Relationality, relativism, and realism about moral value [Book Review]

Philosophical Studies 126 (3):433 - 448 (2005)
Abstract
Among the many virtues of Facts, Values and Norms, is the articulation of an especially subtle and detailed form of naturalistic value realism. The theory aspires to vindicate the objective purport of value discourse while granting, indeed insisting, that value is subjective in important respects. Evaluative thought and inquiry are understood to be continuous with empirical inquiry in the human sciences, so that ethical and evaluative conclusions can ultimately be defended on a posteriori grounds. Railton argues that talk of what is good for a person, of what is morally right and morally valuable, and perhaps even of what is beautiful, may be shown to concern evaluative facts that are part of the natural world—a mind-independent world that is causally responsible for our experience. Yet each of these forms of value, he thinks, depends in essential ways on subjects who value them. They depend, that is, upon the existence of beings from whose subjective points of view things can matter; because a world without a locus of valuing or concern would be a world in which nothing mattered. One task Railton sets himself is to develop an understanding of the distinct respects in which value can be at once objective and subjective that could unseat the sort of skepticism about objective value that has seemed to many the inevitable upshot of a sober, naturalistic view of human life and thought: “a dark unease over what sort of thing value is and how it might find a place in the world” (86). While I find much to agree with and still more to admire in these excellent essays, I confine my attention here to an area where I have some misgivings. I want to explore the puzzling category that Railton calls “moral value,” and try to understand how the balance between subjectivity and objectivity is supposed to be achieved in that particular case. For this reason, and because they have not yet received the widespread attention..
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