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Brown on Mackie: Echoes of the Lottery Paradox

Faraci, David

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In “The possibility of morality,” Phil Brown considers whether moral error theory is best understood as a necessary or contingent thesis. Among other things, Brown contends that the argument from relativity, offered by John Mackie—error theory’s progenitor—supports a stronger modal reading of error theory. His argument is as follows: Mackie’s is an abductive argument that error theory is the best explanation for divergence in moral practices. Since error theory will likewise be the best explanation for similar divergences in possible worlds similar to our own, we may conclude that error theory is true at all such worlds, just as it is in the actual world. I contend that Brown’s argument must fail, as abductive arguments cannot support the modal conclusions he suggests. I then consider why this is the case, concluding that Brown has stumbled upon new and interesting evidence that agglomerating one’s beliefs can be epistemically problematic—an issue associated most famously with Henry Kyburg’s lottery paradox.


Faraci, D. (2012). Brown on Mackie: Echoes of the Lottery Paradox. Philosophia, 41(3), 751-755.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 24, 2012
Online Publication Date Oct 6, 2012
Publication Date Oct 6, 2012
Deposit Date Aug 31, 2018
Publicly Available Date Sep 4, 2018
Journal Philosophia
Print ISSN 0048-3893
Electronic ISSN 1574-9274
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 41
Issue 3
Pages 751-755


Accepted Journal Article (190 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Philosophia. The final authenticated version is available online at:

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