SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Reliability for the Quasi-Realist
(Ethics, English)

In this talk, I'll discuss the way in which Moral Quasi-Realists can understand how we evaluate each other as reliable moral judges. Since the notion of reliability is often thought to be an indispensable building-block of our best theories of knowledge (see e.g. Goldman 2012), this talk also goes some way to address the way in which Moral

Quasi-Realists should conceptualize moral knowledge.

Quasi-Realism, as it is coined by Blackburn (1984, 1993, 1998), is a bundle of theories claiming that moral judgments are conative mental states, according to which we can understand talk of moral facts, truths, beliefs, and so on, in "deflated" terms. Morality is ultimately a "projection" (Blackburn, 1984, p. 180) of our moral beliefs, which play a constitutive role in their etiology.

The reliability of some believer S is quite often (see e.g. Beebe 2006) characterized by a conditional probability of some form, e.g.:

__ pr(S believing that p _ p)


For this probability to be less than 1, there must be some possible cases where it__s the case that p, and S doesn__t believes that p. Since, under Quasi-Realism , whether or not p obtains is entirely constituted in virtue of S believing that p, it is far from obvious how Quasi-Realists can accept that this can be the case.

In my talk, I elaborate on this problem, and I'll discuss a novel solution. The solution will revolve around the fact that, if some believer S__ disagrees with S on some belief that p, S__ can discern a case where it__s true that p and S doesn__t believe that p. Thus, S__ will be justified to ascribe to S a reliability less than 1, given their moral convictions. I will argue that this simple maneuver suffices to get the Quasi-Realist out of trouble, giving them a workable concept of moral reliability. But it will also bring with it some considerable epistemological commitments, which are already familiar from social theories of epistemology (e.g. Craig 1990; Haslanger 1999; Williams 2001). Discussing these implications will conclude my talk.


James R. Beebe. Reliabilism and deflationism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 84

(4):495__510, 2006.

Simon Blackburn. Spreading the Word. Groundings in the Philosophy of Language.

Clarendon Press, 1984.

Simon Blackburn. How to Be an Ethical Antirealist. In Essays in Quasi-Realism, pages

166__181. Oxford University Press, 1993.

Simon Blackburn. Ruling Passions: A Theory of Practical Reasoning. Oxford University

Press UK, 1998.

Edward Craig. Knowledge and the State of Nature: An Essay in Conceptual Synthesis.

Oxford University Press, 1990.

Alvin I. Goldman. Reliabilism and Contemporary Epistemology: Essays. Oup Usa, 2012.

Sally Haslanger. What Knowledge is and What It Ought to Be: Feminist Values and

Normative Epistemology. Philosophical Perspectives, 13:459-480, 1999.

Michael Williams. Problems of Knowledge: A Critical Introduction to Epistemology.

Oxford University Press, 2001.

Chair: Silvana Pani
Time: 10:00-10:30, 09. September 2022 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.005

Felix Danowski 
(Universität Wien, Österreich)

Testability and Meaning deco