Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Andrew Altman

Second Advisor

Christie Hartley

Third Advisor

Andrew I. Cohen


In this paper I give a thorough account of the history of the open question argument. I have provide Moore’s original impetus for it and its traditional formulation. I then examine the Cornell Realists’ objection to that original formulation and showed that their objection does indeed show the open question argument to be incorrect in its conclusions. Having presented the history of the open question argument and having assessed the most challenging objections to it, I turn to Andrew Altman’s powerful reconstruction of the open question argument in order to see how well, if at all, it sidesteps the objections leveled against the classical formulation. I then argue that while Altman does present the most coherent defense of the open question argument available, I conclude that insofar as he has rested upon a commitment to Carnap's philosophy of language over a Fregean semantic and an untenable rendering of post-Kripkean philosophy of language as it concerns rigid designation, we must reject his reformulation. Given that rigid designation itself undermines Altman’s position, I conclude that the open question is still in need of a defense before it can regain its position as a major player in the discipline of ethics.

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