I’m an editor for Blackwell’s International Encyclopedia of Ethics, and my current (and first) task is to help make sure the IEE will have the right entries, or headwords, for metaethics. Below the fold are the headwords that the über-editors and I came up with so far. What’s missing?

Feel free to suggest authors for entries (though that’s not part of the bleg, only if an idea just happens to strike you), or to volunteer for that matter, and if you would rather make your suggestions in email to me, that’s fine. Just add the capital letters of my name to this address: ames_reier@brown.edu

•    agent-relative vs. agent-neutral
•    amoralist
•    attitudes, reactive
•    ‘buck-passing’ accounts of rightness/wrongness
•    ‘buck-passing’ accounts of value
•    coherentism, moral
•    concepts vs. properties, moral
•    constructivism, moral
•    contractualism
•    dilemmas, moral
•    disagreement, moral
•    divine command theory
•    emotivism
•    epistemology, moral
•    error theory
•    ethics, autonomy of
•    Euthyphro problem
•    evaluative vs. deontic concepts
•    evolution, ethics and
•    explanations, moral
•    expressivism/non-cognitivism
•    externalism, motivational
•    fact-value distinction
•    fictionalism, moral
•    Frege-Geach objection
•    guilt
•    ideal observer theories
•    imperatives, categorical and hypothetical
•    imperatives, logic of
•    incommensurability, with respect to values
•    internalism, motivational
•    intuitionism, moral
•    ‘is’-‘ought’ gap
•    minimalism about truth, ethics and
•    moral perception

•    motivation, Humean theory of
•    motivation, moral
•    naturalism, ethical
•    naturalistic fallacy
•    neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism
•    non-naturalism, ethical
•    normativity
•    open question argument
•    overridingness, moral
•    particularism
•    pluralism, with respect to value
•    pragmatism, ethical
•    prescriptivism
•    projectivism
•    queerness, argument from
•    rationalism
•    realism, moral
•    reasons for action, internal vs. external
•    reasons for action, morality and
•    reflective equilibrium
•    relativism, moral
•    response-dependent theories
•    semantics, moral
•    sensibility theory
•    sentimentalism
•    sentiments, moral
•    shame
•    skepticism, moral
•    supervenience, moral
•    thick vs. thin concepts
•    truth, in ethics
•    truth-aptness
•    value, fitting-attitude account of
•    value, intrinsic
•    ‘wrong kind of reasons’ problem

24 Replies to “Ethics Encyclopedia Entries bleg

  1. Well, that list didn’t format all that well, but (a) I’m a novice at html stuff, and (b) it looks a lot better than the table looked, so I’ll leave it like this.

  2. A taxonomic question. “externalism, motivational” is on the list. I assume, perhaps wrongly, that this refers to the internalism/externalism debate about practical reasoning. But there is no entry for the internalism/externalism debate about moral judgment. Moreover, there is an entry for “reasons for action, internal vs. external” which, if the reasons are practical, seems to be the same debate about practical reasoning. So either things are misnamed or there is an unwanted redundancy, I think.

  3. Mark, yeah, the internalism and externalism are moral judgment int and ext. (The actual entries will be “internalism, motivational, with respect to moral judgment” and, well, you get it.)
    Manuel, do you think that belongs in metaethics? I didn’t make it clear enough that the list here is only metaethics. I’ll assume this comment will be enough clarification.

  4. Hi Jamie,
    How about “Projects, personal”? No doubt you will mention these in the overridingness section, but they seem to play a key role in the arguments against moral overridingness given by Susan Wolf, Bernard Williams, and others. Williams’ characterization of such projects as constitutive of our practical identity has been pretty influential in this debate.

  5. Two suggestions:
    entry of practical reason(ing)
    entry on constitutivism (attempts to derive moral reasons from the nature of action or reason – such as in Korsgaard and Velleman)

  6. What about a separate heading for the “ought implies can” principle?
    Also, a niggle I can’t resist; I’d suggest the heading:response-dependence theories rather than response-dependent theories, as it’s not the theory that’s being claimed to be response-dependent.
    How did you decide when to use the word “moral” and when to use the word “ethical” (e.g. you have moral realism and ethical pragmatism.)?

  7. Great ideas, thanks!
    Some of them might be better in a less meta section, but I’ll suggest those anyway and let the übereditors decide.
    Matt, is constitutivism distinct from constructivism?
    Simon, ‘ought implies can’ is supposed to be in the ‘autonomy of ethics’ section. Maybe I could add an entry for ‘ought implies can’ with just a cross-reference. As for ‘dependence/t’, ugh. I’ll ask the logic encyclopedists how they handled ‘relevance/t’ logic. And on choosing between ‘morality’ vs. ‘ethics’: I didn’t, someone else did. But you should ask Tim Scanlon how to distinguish; he has a good answer. And that question reminds me that I meant to remove the entry ‘pragmatism, ethical’ because I don’t know what it means and nobody else seems to.

  8. Jamie,
    I think constructivism and constitutivism are different. Though I’m far from an expert in either, I take constructivism to be the project of deriving/constructing reasons from an ideal conception of the nature of the person or an idealized standpoint of practical reason (such as Rawls’s original position). Constitutivism, on the other hand, attempts to derive reasons and normativity from certain ends or aims the pursuit of which constitutes being an agent or acting for a reason or acting autonomously. Reasons and normativity derive from the “constitutive aims” of action. Elijah Millgram’s entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entitled, “Practical Reason and the Structure of Actions” deals with the kind of view I have in mind.

  9. The comment I recall most clearly from Scanlon on the ethical/moral distinction is that “ethics” has to do with money, and “morality” has to do with sex. I suspect that’s not what you have in mind, Jamie (it’s not a metaethical distinction, after all)!

  10. Jamie, what’s the difference between buck-passing and fitting-attitude accounts of value? This may just reflect my own ignorance, but I always thought these were just alternative labels for one same family of views.

  11. Maybe these are covered by other terms, but I’ll mention them anyways.
    – Moral Nihilism (I think this is covered by Amoralism, but I’m not sure that everyone does)
    – Descriptivism
    – Moral Ontology (or something to cover discussion about what kind of property a moral property would need to be)

  12. Matt, I get it. I’ll find some way to get ‘constitutivism’ in there, although I think it’s hard to separate the two because an idealized standpoint of practical reason is hard to separate from what counts as acting autonomously.
    Simon, yeah, that’s it 😉
    Pablo, good point. Those should be merged.
    Andrew — I think Nihilism is covered in Error Theory, actually. Maybe a separate term with a cross-reference?
    Thanks again. It’s great also to have all the suggestions together (actually I also got some emails — thanks for those too).

  13. Is Holism vs. atomism in the theory of reasons covered under some other headings? (That’s Dancy’s terminology, I don’t know if it’s standard).

  14. I wonder whether particularism doesn’t belong in metaethics.
    Plausibly, the question whether there are any true general moral principles belongs in the same category as the question whether a specific general moral principle — say, the Principle of Utility — is true. But the latter seems clearly to belong in “normative ethics”, not metaethics.

  15. Two quick thoughts.
    (i) Campbell Brown beat me to the point about particularism. In conversations I’ve had over the past few years, many people seem to think it is a metaethical topic. But I share CB’s concerns. Indeed, if we take the debates between consequentialists, deontologists et al to be part of the core of normative ethics, the particularism-generalism controversy (or controversies) are more like ‘meta-normative ethics’: Never which general principle or principles are true, are there general principles in the first place? (Of course, I can imagine an entry on particularism in this volume in which someone argues along these lines, querying why the entry is here at all!)
    (ii) Why thick *versus* thin concepts. Why not ‘and’? Sure, there are the familiar debates about whether thick concepts provide more stable and better understanding. But, thin and thick concepts seem to work together a lot as well.

  16. The last couple of comments suggest the need for another entry along the lines of:
    – metaethics, distinguishing from normative ethics
    – metaethics, autonomy of
    – metaethics, defining
    I have in mind the BEARS symposium on Dworkin and other stuff by people like Blackburn, Korsgaard and Hussain and Shah. I don’t think all the issues here fall under the discussion of “minimalism about truth”.

  17. On particularism/generalism and atomism/holism:
    I thought holism in the theory of reasons was a meta-ethical position, which some people but not all take to imply particularism in normative ethics. If that’s true, then holism/atomism belongs with meta-ethics, but particularism/generalism does not.
    It might, of course, be that the meta/normative divide is somewhat vague, and these issues sit on the boundary.

  18. Hi Jamie. Another thought. There is a growing literature on the extent to which everyday moral phenomenology is linked to, can justify, etc., metaethical claims. (Papers by Horgan and Timmons, Loeb, etc.) This might be covered in your ‘moral perception’ and perhaps ‘epistemology, moral’,but it might well not be.

  19. Yeah, ‘quasi-realism’, ‘holism v atomism’, ‘moral twin earth’, those should each get at least a very small entry pointing to the bigger entry in which they might also be discussed.
    On whether particularism is metaethical, hm, difficult. I’m hoping that won’t have to be decided, at least by me — I don’t know exactly how the encyclopedia will be organized, but I assume there won’t be an entirely separate section of metaethics.
    Simon Rippon, that’s a great suggestion (‘how to divide meta from normative’ as a section of its own).
    Simon K., someone sent me the ‘moral phenomenology’ suggestion by email. I agree, it deserves its own entry. Also, welcome to PEA Soup!

  20. Jamie,
    Here’s another suggestion: Actualism vs. Possibilism (i.e., the issue of whether it is facts about what the agent would do were she to perform some action or facts about what she could do were she to perform it that determine whether or not she ought to perform it). There’s a growing body of interesting literature on the topic and yet I don’t know of any encyclopedia that has an entry on this topic.

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