Grounding the autonomy of Ethics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


There are various ways of characterizing Hume’s dictum that ‘you can’t get an ought from an is’. The literature directly addressing this question all focus on logical characterizations of autonomy theses. Such theses maintain that certain logical relations do not obtain between ethical and non-ethical sentences, for instance that no non-ethical sentences logically entail an ethical sentence. The chapter argues that this focus on logical autonomy is a mistake. The thesis so important to our metaethicists is not a logical thesis but a metaphysical one. The relevant metaphysical autonomy thesis maintains that ethical facts are not fully grounded just in non-ethical facts. The chapter defends this characterization, and also defends the converse thesis that all facts partly grounded in ethical facts are ethical facts. This pair of theses can help with debates about the plausibility of nihilism and the classification of revisionary metaethical theses.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Studies in Metaethics
EditorsRuss Shafer-Landau
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191802515, 9780191058691
ISBN (Print)9780198738695, 9780198738701
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameOxford Studies in Metaethics
PublisherOxford University Press


  • autonomy
  • rounding
  • Hume’s principle
  • logical autonomy
  • metaphysical autonomy
  • metaethics
  • ethical facts


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