Right-Making and Reference
by Joseph Long
Either no normative ethical theory is true,
or the following prominent version of the
causal theory of reference, held by certain
moral philosophers and philosophers of science,
(CTR) A general term [T] rigidly designates a
property F if the use of [T] by competent users
of the term is causally regulated by F.
According to (CTR), the term "is water,"
for example, refers to the purely descriptive
property of being composed of H2O and does
so because being composed of H2O causally
regulates the competent use "is water." (For
ease of discussion, assume that any user of a
term mentioned hereafter is competent with
the term.) Now, a normative ethical theory
attempts to specify which purely descriptive
properties are fundamental right-making
properties (FRM-properties, henceforth).
An FRM-property is a purely descriptive
property that, if possessed by an action,
ultimately explains the action's being right.
Utilitarianism, for example, holds that there
is exactly one FRM-property, namely, maximizing
pleasure. The view of Moore (1993
), by contrast, held that promoting
pleasure, promoting knowledge, and promoting
beauty are all FRM-properties.