A. C. Ewing's First and Second Thoughts in Metaethics

Jonas Olson and Mark Timmons

in Underivative Duty

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199577446
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725425 | DOI:
A. C. Ewing's First and Second Thoughts in Metaethics

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  • Moral Philosophy
  • History of Western Philosophy


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Metaethical non‐naturalism went from being a dominant theory at the turn of the nineteenth century to being an intellectual curiosity a few decades later. With regard to the mercurial fortunes of non‐naturalism, the work of A. C. Ewing is an interesting case. In his 1947 The Definition of Good he defended non‐naturalism. But by the early 1950s he proposed a ‘middle way in ethics’ — a metaethical position meant to represent a compromise between non‐naturalism and its rival, non‐cognitivism, defended in his 1959 Second Thoughts in Moral Philosophy. One aim of this chapter is to further explain and illustrate the decline of non‐naturalism, using Ewing's two main works on moral philosophy as case studies. But we are also interested in the plausibility and indeed the metaethical space for the kind of compromise view Ewing aimed for with his middle way, and how his view contributes to contemporary metaethical debate.

Keywords: Ewing; metaethics; non‐cognitivism; non‐naturalism; moral philosophy

Chapter.  16242 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy

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