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Kassenberg, E.P.

Department of Theoretical Philosophy

Debunking the Argument from Queerness

The error theorist claims that ethical facts do not exist. Following Mackie (1977), Olson (2014) presents a thorough defence of the main argument in favour of this claim, the argument from queerness. This argument supposedly shows that it is most reasonable to believe in the non-existence of ethical facts on account of them being queer and explanatorily redundant (Olson, 2014, p. 84). I argue that the argument from queerness does not warrant the rejection of ethical facts. I do so based on the error theorist’s idea that ethical facts are inaccessible by us. For this inaccessibility ensures the queerness of these facts. This suggests that our judgment of ethical facts as queer might merely derive from their inaccessibility, and not their ontologically suspiciousness. Therefore, the presumption that the queerness of ethical facts supposedly establishes against their existence might not be as strong as the error theorist believes. Since the argument from queerness relies on this presumption to establish its conclusion, undermining this presumption weakens the argument severely. Furthermore, the inaccessibility of ethical facts and the high epistemic standards of the meta-ethical debate prevent my objection from generalizing in a problematic way. Thus, I argue that the theoretical commitments of the error theorist form insufficient ground for establishing the non-existence of ethical facts. At most, these commitments support metaethical scepticism, i.e. the refraining from judgment about the existence or non-existence of ethical facts.

Last modified:30 August 2016 2.52 p.m.