conduct that he and other
people held. Conversely, a man could reject all established
morality while believing it to be an objective truth that it was
evil or corrupt. […]
applications of one categorical imperative, and it can plausibly
be maintained at least that many moral judgements contain a
categorically imperative element. So far as ethics is concerned,
my thesis that there are no objective values is specifically the
denial that any such categorically imperative element is
objectively valid. The objective values which I am denying
would be action-directing absolutely, not contingently (in the
way indicated) upon the agent’s desires and inclinations. […]
Hypothetical and Categorical Imperatives
The Claim to Objectivity
We may make this issue clearer by referring to Kant’s
distinction between hypothetical and categorical imperatives,
though what he called imperatives are more naturally expressed
as “ought”-statements than in the imperative mood. “If you
want X, do Y” (or “You ought to do Y”) will be a hypothetical
imperative if it is based on the supposed fact that Y is, in the
circumstances, the only (or the best) available means to X, that
is, on a causal relation between Y and X. The reason for doing
Y lies in its causal connection with the desired end, X; the
oughtness is contingent upon the desire. But “You ought to do
Y” will be a categorical imperative if you ought to do Y
irrespective of any such desire for any end to which Y would
contribute, if the oughtness is not thus contingent upon any
[..] As I have said, the main tradition of European moral
philosophy includes the… claim, that there are objective values
of just the sort I have denied. […] Kant in particular holds that
the categorical imperative is not only categorical and
imperative but objectively so: though a rational being gives the
moral law to himself, the law that he thus makes is determinate
and necessary. Aristotle begins the Nicomachean Ethics by
saying that the good is that at which all things aim, and that
ethics is part of a science which he calls “politics,” whose goal
is not knowledge but practice; yet he does not doubt that there
can be knowledge of what is the good for man, nor, once he has
identified this as well-being or happiness, eudaimonia, that it
can be known, rationally determined, in what happiness
consists; and it is plain that he thinks that this happiness is
intrinsically desirable, not good simply because it is desired.
A categorical imperative, then, would express a reason
for acting which was unconditional in the sense of not being
contingent upon any present desire of the agent to whose
satisfaction the recommended action would contribute as a
means—or more directly: “You ought to dance,” if the implied
reason is just that you want to dance or like dancing, is still a
hypothetical imperative. Now Kant himself held that moral
judgements are categorical imperatives, or perhaps are all
I conclude, then, that ordinary moral judgements
include a claim to objectivity, an assumption that there are
objective values in just the sense in which I am concerned to
deny this. And I do not think it is going too far to say that this
assumption has been incorporated in the basic, conventional,
meanings of moral terms. Any analysis of the meanings of
moral terms which omits this claim to objective, intrinsic,
prescriptivity is to that extent incomplete…
another and from one period to another, and also the
differences in moral beliefs between different groups and
classes within a complex community. Such variation is in itself
merely a truth of descriptive morality, a fact of anthropology
which entails neither first order nor second order ethical views.
Yet it may indirectly support second order subjectivism: radical
differences between first order moral judgements make it
difficult to treat those judgements as apprehensions of
objective truths. But it is not the mere occurrence of
disagreements that tells against the objectivity of values.
Disagreement on questions in history or biology or cosmology
does not show that there are no objective issues in these fields
for investigators to disagree about. But such scientific
disagreement results from speculative inferences or
explanatory hypotheses based on inadequate evidence, and it is
hardly plausible to interpret moral disagreement in the same
way. Disagreement about moral codes seems to reflect people’s
adherence to and participation in different ways of life. The
causal connection seems to be mainly that way round: it is that
people approve of monogamy because they participate in a
monogamous way of life rather than that they participate in a
monogamous way of life because they approve of monogamy.
Of course, the standards may be an idealization of the way of
life from which they arise; the monogamy in which people
participate may be less complete, less rigid, than that of which
it leads them to approve. This is not to say that moral
judgements are purely conventional. Of course there have been
and are moral heretics and moral reformers, people who have
turned against the established rules and practices of their own
communities for moral reasons, and often for moral reasons
that we would endorse. But this can usually be understood as
the extension, in ways which, though new and unconventional,
seemed to them to be required for consistency, of rules to
If second order ethics were confined, then, to linguistic
and conceptual analysis, it ought to conclude that moral values
at least are objective: that they are so is part of what our
ordinary moral statements mean: the traditional moral concepts
of the ordinary man as well as of the main line of western
philosophers are concepts of objective value. But it is precisely
for this reason that linguistic and conceptual analysis is not
enough. The claim to objectivity, however ingrained in our
language and thought, is not self-validating. It can and should
be questioned. But the denial of objective values will have to
be put forward not as the result of an analytic approach, but as
an “error theory,” a theory that although most people in making
moral judgements implicitly claim, among other things, to be
pointing to something objectively prescriptive, these claims are
all false, it is this that makes the name “moral scepticism’’
But since this is an error theory, since it goes against
assumptions ingrained in our thought and built into some of the
ways in which language is used, since it conflicts with what is
sometimes called common sense, it needs very solid support. It
is not something we can accept lightly or casually and then
quietly pass on. If we are to adopt this view, we must argue
explicitly for it. Traditionally it has been supported by
arguments of two main kinds, which I shall call the argument
from relativity and the argument from queerness…
The Argument from Relativity
The argument from relativity has as its premiss the
well-known variation in moral codes from one society to
which they already adhered as arising out of an existing way of
life. In short, the argument from relativity has some force
simply because the actual variations in the moral codes are
more readily explained by the hypothesis that they reflect ways
of life than by the hypothesis that they express perceptions,
most of them seriously inadequate and badly distorted, of
objective values.
sorts of actions would have been right. And despite the
prominence in recent philosophical ethics of universalization,
utilitarian principles, and the like, these are very far from
constituting the whole of what is actually affirmed as basic in
ordinary moral thought. Much of this is concerned rather with
what Hare calls “ideals” or, less kindly, “fanaticism.” That is,
people judge that some things are good or right, and others are
bad or wrong, not because—or at any rate not only because—
they exemplify some general principle for which widespread
implicit acceptance could be claimed, but because something
about those things arouses certain responses immediately in
them, though they would arouse radically and irresolvably
different responses in others. “Moral sense” or “intuition” is an
initially more plausible description of what supplies many of
our basic moral judgements than “reason.” With regard to all
these starting points of moral thinking the argument from
relativity remains in full force.
But there is a well-known counter to this argument
from relativity, namely to say that the items for which
objective validity is in the first place to be claimed are not
specific moral rules or codes but very general basic principles
which are recognized at least implicitly to some extent in all
society—such principles as provide the foundations of what
Sidgwick has called different methods of ethics: the principle
of universalizability, perhaps, or the rule that one ought to
conform to the specific rules of any way of life in which one
takes part, from which one profits, and on which one relies, or
some utilitarian principle of doing what tends, or seems likely,
to promote the general happiness. It is easy to show that such
general principles, married with differing concrete
circumstances, different existing social patterns or different
preferences, will beget different specific moral rules; and there
is some plausibility in the claim that the specific rules thus
generated will vary from community to community or from
group to group in close agreement with the actual variations in
accepted codes.
The Argument from Queerness
Even more important, however, and certainly more
generally applicable, is the argument from queerness. This has
two parts, one metaphysical, the other epistemological. If there
were objective values, then they would be entities or qualities
or relations of a very strange sort, utterly different from
anything else in the universe. Correspondingly, if we were
aware of them, it would have to be by some special faculty of
moral perception or intuition, utterly different from our
ordinary ways of knowing everything else. These points were
recognized by Moore when he spoke of non-natural qualities,
and by the intuitionists in their talk about a “faculty of moral
intuition.” Intuitionism has long been out of favour, and it is
indeed easy to point out its implausibilities. What is not so
The argument from relativity can be only partly
countered in this way. To take this line the moral objectivist
has to say that it is only in these principles that the objective
moral character attaches immediately to its descriptively
specified ground or subject: other moral judgements are
objectively valid or true, but only derivatively and
contingently—if things had been otherwise, quite different
alien stressed, but is more important, is that the central thesis of
intuitionism is one to which any objectivist view of values is in
the end committed: intuitionism merely makes unpalatably
plain what other forms of objectivism wrap up. Of course the
suggestion that moral judgements are made or moral problems
solved by just sitting down and having an ethical intuition is a
travesty of actual moral thinking. But, however complex the
real process, it will require (if it is to yield authoritatively
prescriptive conclusions) some input of this distinctive soil,
either premisses or forms of argument or both. When we ask
the awkward question, how we can be aware of this
authoritative prescriptivity, of the truth of these distinctively
ethical premisses or of the cogency of this distinctively ethical
pattern of reasoning, none of our ordinary accounts of sensory
perception or introspection or the framing and confirming of
explanatory hypotheses or inference or logical construction or
conceptual analysis, or any combination of these, will provide
a satisfactory answer; “a special son of intuition” is a lame
answer, but it is the one to which the clearheaded objectivist is
compelled to resort.
This is an important counter to the argument from
queerness. The only adequate reply to it would be to show
how, on empiricist foundations, we can construct an account of
the ideas and beliefs and knowledge that we have of all these
matters. I cannot even begin to do that here, though I have
undertaken some parts of the task elsewhere. I can only state
my belief that satisfactory accounts of most of these can be
given in empirical terms. If some supposed metaphysical
necessities or essences resist such treatment, then they too
should be included, along with objective values, among the
targets of the argument from queerness. […]
Plato’s Forms give a dramatic picture of what objective
values would have to be. The form of the Good is such that
knowledge of it provides the knower with both a direction and
an overriding motive; something’s being good both tells the
person who knows this to pursue it and makes him pursue it.
An objective good would be sought by anyone who was
acquainted with it, not because of any contingent fact that t …
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