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Symposium IV - Metaethics and the Nature of Properties
Jussi Suikkanen (Birmingham) and Neil Sinclair (Nottingham)

2024 Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association

University of Birmingham

12 - 14 July 2024

Symposium IV – Metaethics and the Nature of Properties


Jussi Suikkanen

University of Birmingham


Neil Sinclair

University of Nottingham


This paper explores the connection between two philosophical debates concerning the nature of properties. The first metaethical debate is about whether normative properties are ordinary natural properties or some unique kind of non-natural properties. The second metaphysical debate is about whether properties are sets of objects, transcendent or immanent universals, or sets of tropes. I argue that nominalism, transcendent realism, and immanent realism are not neutral frameworks for the metaethical debate but instead lead to either metaethical naturalism or non-naturalism. We can therefore investigate the metaethical question on its own terms only within the framework of the trope theory.
This paper explores connections between theories of morality and theories of properties. It argues that: (1) Moral realism is in tension with predicate, class and mereological nominalism; (2) Moral non-naturalism is incompatible with standard versions of resemblance nominalism, immanent realism and trope theory; (3) The standard semantic arguments for property realism do not support moral realism. I also raise doubts about trope-theoretic explanations of moral supervenience and argue against one version of the principle that we should accept theories that maintain neutrality.


Jussi Suikkanen is a Reader in Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. His main research interests lie in metaethics and normative ethics. In metaethics, he has published a number on articles on the nature of moral properties, the connection between normative judgments and motivation, and the meaning of normative concepts. In normative ethics, his work has focused on contractualist and consequentialist ethical theories. He is the author of Contractualism (CUP, 2020) and This Is Ethics: An Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014).
Neil Sinclair is Professor of Philosophy and former Head of Department at the University of Nottingham. His primary philosophical interests are in anti-realist theories of moral practice, in particular expressivism. His book, Practical Expressivism (OUP 2021) argues that the practical, interpersonal problem-solving function of moral concepts can explain the realist-seeming norms at play in morality. This has led to more recent interests in the nature of prudential and aesthetic normativity, functional explanation, and conceptual engineering. He has also written papers on the nature of moral explanations, expressivist accounts of reasons, presumptive arguments for moral realism, debunking arguments and, more recently, the ethical philosophy of C.L. Stevenson. He is an area editor for Ergo (an open access journal of philosophy). 

About the Joint Session

the postgraduate session

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