On L. W. Sumner’s 'Normative Ethics and Metaethics'
Forcehimes (Andrew T.)
Source: Ethics , Vol. 125, No. 4 (July 2015), pp. 1142-1144
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Due largely to the influential work of Ronald Dworkin, there is an ongoing debate concerning the possibility of genuine metaethical theorizing. Those suspicious of the possibility of metaethics argue in two steps.
    1. The first step lays down a requirement, namely, neutrality: genuine metaethical theories must avoid having first-order normative commitments.
    2. The second step maintains that the nature of metaethical theorizing is such that a breach of neutrality is inevitable.
    The upshot of violating neutrality is that metaethical theories turn out to be moral theories in disguise. Call this case against metaethics the collapse argument.
  2. One way to resist collapse is to reject neutrality. The downside of this strategy is that it does little to persuade those who find neutrality intuitive. Neutrality, after all, is how the cut between metaethics and normative ethics is often made. Another response is to artificially generate metaethical theories that satisfy neutrality. Though this shows the possibility of metaethical theorizing, the contrived nature of these generated theories makes these victories pyrrhic. In his short and widely neglected paper, L.W. Sumner clarifies the collapse argument and provides a compelling third response.

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