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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'.
1. Error theory and motivation
2. Error theory and reasons
3. Practical instrumentalism
4. The relativity of reasons
5. Internal and external reasons
6. Morality and evolution
8. Moral fictionalism
Epilogue: debunking myths
Richard Joyce is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield. He has published a number of articles in journals including Journal of Value Inquiry, British Journal of Aesthetics, and Biology and Philosophy.
"[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
"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, UC Berkeley
"[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