From the Location Problem of Normativity to Metaethical Quietism

Chen, Yanzhou (2021) From the Location Problem of Normativity to Metaethical Quietism. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis is a metaethical study of normativity, specifically, the existential question of normativity whether there are normative entities (the ‘location problem’ of normativity), and it seeks a satisfying realist response to this question. However, it is shown that mainstream realist approaches to this location problem suffer from various difficulties, and I argue we should take quietist realism, a rather marginal position seriously.

The first chapter focuses on reductive naturalism, including the property identity version where normative entities are identified with some other natural ones, and the analytic version where normative concepts are considered as natural. I argue that Parfit’s ‘triviality objection’, reconstructed properly, will undermine the former and the latter is problematic due to its employment of the notion of ‘mature folk morality’. I move to the so-called Cornell realism in the second chapter, a naturalist yet non-reductive position that draws on the analogy between natural science and ethics; then I claim that Harman’s ‘explanatory challenge’ constitutes a real threat to this metaethical view. In the rather short transition chapter, I briefly explain why non-naturalism should not be regarded as the last word on the location problem as substantial arguments that support the non-naturalness of normativity are absent.

The third chapter addresses Scanlon’s quietist realism, a radical metaethical position that rejects the mainstream metaphysical approaches to normative realism, and I further defend quietism against its most fully-developed objection, namely, the asymmetry argument. However, the debate between quietism and metaphysical realism meets a stalemate; this leads us to the final chapter. Relying on Cavell’s thoughts on skepticism, I first explain why the two sides are stuck in a dialectical difficulty; then, after showing that certain metaphysical approaches to realism are inadequate, I am able to explain what the existential question of normative entities really amounts to.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2022 13:36
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2022 13:36


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