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Abstract

J.L. Mackie’s paper “The Subjectivity of values” makes a convincing case for why objective values do not exist. In response, Russ Shafer-Landau’s “A Defense for Ethical Nonnaturalism” provides a counterpoint to Mackie’s claims. However, there is more an error theorist can say. In my paper, I argue that, while there is more an error theorist can say, those responses are not sufficient to trump Shafer-Landau’s claims to an objective, nonnatural ethical system. As he puts it and I affirm, ethics is not solely bound to natural terms, like science, but is nevertheless objective, mainly because of the reasons that support ethics. It is reason itself that provides grounding for ethics, and a natural “ethical” substance or essence is not needed. Moreover, if we take the error theorist’s reasoning to its eventual end, we find that error theorist’s are either confused about the scope of the debate or their conclusions lead to unintended or incoherent consequences for the error theorist. I conclude that ethics most likely relies upon both natural and nonnatural facts, as opposed to one or the other.

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