Do 'Objectivist' Features of Moral Discourse and Thinking Support Moral Objectivism?

Journal of Ethics 16 (4):367-393 (2012)
Abstract
Many philosophers think that <span class='Hi'>moral</span> <span class='Hi'>objectivism</span> is supported by stable features of <span class='Hi'>moral</span> discourse and thinking. When engaged in <span class='Hi'>moral</span> reasoning and discourse, people behave ‘as if’ <span class='Hi'>objectivism</span> were correct, and the seemingly most straightforward way of making sense of this is to assume that <span class='Hi'>objectivism</span> is correct; this is how we think that such behavior is explained in paradigmatically objectivist domains. By comparison, relativist, error-theoretic or non-cognitivist accounts of this behavior seem contrived and ad hoc. After explaining why this argument should be taken seriously (recent arguments notwithstanding), I argue that it is nevertheless undermined by considerations of <span class='Hi'>moral</span> disagreement. Even if the metaphysical, epistemic and semantic commitments of <span class='Hi'>objectivism</span> provide little or no evidence against it, and even if the alternative explanations of ‘objectivist’ traits of <span class='Hi'>moral</span> discourse and thinking are speculative or contrived, <span class='Hi'>objectivism</span> is itself incapable of making straightforward sense of these traits. Deep and widespread <span class='Hi'>moral</span> disagreement or, rather, the mere appearance of such disagreement, strongly suggests that the explanations operative in paradigmatically objective discourse fail to carry over to the <span class='Hi'>moral</span> case. Since <span class='Hi'>objectivism</span>, no less than <span class='Hi'>relativism</span>, non-cognitivism and error-theories, needs non-trivial explanations of why we behave ‘as if’ <span class='Hi'>objectivism</span> were correct, such behavior does not presently provide reason to accept <span class='Hi'>objectivism</span>.
Keywords Moral absolutism  Moral disagreement  Moral objectivism  Moral semantics
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DOI 10.1007/s10892-012-9131-9
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PhilPapers Archive Gunnar Björnsson, Do 'Objectivist' Features of Moral Discourse and Thinking Support Moral Objectivism?
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