Moral Knowledge and the Genealogy of Error

Moral Knowledge and the Genealogy of Error J Value Inquiry (2017) 51:455–474 DOI 10.1007/s10790-017-9588-7 Nicholas Smyth Published online: 5 April 2017 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017 1 Introduction The study of human history can be unsettling, not in the least because of our ancestors’ seemingly boundless capacity for inventing, refining and implementing practices which appear utterly horrific to us. History seems to present an endless litany of torture, war, slavery, cruelty and oppression, and while we may feel that this is a history of moral error, further reflection can provoke an unease that is more distinctly philosophical in nature. For it is not easy to say how so many people throughout human history remained completely ignorant of moral truths which seem nearly self-evident to us. I believe that this unease reflects our tacit awareness of an epistemological problem which has not, to my knowledge, received any attention in contemporary meta-ethics. The problem arises for anyone who (1) has moral beliefs, (2) thinks that those beliefs constitute knowledge, and (3) acknowledges that a large number of mature human beings have held contrary beliefs. Most philosophers who meet this description, realist and anti-realist alike, have accepted that they must explain how their beliefs are sensitive to the moral http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of Value Inquiry Springer Journals

Moral Knowledge and the Genealogy of Error

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Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Copyright
Copyright © 2017 by Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
Subject
Philosophy; Ontology; Ethics; International Political Economy; Public International Law; Philosophy, general
ISSN
0022-5363
eISSN
1573-0492
D.O.I.
10.1007/s10790-017-9588-7
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

J Value Inquiry (2017) 51:455–474 DOI 10.1007/s10790-017-9588-7 Nicholas Smyth Published online: 5 April 2017 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017 1 Introduction The study of human history can be unsettling, not in the least because of our ancestors’ seemingly boundless capacity for inventing, refining and implementing practices which appear utterly horrific to us. History seems to present an endless litany of torture, war, slavery, cruelty and oppression, and while we may feel that this is a history of moral error, further reflection can provoke an unease that is more distinctly philosophical in nature. For it is not easy to say how so many people throughout human history remained completely ignorant of moral truths which seem nearly self-evident to us. I believe that this unease reflects our tacit awareness of an epistemological problem which has not, to my knowledge, received any attention in contemporary meta-ethics. The problem arises for anyone who (1) has moral beliefs, (2) thinks that those beliefs constitute knowledge, and (3) acknowledges that a large number of mature human beings have held contrary beliefs. Most philosophers who meet this description, realist and anti-realist alike, have accepted that they must explain how their beliefs are sensitive to the moral

Journal

The Journal of Value InquirySpringer Journals

Published: Apr 5, 2017

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