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Session 6

● Outline and discuss Pigden’s strategy for dealing

with Prior’s counter­examples to No­Ought­From­
Is in ‘Logic and the Autonomy of Ethics’.
● Is Pigden’s strategy a success?
● What implications (if any) does Pigden’s
paper have for meta­ethics?
● Logical autonomy is an instance of the more
general thesis that logic is conservative.
● The vague conception of the conservativeness
of logic is not tenable, as Prior shows, – so if it
is true it must be reformulated.
● Deontic logic and the conservativeness
principle conflict, but it is more likely to be
deontic logic that should be revised or
Logical autonomy

● “Logical autonomy maintains that moral

conclusions cannot be derived from non­moral
● logical autonomy is an instance of the more
general thesis that logic is conservative.
● Roughly stated, “logic preserves, but does not
extend, truth and content.”
– The conclusion in some sense contains the
the conservativeness principle

● But the rough principle of the

conservativeness of logic is not tenable
● Prior's counterexamples are counterexamples
not only to logical autonomy but to the
conservativeness of logic.
● Shorter, points out that these sentences are
morally trivial, but there is no reason to
suspect that all counter examples would be
morally trivial.
Conservativeness Re­stated
● The most certain way to affirm that any moral
conclusion from non­moral premises would be
morally trivial is to have a logical principle to
uphold that claim.
● Pigden reformulates the conservativeness
principle to do this work.
● “A predicate or propositional variable cannot
occur non­vacuously in the conclusion of a
valid inference unless it appears among the
Inference­relative Vacuity
● 1. Tea­drinking is common in England.
2. Either tea­drinking is common in England or
all New Zealanders are hedgehogs
● The occurrence of hedgehog is vacuous relative
to the inference; but taken as a premise, the
occurrence of hedgehog would be non­vacuous.
● This escapes Prior's dilemma, and I believe
Pigden's proof of this for classical predicate
calculus succeeds
Deontic logic

● In virtue of the semantics of deontic logic, it is

possible for there to be sentences in which
ought appears non­vacuously in the
conclusion where it does not appear in the
● There are good reasons for current deontic
logic, but I believe the arguments against it
are better.

● Logical autonomy plays a part in the debate

between naturalism and ontological autonomy.
● Ontological autonomy: “moral judgements, to
be true, must answer to a realm of sui generis
non­natural properties
● Naturalism: “though there are moral truths,
there are no peculiar or irreducibly moral facts
or properties.
Logical autonomy and Meta­Ethics

● Logical autonomy follows from ontological

autonomy, so if logical autonomy were false,
ontological autonomy would be too.
● But both the truth and falsity of logical
autonomy are compatible with naturalism.
● So, to defend ontological autonomy one must
defend logical autonomy, but in defending
logical autonomy one does not provide
argument against naturalism.