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Archimedean Metaethics Defended

Kenneth M. Ehrenberg

University of Alabama - Department of Philosophy; University of Alabama - School of Law


U Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-04
Metaphilosophy, Vol. 39, October 2008

We sometimes append to our moral claims that they are objectively true, or that they are right, even if nobody believes it. These additional claims are often taken to be staking out metaethical positions. So understood, they are representative of a certain kind of theorizing about morality, one which steps outside the practice in order to comment on its status. Ronald Dworkin has argued that external skepticism, rejecting the possibility that these additions can be true (which he calls archimedean skepticism), is not philosophically tenable because it is impossible to step outside such practices to offer comments upon them. I show that an externally skeptical metaethical theory can withstand his attacks, thereby defending the possibility of this kind of meta-theoretical method. Against his argument that these additional claims should be seen as internal, I show that they still make sense as external claims, using aesthetics as an example in which even Dworkin would have to be comfortable with external claims. I then defend four apparently externalist interpretations of the additional objectivity claims: To see them as claims about secondary properties is not to see them as first order claims; to see them as arguing for some form of causal correspondence is to still see them as external; to see them as explaining error is not to see them internally; and that Blackburn's expressivism can maintain an external perspective. In the end, his argument can be turned against itself.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: metaethics, Ronald Dworkin, H.L.A.Hart, methodology, jurisprudence, legal philosophy, skepticism, objectivity, subjectivity, normativity, description, descriptive methodology

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Date posted: January 23, 2008 ; Last revised: November 11, 2015

Suggested Citation

Ehrenberg, Kenneth M., Archimedean Metaethics Defended (2008). U Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-04; Metaphilosophy, Vol. 39, October 2008. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1059901

Contact Information

Kenneth M. Ehrenberg (Contact Author)
University of Alabama - Department of Philosophy ( email )
PO Box 870218
336 ten Hoor Hall
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0218
United States
University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

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