I strongly recommend Gerald Lang’s review-article, “How Far Can You Go with Quietism, (Problema 4, on the web at www.juridicas.unam.mx) though I must add that his article is in good part technical and is more complex than other reviews discussed on this site. It is also skillful, shrewd and highly original.
Lang offers interesting analyses of my disagreements with other philosophers about meta-ethics and moral truth. (My discussion is largely in the book’s textual endnotes.) I pick out two of his criticisms as of wider interest than others. He believes that I overstate the distinction between external skepticism and internal skepticism because, he says, the distinction is “porous.” He gives this example: we can draw, from the apparently external, metaphysical statement (A): No moral judgments can be true because there are no non-natural properties that can make them true,” an apparently internal principle (B): We should not take a moral claim to be true unless we are able to vouch for the existence of a non-natural property that makes it true. He says that this derivation furnishes a strong objection to my thesis that he calls the “Leakage Worry.” But my point, in Chapter 3, is not to establish but on the contrary to deny the distinction: I argue that since we have no way to construe apparently external claims except in ways that turn them into internal ones, the kind of skepticism that insists on their distinction fails. I offer examples like Lang’s; I think his and my examples show that the distinction is not porous but bogus.
His main challenge centers on what he calls “moral properties.” He says I am “incurious” about them, don’t answer obvious questions about them, and therefore do not recognize versions of naturalism that might tempt me if I did. Suppose I hold, as a substantive, first-order moral theory, that all red things are good. Do I then accept that redness is a moral property? That depends. Yes, if we take that odd proposition to be itself a substantive moral judgment. In that case it simply repeats, in a more pretentious way, my original judgment that all red things are good. It adds nothing to that original judgment. No, if we take that proposition to be a metaphysical account or a conceptual analysis that purports to say something more or different from my original judgment. Would my thinking that all and only red things are good make me a naturalist? Again that depends, in the same way, on whether I take that judgment to be a substantive or independent metaphysical one. Substantive moral theories try to identify the non-moral properties that makes something good or an act right: conducing to happiness, for instance, or bearing the love of a god. These theories are therefore naturalistic in the first way. But they are only naturalistic in the second way if they claim, as they should not, that the connection between goodness and a natural property is not substantive but metaphysical or conceptual.
In the same issue of Problema, we find Andrew Reisner’s interesting review article, Metaethics for Everyone. He agrees with me that we can have moral properties “on the cheap,” and that no interesting issue arises about such properties. But he doesn’t “quite” accept my claim that metaethics doesn’t exist. He cites my discussion of an invented conversation (42-43); I try to show that the putatively skeptical participant, D, who declares that abortion is neither required nor forbidden nor permitted, cannot provide a construal of his claim that would support his skepticism. Reisner believes that D can say that the entire conversation I imagine is based on the mistaken assumption: “that there are properties of moral error. .. One could make the conversation about whether abortion was permitted, forbidden, or required by fairies. One might reasonably reply ‘None of the above because there are no fairies.” But the statement that there are no fairies is not itself a moral judgment about what is morally permitted, forbidden, or required. The proposition Reisner thinks parallel, that there are no moral duties, is such a judgment.