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Moral Error TheoryHistory, Critique, Defence$
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Jonas Olson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198701934

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198701934.001.0001

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Other Precursors of Moral Error Theory

Other Precursors of Moral Error Theory

(p.61) 4 Other Precursors of Moral Error Theory
Moral Error Theory

Jonas Olson

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers some precursors from the early and middle twentieth century that predate Mackie’s canonical statement and defence of moral error theory. Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Richard Robinson all defended metaethical theories reminiscent of Mackie’s, and used arguments similar to Mackie’s. What prompted some philosophers in this period to be attracted to moral error theory was a general dissatisfaction with the ontological and epistemological commitments of the non-naturalistic theories of Moore and Ross, along with appeals to theoretical simplicity. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Mackie’s early statement and defence of moral error theory in ‘A Refutation of Morals’ (1946), which in some respects differs from his later statement and defence in Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (1977).

Keywords:   Mackie, non-naturalism, Robinson, Russell, simplicity, Wittgenstein

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