gap gap

Oxford University Press, 2016

This book is a collection of a dozen of my papers from the decade prior to 2015. Eleven of them are previously published, but there's one new one plus a substantial introduction.


Information about the cover image can be found here.

dust jacket blurb:

Moral skepticism is the denial that there is any such thing as moral knowledge. Some moral skeptics deny that moral judgments are beliefs; some allow that moral judgments are beliefs but claim that they are all untrue; others claim that all moral judgments are unjustified. Since the publication of The Myth of Morality in 2001, Richard Joyce has explored the terrain of moral skepticism and, perhaps more than any other living philosopher, has been willing to advocate versions of this radical view. Joyce's attitude toward morality is analogous to an atheist's attitude toward religion: he claims that in making moral judgments speakers attempt to state truths (e.g., that breaking promises is usually wrong) but that the world simply isn't furnished with the properties and relations necessary to render such judgments true. Moral thinking, he argues, probably emerged as a human adaptation, but one whose usefulness derived from its capacity to bolster social cohesion rather than its ability to track truths about the world. This forms the basis of Joyce's 'evolutionary debunking argument,' according to which evidence that a certain kind of judgment can be explained with no reference to its truth may reveal those judgments to lack warrant. Essays in Moral Skepticism gathers together a dozen of Joyce's most significant papers from the last decade, following the developments in his ideas, presenting responses to critics, and charting his exploration of the complex landscape of modern moral skepticism.


Introduction: "Morality: The Evolution of a Myth" [pdf available here.]

Part I: Error Theory

1. "Expressivism, Motivation Internalism, and Hume"

2. "Morality, Schmorality"

3. "The Accidental Error Theorist"

4. "Metaethical Pluralism: How both Moral Naturalism and Moral Skepticism may be Permissible Positions"

Part II: Evolution and Debunking

5. "The Origins of Moral Judgment"

6. "The Many Moral Nativisms"

7. "Evolution, Truth-Tracking, and Moral Skepticism"

8. "Irrealism and the Genealogy of Morals"

Part III: Projectivism and Fictionalism

9. "Patterns of Objectification"

10. "Is Moral Projectivism Empirically Tractable?"

11. "Moral Fictionalism"

12. "Psychological Fictionalism, and the Threat of Fictionalist Suicide"


“One philosopher who has long taken evolutionary theory seriously is Richard Joyce. Essays in Moral Skepticism is a collection of Joyce’s recent papers, and as such offers more to the specialist interested in contemporary scholarly debates where Joyce is a major figure, than to the general reader, who might do better to look to his previous book-length works.”
-- Times Literary Supplement (April 2017)

"Joyce writes with great clarity and his judicious treatment of complex philosophical issues is highly commendable. It is a terrific asset for both students and researchers working on metaethics to have his most influential papers collected in one volume"
-- Jonas Olson, International Journal for the Study of Skepticism (2017)

"In case you are wondering, Richard Joyce is still alive -- this is a rather rare case of a ‘Best Of’ of a living philosopher. ... Joyce’s introduction is both an exceptionally clear presentation of the MET [moral error theory] and a nuanced, insightful, and refreshingly open-minded reflection about its most contested points. Coming from one of the foremost defenders of the view, the introduction alone makes the volume required reading for scholars working on the MET."
-- Michael Klenk, Ethical Perspectives (2017)

"Joyce’s Essays in Moral Skepticism is an interesting, occasionally frustrating, massively stimulating read. The delicate contours of moral error theory, skepticisms, and related territory are mapped out here better than anywhere else. Moreover, Joyce does not skip the hard questions, while being unafraid to leave the reader hungry for more answers. It would be good reading for anyone with a  passing interest. It is essential reading for anyone with anything more. Even though the essays are largely previously published, they mesh together into a cloud of views, questions, lunges and dodges that are best read together. Essays in Moral Skepticism is a rare and welcome case of a collection of an author’s previous work being much more than the sum of its parts."
-- Jack Woods, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2017)



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