gap gap

Cambridge University Press, 2001

Reprinted excerpts from The Myth of Morality appear in:

Foundations of Ethics: An Anthology
(Blackwell, 2006)

Metaethics: Critical Concepts in Philosophy (Routledge, 2008)





"Moral fictionalism is an idea whose time has come. We increasingly fear that morality rests on some mistake; we increasingly hope that make-believe acceptance of what we cannot in good conscience accept outright will deliver the benefits of genuine acceptance without the costs. Joyce makes an unexpectedly persuasive case that make-believe moralizing could be unconfused and honest and no less socially beneficial than the real thing."
-- David Lewis, Princeton University

"Fictionalism -- the idea that when we think and talk about certain subject matters we effectively pretend, or make-believe, that the world is a certain way when it isn't that way -- is a refreshing alternative to the familiar cognitivist and non-cognitivist intepretations of various areas of discourse. In The Myth of Morality Richard Joyce shows how the fictionalist approach can help illuminate both moral judgement and moral motivation. Moral claims are false, he argues, but, for good reasons, we adopt a make-believe attitude towards them, a make-believe attitude that brings certain emotions in its wake. Replete with ideas that are both novel and challenging, and written in a no-nonsense style that is crisp and to the point, Joyce will deservedly make many converts. His moral fictionalism is a most welcome addition to the metaethical landscape."
-- Michael Smith, Princeton University

NB. In the hardback edition, CUP accidentally left off Michael Smith's endorsement from the back cover. Hmph. This was rectified in the subsequent paperback addition, but now David Lewis's kind claim that I make an unexpectedly persuasive case that make-believe moralizing could be "unconfused and honest" had mysteriously become the less kind (but possibly more accurate) claim that I make an unexpectedly persuasive case that make-believe moralizing could be "confused and honest." Hmph again.

blurb & contents:  

In The Myth of Morality, Richard Joyce argues that moral discourse is hopelessly flawed. At the heart of ordinary moral judgements is a notion of moral inescapability, or practical authority, which, upon investigation, cannot be reasonably defended. Joyce argues that natural selection is to blame, in that it has provided us with a tendency to invest the world with values that it does not contain, and demands that it does not make. Should we therefore do away with morality, as we did away with other faulty notions such as witches? Possibly not. We may be able to carry on with morality as a "useful fiction" - allowing it to have a regulative influence on our lives and decisions, perhaps even playing a central role - while not committing ourselves to believing or asserting falsehoods, and thus not being subject to accusations of "error".

Chapter 1. Error Theory and motivation
Chapter 2. Error theory and reasons
Chapter 3. Practical instrumentalism
Chapter 4. The relativity of reasons
Chapter 5. Internal and external reasons
Chapter 6. Morality and evolution
Chapter 7. Fictionalism
Chapter 8. Moral fictionalism
Epilogue: Debunking myths


"[T]he detail and creativity with which Joyce pursues his fictionalist programme should ensure that his work becomes a lasting contribution in the field. Reading this book should certainly provide food for thought for those who are tempted to dismiss any form of moral error theory as obviously wrongheaded or in poor taste."
-- Hallvard Lillehammer, Mind (2004)

"This book is an impressive and stimulating treatment of central issues in metaethics. It is extremely well-written, combining clarity and precision with an individual style that is engaging and very often witty. It presents a general commentary on the contemporary metaethical debate, on the way to defending a position in that debate--moral fictionalism--that is distinctive and worthy of reaching a wider audience. The book is full of arguments, presenting a wealth of stimulating ideas, objections, and suggestions on all the topics addressed. … A significant virtue of the book is Joyce's success at clarifying the menu of fundamental options in the metaethical discussion. He does an excellent job throughout of defining the issues under dispute, stating precisely the differences between the available positions, and locating the most significant considerations for and against those positions. The book could easily serve as a clear introduction to the main issues in the contemporary metaethical debate for those who are new to the subject. … Joyce's presentation of this position is characteristically clear and sophisticated, and it is good to have his engaging defence of this neglected option in metaethical discussion."
-- R. Jay Wallace, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2003)

"[T]his is a lucid, tightly argued volume, mercifully free of needless jargon. Joyce readily anticipates and addresses likely objections to both his error theory and his fictionalist proposal. … A good deal of the argument is sensible, even ingenious. … The Myth of Morality will force morality's philosophical allies to come to grips with a position that promises to reconcile morality's apparent objectivity with its problematic claims to truth. Joyce's volume offers fruitful avenues of exploration for both realists and irrealists alike."
-- Michael Cholbi, Utilitas (2004)

"Richard Joyce, in his fascinating and elegantly argued book, The Myth of Morality, argues for a revolutionary moral fictionalism and so his account comes in two parts: the error theory and the proposal of a fictionalist replacement."
-- Nadeem J. Z. Hussain, Philosophical Perspectives (2004)



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