Significance and System: Essays on Kant's Ethics
April, 2017

Oxford University Press


Blurb from the book jacket…


Significance and System: Essays on Kant's Ethics brings together central lines of thought in Mark Timmons's work on Kant's moral theory. The first part of the book concerns the interpretation and justification of the categorical imperative in which Timmons argues for a "differential roles" interpretation of the categorical imperative, according to which distinct formulations of this principle play different roles in the overall economy of Kant's ethics. In addition he offers a detailed interpretation of the analytic/synthetic distinction in Kant's ethics that plays a central role in Kant's justification of his supreme moral principle.


In the second part, Timmons addresses questions about the relation between motive and rightness arguing, for example, that that contemporary Kantians have misunderstood that relation. This part also examines Kant's attempt in the Doctrine of Virtue to ground a system of ethical duties in the categorical imperative.


In part three, Timmons turns to issues in Kant's psychology of moral evil, addressing questions about the psychology of the devilish vices as well as questions about the descriptive adequacy of Kant's conception of moral evil.


Throughout, Timmons combines interpretive insight with a critical eye in interpreting and criticizing Kant's ethical thought.




Morality Without Foundations
October, 1998
Oxford University Press


Table of Contents


Chapter 1      Metaethics and Methodology

Chapter 2      New Wave Moral Realism

Chapter 3      The Argument From Moral Error

Chapter 4      Contextual Moral Semantics

Chapter 5      Moral Justification in Context

Product Details

Blurb from the book jacket…


Morality without Foundations investigates fundamental metaethical questions about meaning, truth, and justification of moral thought and discourse. Mark Timmons maintains that all versions of descriptivism in ethics, particularly certain accounts of moral realism, fail. He argues instead that a correct metaethical theory should embrace some version of non-descriptivism. Timmons defends what he calls "assertoric non-descriptivism" which, unlike traditional non-descriptivist views, holds that moral sentences are typically used to make genuine assertions. In defending this view, he exploits contextual semantics, providing him with the semantic flexibility to develop an account of moral discourse.


Timmons goes on to support a contextualist moral epistemology, completing his overall version of contextualism in ethics. Like his foundationalist rivals, Timmons recognizes that there are moral beliefs that are epistemologically basic in providing a basis for the justification of non-basic moral beliefs. Yet, he agrees with the coherentist in maintaining that there are no intrinsically justified moral beliefs that can serve as a single foundation for a system of moral knowledge. Timmons ultimately finds that regresses of justification of moral belief end with contextually basic beliefs--moral beliefs which, in the relevant context, are responsibly held, but in other contexts might not be suitable as regress stoppers.


Timmons's novel defense of morality without foundations offers provocative reading for philosophers working in the areas of ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. Yet, written with the student in mind, his lucid presentation of difficult ideas make this book accessible to students and newcomers to the field of metaethics.