Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Christie Hartley

Second Advisor

Dr. Andrew Altman

Third Advisor

Dr. Bill Edmundson


Error theory turns on a particular presupposition about the conceptual commitments of moral realism, namely that the moral facts posited by realists need to be categorical. True moral propositions are said to have an absolute authority in their prescriptions in the sense that an agent, regardless of her own ends, needs or desires, is categorically obligated and has reason to act in accordance with their prescriptions. But, nothing in the world has such a queer property as categoricity, and therefore we ought to be suspect of the enterprise of moral discourse. Some philosophers, like Stephen Finlay, have argued that this categoricity is not a necessary feature of moral language, and in so doing hope to have shown that the error theoretic critique is thus refuted. In this article I offer a survey of the literature on this topic and then contribute independent motivations for siding with those who think moral facts need not be categorical (and that a powerful argument for error theory is defused).