Christopher Howard, a graduate student at the University of Arizona who will be a research assistant professor at UNC Chapel Hill in the fall, has won the 2017 Metaethics Prize from the Marc Sanders Foundation.
The prize includes $10,000 and publication of the winning essay in Oxford Studies in Metaethics.
Many authors, including Derek Parfit, T.M. Scanlon, and Mark Schroeder, favor a “reasons-first” ontology of normativity, which treats reasons as normatively fundamental. Others, most famously G.E. Moore, favor a “value-first” ontology, which treats value or goodness as normatively fundamental. I argue that both the reasons-first and value-first ontologies should be rejected because neither can account for all the normative reasons that, intuitively, there are. I advance an ontology of normativity, originally suggested by Franz Brentano and A.C. Ewing, according to which fittingness is normatively fundamental. The normative relation of fittingness is the relation in which a response stands to an object when the object merits—or is worthy of—that response. I argue that my “fittingness-first” ontology is no less parsimonious than either the reasons- or the value-first ontology, but it can plausibly accommodate the existence of all the normative reasons there are. It therefore provides a superior ontology of normativity.
Mr. Howard is the first graduate student to win this particular Sanders prize.
Previous winners are listed here.