Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Prospects for Moral Success Theory

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posted on 2021-11-14, 11:02 authored by Wood, Emma Susan

In this thesis, I will argue that the existence of moral facts does not rely on the existence of a reason for action, and that moral facts can be made sense of in other ways. My thesis is both a reply to a type of moral error theory that has been advanced by Richard Joyce and John Mackie, and an account of the truthmakers of moral judgments.  The argument for error theory that I respond to is roughly as follows: moral judgments are judgments about external practical reasons. But external reasons do not exist, and so no moral judgment is ever true. In the first part of my thesis, I will argue in favour of the latter premise of the error theorist’s argument, but against the former: external reasons do not exist, but moral judgments are not committed to them.  In the second half of my thesis I build up a positive account of what moral judgments involve. If moral judgments are not judgments about reasons, then what are moral judgments about? I develop the widely supported idea that moral judgments are judgments that are based on welfarist considerations, and attempt to give this idea a more precise formulation than what has been previously offered. From this account, I go on to develop an account of the truthmakers of moral judgments. The account I end up with is an ideal observer theory that I believe makes sense of a broad range of intuitions about morality.  My hope is that this thesis will be of interest to others who feel the pull of moral error theory, but would prefer to see moral success theory vindicated.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Joyce, Richard; Keller, Simon