The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 120, Issue 9, September 2023

Christopher Cowie
Pages 457-483

Why Moral Paradoxes Support Error Theory

Moral error theory has many troubling and counterintuitive consequences. It entails, for example, that actions we ordinarily think of as obviously wrong are not wrong at all. This simple observation is at the heart of much opposition to error theory. I provide a new defense against it. The defense is based on the impossibility of finding satisfying solutions to a wide range of puzzles and paradoxes in moral philosophy. It is a consequence of this that if any moral claims are true, then a lot of highly troubling and counterintuitive moral claims must be in their number. This means that troubling and counterintuitive moral claims are everybody’s problem—not just error theorists’, but also their opponents’. Indeed, there is a sense in which this shared problem is worse for the opponents of error theory than for error theorists themselves.