There’s a debate rumbling away on Brian Leiter’s Legal Philosophy blog about whether or not American legal philosophers are remiss for paying so little attention to deontic logic.
This reminded me of something that bugs me about contemporary metaethics — viz., that so few contemporary metaethicists pay any attention to deontic logic — and so inspired me to post a slightly inflammatory post on Leiter’s blog. Since my post had much more to do with metaethics than with legal philosophy, I decided to cross-post it here (after the fold):
I’m not competent to comment on the importance of deontic logic for
legal philosophy (in relation to legal philosophy, I’m just an
interested bystander, not a participant).
But some of the contributors to this blog who have belittled the
significance of formal deontic logic for legal philosophy have also
gone on to claim that deontic logic has "a limited role in moral ….
philosophy" as well.
I confess to finding this claim quite shocking. Isn’t it perfectly
obvious that the study of the logic of ‘ought’ is part of metaethics,
which is a crucial part of moral philosophy?
In general, it strikes me as deplorable that there is so little
interest in deontic logic (and in the formal semantics of normative
concepts) on the part of metaethicists.
Why are so many metaethicists content simply to ignore deontic
logic? I suspect that the explanation in some cases is just plain
laziness. In other cases, it is a sort of diffidence about formal
technicalities that is typical of those moral philosophers who prefer
to retreat from engaging with philosophical logic into the relative
safety of the Ethics Ghetto. (Or perhaps, to put it really bluntly, it
is just that a higher proportion of the philosophy graduate students
who went into ethics were the ones who weren’t very good at logic?)