Open questions and consequentialist conditionals: Central puzzles in Moorean moral philosophy

2003 2003

Other formats: Order a copy

Abstract (summary)

Moore's Open Question Arguments are among the most influential arguments in 20th Century metaethical thought. But, surprisingly, there is a fair amount of confusion concerning what the Open Question Arguments actually are, how the Moorean passages should be interpreted, and what they are intended to show. Thus, the early chapters are devoted to clarificatory matters, including the exposing of a variety of contemporary attacks upon Moore's arguments as misguided by indicating where they rest upon faulty interpretations of Moorean passages. Providing what I take to be accurate formulations of Moore's famous arguments, responding to historically important preliminary objections, and, finally, presenting various shortcomings of these arguments constitute the remaining themes of the early chapters.

Next, I pursue an explanation of what I call the ‘Open Question phenomenon’: the inclination that many have to endorse Moore's “open question” premises. I survey a variety of popular noncognitivist explanations, arguing that each of them is unsatisfactory. I then present a novel semantic explanation of the phenomenon and use it to construct an augmented Moorean Open Question Argument, one capable of overcoming the shortcomings of Moore's originals.

The latter chapters are dedicated to an investigation of Moore's preferred normative theory—a version of objective consequentialism. I argue that the standard semantic account of subjunctive conditionals fails to capture the nature of certain subjunctive conditionals relevant to the normative evaluation of alternatives from an objective consequentialist perspective. I then present a modified version of the standard account in an effort to remedy the problem.

Next, I present a novel objection against all extant versions of objective consequentialism. I then introduce and utilize the concept of an “objective” subjunctive probability in the transformation of a subjective version of consequentialism into an objective version, one capable of dealing with the difficulties posed by the objection.

I conclude the dissertation with a final chapter in which I defend possibilist (as opposed to subjunctive) versions of consequentialism from a contemporary objection. In doing so, I elucidate a theoretical advantage that possibilist theories have over their subjunctive counterparts.

Indexing (details)

0422: Philosophy
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Consequentialist conditionals; G. E. Moore; Metaethics; Moore, G. E.; Moral philosophy; Open questions; Puzzles
Open questions and consequentialist conditionals: Central puzzles in Moorean moral philosophy
Vessel, Jean-Paul
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 64/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780493997506, 0493997504
Feldman, Fred
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
Access the complete full text

You can get the full text of this document if it is part of your institution's ProQuest subscription.

Try one of the following:

  • Connect to ProQuest through your library network and search for the document from there.
  • Request the document from your library.
  • Go to the ProQuest login page and enter a ProQuest or My Research username / password.