Moore’s paradox and normative detachment

Swaminathan, Shivprasad (2022) Moore’s paradox and normative detachment. Journal of Human Values, 28 (3). pp. 209-220. ISSN 09716858

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It is paradoxical to make a moral statement and, in the same breath, disavow commitment to it. Following G. E. Moore, who first identified an analogous paradox—albeit, in the case of factual statements and disavowal of belief in them—these are called Moore paradoxical statements. Richard Hare argues that in order to determine whether an ‘ought’ is a moral one, one only needs to examine if this attitudinal adherence necessarily accompanies the judgement in question. If not, Moore paradoxicality hits and the ‘ought’ in question is not a moral ‘ought’. Hare’s test poses a problem for Joseph Raz who argues (along with natural lawyers, despite himself being a self-proclaimed legal positivist) that normative terms such as ‘ought’ have the same meaning in legal and moral statements. Raz, however, acknowledges a dilemma this brings in its wake: It is possible to make legal statements without necessarily endorsing them, which creates a presumption against these being equivalent to moral statements. To tackle the dilemma, Raz challenges the very idea of commitment to normative statements by arguing that it is also possible to make detached moral judgements. This paper argues that Raz’s idea of ‘detached normative statements’ falters in that the purported examples of detached normative statements Raz uses turn out upon closer examination to be non-normative statements using either norm-relative or non-normative ‘oughts’.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Contemporary moral problems | Ethics and values | Law
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Social Sciences (General)
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Law and Legal Studies
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Mr. Syed Anas
Date Deposited: 05 May 2022 06:45
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2023 08:58
Official URL:


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