Ronald Dworkin famously argued that many putatively nonmoral metaethical theories can only be understood as being internal to the moral domain. If correct, this position, referred to as anti-archimedeanism, has profound implications for the methodology of metaethics. This is particularly true for skeptical metaethical theories. This article defends a version of anti-archimedeanism that is true to the spirit rather than the letter of Dworkin's original thesis from several recent objections. First, it addresses Kenneth Ehrenberg's recent attempt to demonstrate how (...) certain metaethical theories can be understood in a morally neutral manner. It then discusses Charles Pigden's claim that Dworkin begs the question against error theorists and nihilists by assuming a conceptual space that error theorists and nihilists would reject. It concludes that the anti-archimedean methodology originally proposed by Dworkin is defensible, and can be used to support a robust form of moral realism. (shrink)
It might be expected that it would suffice for the entry for “moralanti-realism” to contain only some links to other entries in this encyclopedia. It could contain a link to “moral realism” and stipulate the negation of the view there described. Alternatively, it could have links to the entries “anti-realism” and “morality” and could stipulate the conjunction of the materials contained therein. The fact that neither of these approaches would be adequate—and, more strikingly, that following (...) the two procedures would yield substantively non-equivalent results—reveals the contentious and unsettled nature of the topic. (shrink)
The essay has two purposes. One is to point out connections and parallels between, On one hand, The debates of metaphysical realists and anti-Realists, And on the other hand, The debates surrounding moral realism. The second is to provide the outlines of a case for a kind of position that would generally be classified as moral realism. One feature of this position is that it emerges as parallel to, And compatible with, A metaphysical position that would generally be (...) classified as anti-Realism. (shrink)
In recent years, discussions of Buddhist ethics have increasingly drawn upon the concepts and tools of modern ethical theory, not only to compare Buddhist perspectives with Western moral theories, but also to assess the meta-ethical implications of Buddhist texts and their philosophical context. Philosophers aiming to defend the Madhyamaka framework in particular – its ethics and soteriology along with its logic and epistemology – have recently attempted to explain its combination of moral commitment and philosophical scepticism by appealing (...) to various forms of meta-ethical anti-realism. This paper argues that those attempts do not succeed, even in their own terms. Their emphasis on universal compassion, among other features of their approaches, is difficult to explain normatively so long as it is embedded within an anti-realist framework. Soteriological values – such as enlightenment and liberation – also seem to require a realist account of their normativity. Though many Buddhist philosophers disagree, there is at least one form of Buddhist philosophy, that of the Yogācāra school, that can be interpreted as articulating a meta-ethical realism of the kind that the broader Mahāyāna tradition (if not other Buddhist traditions as well) seems to require. To a greater extent than stressing common anti-realist themes would allow, the paper argues that finding common ground, where Western moral realism and Buddhist moral realism can coalesce and jointly vindicate a repertoire of shared ethical concepts, may also facilitate the efforts of those engaged in comparative ethical theory. (shrink)
This chapter surveys work in meta-ethics in the past fifty years which explicitly deals with issues associated with evil. It discusses two examples from secular discussions: the argument developed by Gilbert Harman on the explanatory role of moral facts, and the argument developed by Gilbert Harman and John Doris on the empirical inadequacy of the virtues. The chapter then turns to two topics related to theistic meta-ethics: the problem of evil and moral realism, and theological voluntarism and evil.
I defend the claim that Kant is a moral antirealist, or (as he would state it) moral idealist. I first define moral realism and moral idealism, concluding that moral idealism requires that every moral property depend upon the minds of moral agents. Kant's metaethical theory is idealist regarding the nature of value, since it depends upon the voluntary choices of moral agents in pursuing particular ends, the nature of right, since the categorical (...) imperative stems from moral agents' own reason, and the nature of moral agency, since freedom is construed in terms of the use of reason. (shrink)
Abstract Street has argued that the meta-ethical realist is faced with a dilemma. Either evolutionary forces have had a distorting influenced on our ability to track moral properties or evolutionary forces influenced our beliefs in the direction of tracking moral properties. Street argues that if the realist accepts the first horn of the dilemma, the realist must accept implausible skepticism regarding moral beliefs. If the realist accepts the second horn of the dilemma, the realist owes an explanation (...) of the fitness producing nature of moral beliefs. As Street establishes the dialectic, the anti-realist’s explanation is better. I will argue that Street’s first horn is question begging then I will grasp the second horn of the dilemma and argue that only the realist can explain the role of moral beliefs in our evolutionary history. My argument will take the form of a dilemma. For our evaluative judgments to be fitness conducive, they must be responsive to the right sort of external world properties. The non-reductive realist can provide such a set of properties. On the first horn of the dilemma, the anti-realist cannot. The realist, unlike the anti-realist, can explain why our evaluative judgments are fitness conducive. The realist has won the explanatory battle. On the second horn of the dilemma, the anti-realist can provide a set of non-normative external world properties that our evaluative attitudes are responsive to. In doing so, the anti-realist has provided the heretofore-missing component of the reductive realist’s project. Again, the realist has won. (shrink)
Moralanti-realism comes in two forms – noncognitivism and the error theory. The noncognitivist says that when we make moral judgments we aren’t even trying to state moral facts. The error theorist says that when we make moral judgments we are making statements about what is objectively good, bad, right, or wrong but, since there are no moral facts, our moral judgments are uniformly false. This development of moralanti-realism was first (...) seriously defended by John Mackie. In this paper I explore a dispute among moral error theorists about how to deal with false moral judgments. The advice of the moral abolitionist is to stop making moral judgments, but the contrary advice of the moral fictionalist is to retain moral language and moral thinking. After clarifying the choice that arises for the moral error theorist, I argue that moral abolitionism has much to recommend it. I discuss Mackie’s defense of moral fictionalism as well as a recent version of the same position offered by Daniel Nolan, Greg Restall, and Caroline West. Then I second some remarks Ian Hinckfuss made in his defense of moral abolitionism and his criticism of “the moral society.” One of the worst things about moral fictionalism is that it undermines our epistemology by promoting a culture of deception. To deal with this problem Richard Joyce offers a “non-assertive” version of moral fictionalism as perhaps the last option for an error theorist who hopes to avoid moral abolitionism. I discuss some of the problems facing that form of moral fictionalism, offer some further reasons for adopting moral abolitionism in our personal lives, and conclude with reasons for thinking that abolishing morality may be an essential step in achieving the goals well-meaning moralists and moral fictionalists have always cherished. (shrink)
Beginning with the paradoxes of zombie twins, we present an argument that dualism is both true and false. We show that avoiding this contradiction is impossible. Our diagnosis is that consciousness itself engenders this contradiction by producing contradictory points of view. This result has a large effect on the realism/anti-realism debate, namely, it suggests that this debate is intractable, and furthermore, it explains why this debate is intractable. We close with some comments on what our results mean for metaphysics (...) and philosophy, in general. (shrink)
This article examines a somewhat neglected argument for the existence of God which appeals to the divine perspective as a way of reconciling the conflicting claims of realism and anti-realism. Six representative examples are set out (Berkeley, Ferrier, T. H. Green, Josiah Royce, Gordon Clark and Michael Dummett), reasons are considered why this argument has received less attention than it might, and a brief sketch given of the most promising way in which it might be developed.
This article attempts to motivate a new approach to anti-realism (or nominalism) in the philosophy of mathematics. I will explore the strongest challenges to anti-realism, based on sympathetic interpretations of our intuitions that appear to support realism. I will argue that the current anti-realistic philosophies have not yet met these challenges, and that is why they cannot convince realists. Then, I will introduce a research project for a new, truly naturalistic, and completely scientific approach to philosophy of mathematics. (...) It belongs to anti-realism, but can meet those challenges and can perhaps convince some realists, at least those who are also naturalists. (shrink)
The most basic divide amongst analytic metaphysicians separates realists from anti-realists. By examining certain characteristic and problematic features of these two families of views, we uncover their underlying metametaphysicalorientations, which turn out to coincide. This shared philosophical picture that underlies both the realist and the anti-realist project we call the Modern Picture. It rests on a crucial distinction between reality as it is for us and reality as it is in itself. It is argued that this distinction indeed generates the (...) realism/anti-realism dichotomy, and is also responsible for the problematic aspects highlighted earlier. We conclude by sketching an alternative philosophical picture that rejects the distinction between reality as it is for us and reality as it is in itself, which we call the Aristotelian Picture, and consider whether it is able to avoid the issues to which the Modern Picture gives rise. (shrink)
I aim to clarify the relationship between the success of a theory and the truth of that theory. This has been a central issue in the debates between realists and anti-realists. Realists assume that success is a reliable indicator of truth, but the details about the respects in which success is a reliable indicator or test of truth have been largely left to our intuitions. Lewis (Synthese 129:371–380, 2001) provides a clear proposal of how success and truth might be connected, (...) comparing a test of success of our theories to medical tests with low rates of false positives and false negatives. But, contrary to what Lewis claims, I argue that it is not enough for the realist to undercut the claim that success is not a reliable indicator of truth. Rather, the realist must show that our current best theories are likely true. Further, I argue that tests in science are unlike medical tests in a number of important ways. (shrink)
The indispensability argument for abstract mathematical entities has been an important issue in the philosophy of mathematics. The argument relies on several assumptions. Some objections have been made against these assumptions, but there are several serious defects in these objections. Ameliorating these defects leads to a new anti-realistic philosophy of mathematics, mainly: first, in mathematical applications, what really exist and can be used as tools are not abstract mathematical entities, but our inner representations that we create in imagining abstract mathematical (...) entities; second, the thoughts that we create in imagining infinite mathematical entities are bounded by external conditions. (shrink)
There are striking parallels, largely unexplored in the literature, between skeptical arguments against theism and against moral realism. After sketching four arguments meant to do this double duty, I restrict my attention to an explanatory argument that claims that we have most reason to deny the existence of moral facts (and so, by extrapolation, theistic ones), because such putative facts have no causal-explanatory power. I reject the proposed parity, and offer reasons to think that the potential vulnerabilities of (...)moral realism on this front are quite different from those of the theist. Key Words: causal power explanatory power Gilbert Harman moral facts moral realism theism. (shrink)
Open future is incompatible with realism about possible worlds. Since realistically conceived (concrete or abstract) possible worlds are maximal in the sense that they contain/represent the full history of a possible spacetime, past and future included, if such a world is actual now, the future is fully settled now, which rules out openness. The kind of metaphysical indeterminacy required for open future is incompatible with the kind of maximality which is built into the concept of possible worlds. The paper discusses (...) various modal realist responses and argues that they provide ersatz openness only, or they lead to incoherence, or they render the resulting theory inadequate as a theory of modality. The paper also considers various accounts of the open future, including rejection of bivalence, supervaluationism, and the ‘thin red line’ view (TRL), and claims that a version of (TRL) can avoid the incompatibility problem, but only at the cost of deflating the notion of openness. (shrink)
Moral disagreement is widely held to pose a threat for metaethical realism and objectivity. In this paper I attempt to understand how it is that moral disagreement is supposed to present a problem for metaethical realism. I do this by going through several distinct (though often related) arguments from disagreement, carefully distinguishing between them, and critically evaluating their merits. My conclusions are rather skeptical: Some of the arguments I discuss fail rather clearly. Others supply with a challenge to (...) realism, but not one we have any reason to believe realism cannot address successfully. Others beg the question against the moral realist, and yet others raise serious objections to realism, but ones that—when carefully stated—can be seen not to be essentially related to moral disagreement. Arguments based on moral disagreement itself have almost no weight, I conclude, against moral realism. (shrink)
This paper defends moral realism against Sharon Street’s “Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value” (this journal, 2006). I argue by separation of cases: From the assumption that a certain normative claim is true, I argue that the first horn of the dilemma is tenable for realists. Then, from the assumption that the same normative claim is false, I argue that the second horn is tenable. Either way, then, the Darwinian dilemma does not add anything to realists’ epistemic worries.
Moral Realism is a systematic defence of the idea that there are objective moral standards. Russ Shafer-Landau argues that there are moral principles that are true independently of what anyone, anywhere, happens to think of them. His central thesis, as well as the many novel supporting arguments used to defend it, will spark much controversy among those concerned with the foundations of ethics.
The main aim of this thesis is to defend moral realism. In chapter 1, I argue that moral realism is best understood as the view that (1) moral sentences have truth-value (cognitivism), (2) there are moral properties that make some moral sentences true (success-theory), and (3) moral properties are not reducible to non-moral properties (non-reductionism). Realism is contrasted with non-cognitivism, error-theory and reductionism, which, in brief, deny (1), (2) and (3), respectively. In the (...) introductory chapter, it is also argued that there are some prima facie reasons to assume that non-cognitivism and error-theory are erroneous. In chapters 2 and 3, I suggest that the two main forms of reductionism, analytic and synthetic reductionism, are mistaken. In chapter 4, I argue that the considerations in the previous chapters in relation to non-cognitivism, error-theory and reductionism provide support to moral realism. It is also suggested that these considerations make it plausible to hypothesise that moral properties depend on non-moral properties in a way I refer to as ‘the realist formula’. The realist formula confirms moral realism since it implies that moral properties are not reducible to non-moral properties. In chapters 5, 6 and 7, I argue that moral realism, much owing to the realist formula, is able to explain significant meta-ethical issues regarding moral disagreement, moral reason and moral motivation. Among other things, externalism concerning moral motivation is defended. The explanatory value of moral realism in relation to these meta-ethical issues is taken to suggest that this view is preferable to non-cognitivism, error-theory and reductionism. Some of the meta-ethical issues discussed in these chapters, particularly moral disagreement and motivation, have been thought to provide support to non-cognitivism and error-theory. I maintain that since realism, unlike reductionism, is able to counter these arguments, it justifies us in upholding the view that moral sentences have truth-value and the view that there are moral properties. In chapter 8, various objections against realism with regard to the dependence of moral properties on non-moral properties are responded to. In chapter 9, I consider an influential argument to the effect that moral properties are not involved in causal explanations. I maintain that this argument fails and that it therefore is reasonable to assume that moral properties are natural properties. However, the discussions in chapters 8 and 9 also suggest that moral realism might face problems that cannot be thoroughly discussed in this thesis. (shrink)
The author considers how constructivism, presently known to us essentially as a theory for generating rules of social cooperation, embodies a certain conception of justification that in turn may be thought of as a general theory. It is argued that moral realism and projectivism are by turns platitudinous and unsatisfactory as conceptions of justification; by contrast the general conception of justification in constructivism makes sense of reason giving and coherent rivalry. The author argues that once the right picture of (...) justification is in place, the picture constructivism illustrates or embodies, the problem of moral ontology disappears. (shrink)
The familiar argument from disagreement has been an important focal point of discussion in contemporary meta-ethics. Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of interdisciplinary work between philosophers and psychologists about moral psychology. Working within this trend, John Doris and Alexandra Plakias have made a tentative version of the argument from disagreement on empirical grounds. Doris and Plakias present empirical evidence in support of premise 4, that ethics is beset by fundamental disagreement. They examine Richard Brandt on (...) Hopi ethics and, especially, Richard E. Nisbett & Dov Cohen on cultures of honor to make a prima facie version of this case. This raises important questions. Are Doris and Plakias correct that there is even a prima facie empirical basis for moralanti-realism? What sort of empirical contribution can be made to such debates in meta-ethics? I argue that we should have reservations about the prospects of empirical contributions to the argument from disagreement. Specifically, before empirical results from psychology can be used to offer conclusions about meta-ethical issues, more careful attention must be paid to normative ethics, and especially to normative theory. There are two parts to this position. First, there is good reason to think that the evidence we currently have about moral disagreement is irrelevant to the meta-ethical debate. Second, the relevant evidence is useless for meta-ethical purposes on its own. Instead, it must be combined with normative theorizing about value pluralism. (shrink)
Moral realism of a paradigmatic sort -- Defending the parallel -- The parity premise -- Epistemic nihilism -- Epistemic expressivism : traditional views -- Epistemic expressivism : nontraditional views -- Epistemic reductionism -- Three objections to the core argument.
: The dominant interpretation of Kant as a moral constructivist has recently come under sustained philosophical attack by those defending a moral realist reading of Kant. In light of this, should we read Kant as endorsing moral constructivism or moral realism? In answering this question we encounter disagreement in regard to two key independence claims. First, the independence of the value of persons from the moral law (an independence that is rejected) and second, the independence (...) of the content and authority of the moral law from actual acts of willing on behalf of those bound by that law (an independence that is upheld). The resulting position, which is called not ‘all the way down’ constructivism, is attributed to Kant. (shrink)
In this paper I argue (i) that choosing to abide by realist moral norms would be as arbitrary as choosing to abide by the mere preferences of a God (a difficulty akin to the Euthyphro dilemma raised for divine command theorists); in both cases we would lack reason to prefer these standards to alternative codes of conduct. I further develop this general line of thought by arguing in particular (ii) that we would lack any noncircular justification to concern ourselves (...) with any such realist normative standards. (shrink)
Many philosophers argue that the face-value of moral practice provides presumptive support to moral realism. This paper analyses such arguments into three steps. (1) Moral practice has a certain face-value, (2) only realism can vindicate this face value, and (3) the face-value needs vindicating. Two potential problems with such arguments are discussed. The first is taking the relevant face-value to involve explicitly realist commitments; the second is underestimating the power of non-realist strategies to vindicate that face-value. Case (...) studies of each of these errors are presented, drawn from the writings of Shafer-Landau, Brink and McNaughton, and from recent work in experimental metaethics. The paper then considers weak presumptive arguments, according to which both realist and non-realist vindications of moral practice are possible, but the realist vindications are more natural. It is argued that there is no sense of ‘natural’ available that can make these arguments work. The conclusion is that all extant presumptive arguments for moral realism fail. (shrink)
Conventional wisdom has it that evolution makes a sham of morality, even if morality is an adaptation. I disagree. I argue that our best current adaptationist theory of meaning offers objective truth conditionsfor signaling systems of all sorts. The objectivity is, however, relative to species – specifically to the adaptive history of the signaling system in question. While evolution may not provide the kind of species independent objective standards that (e.g.) Kantians desire, this should be enough for the practical work (...) of justifying our confidence in the objectivity of moral standards. If you believe morality is an adaptation, you should be a moral realist. (shrink)
The question of moral realism—whether our ethical beliefs rest on some objective foundation—is one that mattered as much to Aristotle as it does to us today, and his writings on this topic continue to provide inspiration for the contemporary debate. This volume of essays expands the fruitful conversation among scholars of ancient philosophy and contemporary ethical theorists on this question and related issues such as the virtues, justice, and Aristotle’s theory of tragedy.The distinguished contributors to this volume enrich and (...) clarify both Aristotle’s views and the contemporary debates. This book makes an important contribution to both topics, and it will be essential reading for all philosophers and classicists with an interest in moral philosophy and Greek ethics. (shrink)
To enhance the plausibility of naturalistic moral realism, David Copp develops an argument from epistemic defeaters aiming to show that strongly a priori synthetic moral truths do not exist. In making a case for the non-naturalistic position, I locate Copp’s account within the wider literature on peer disagreement; I identify key points of divergence between Copp’s doctrine and conciliatorist doctrines; I introduce the notion of ‘minimal moral competence’; I contend that some plausible benchmarks for minimal moral (...) competence are grounded in substantive moral considerations; and I discuss two forms of spinelessness that Copp’s moral naturalism could result in. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Alvin Plantinga has argued that there is good reason to think that naturalism and moral realism are incompatible. He has done so by arguing that the most important argument for the compatibility of these two theses, which has been provided by Frank Jackson, fails and that any other argument that serves the same purpose is likely to fail for the same reason. His argument against the compatibility of naturalism and more realism, then, is indirect: he (...) argues against it by refuting the most important argument for it. In this paper, I argue that Plantinga’s argument is unconvincing for at least two reasons. First, Jackson’s argument can be revised in such a way that it meets Plantinga’s worry. Second, there is another way of arguing for the compatibility of two propositions which Plantinga does not consider. If the naturalist takes this alternative route, she does not face the problem identified by Plantinga. I thus show not only that Plantinga’s argument does not count against the compatibility of naturalism and moral realism, but that there is even good reason to think that naturalism and moral realism are in fact compatible. (shrink)
Many commentators suppose that morality, objectively construed, must possess a minimal sort of explanatory relevance if moral realism is to be plausible. To the extent that moral realists are unable to secure explanatory relevance for moral facts, moral realism faces a problem. Call this general objection an “explanatory objection” to moral realism. Despite the prevalence of explanatory objections in the literature, the connection between morality’s explanatory powers and moral realism’s truth is not clear. This (...) paper considers several different reasons for subjecting morality to explanatory scrutiny and concludes that none of them uncover a special or compelling explanatory problem for realism. In light of these difficulties, an alternative account of the connection between moral realism and moral explanation is developed. Not only does this account make sense of explanatory objections to realism, it turns out that realists may have the resources to defend themselves against this explanatory concern, properly understood. (shrink)
The basic question of ontology is “What exists?”. The basic question of metaontology is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ontology? Here ontological realists say yes, and ontological anti-realists say no. (Compare: The basic question of ethics is “What is right?”. The basic question of metaethics is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ethics? Here moral realists say yes, and moral anti-realists say no.) For example, the ontologist may ask: Do numbers exist? (...) The Platonist says yes, and the nominalist says no. The metaontologist may ask: is there an objective fact of the matter about whether numbers exist? The ontological realist says yes, and the ontological anti-realist says no. Likewise, the ontologist may ask: Given two distinct entities, when does a mereological sum of those entities exist? The universalist says always, while the nihilist says never. The metaontologist may ask: is there an objective fact of the matter about whether the mereological sum of two distinct entities exists? The ontological realist says yes, and the ontological anti-realist says no. Ontological realism is often traced to Quine (1948), who held that we can determine what exists by seeing which entities are endorsed by our best scientiﬁc theory of the world. In recent years, the practice of ontology has often presupposed an ever-stronger ontological realism, and strong versions of ontological realism have received explicit statements by Fine (this volume), Sider (2001; this volume), van Inwagen (1998; this volume), and others. (shrink)
Ruben Berrios Queen’s University Belfast Anti-realism and Aesthetic Cognition Abstract At the core of the debate between scientific realism and anti-realism is the question of the relation between scientific theory and the world. The realist possesses a mimetic conception of the relation between theory and reality. For the realist, scientific theories represent reality. The anti-realist, in contrast, seeks to understand the relations between theory and world in non-mimetic terms. We will examine Cartwright’s simulacrum account of explanation in order (...) to illuminate the anti-realist position. Science consists of phenomenological and theoretical laws. The former are concerned with appearances, or those phenomena that can be directly observed; the latter involve the unobservable reality that is alleged to underlie appearances, and are capable only of indirect confirmation. Phenomenological laws are said to be descriptive, whilst theoretical laws are understood as explanatory. Cartwright is concerned with the theoretical. She claims that the standard realist account of the explanatory efficacy of theoretical laws is faulty. The explanatory power of theoretical laws consists in their ability to provide an explanation of physical phenomena. According to Cartwright, the realist claims that laws explain phenomena by providing an abstract description of them, in terms of their micro-structural features, that is alleged to be true. On this view, explanatory power is entirely dependent on descriptive adequacy. As phenomenological laws describe appearances, so theoretical laws describe the fundamental reality that governs appearances. Cartwright rejects the preceding view and in its place proposes a simulacrum account of explanation. According to Cartwright, the explanatory power of theoretical laws is related not to descriptive adequacy, but rather to the construction of adequate models. To explain a phenomenon is to construct a model which best or most adequately accommodates the phenomenon to a theory. The model will consist of various posited objects that serve to explain the phenomena in terms that are consistent with a set of theoretical laws. Cartwright claims that theoretical laws are true of, or describe, the objects of the model. The objects of the model, however, are not descriptive of reality. They are simulacra. They have, that is, the form or appearance of things, without possessing their substance or proper qualities. In light of the foregoing account we can summarise the distinction between scientific realism and anti-realism as follows. The realist claims that theoretical laws literally represent real objects. The anti-realist claims that laws represent objects of a model that are simulacra of reality. Anti-realism has an aesthetic dimension. The movement from realism to anti-realism is also the movement from the mimetic conception of the scientist as holding a mirror to nature to the constructionist view of the scientist as engaging with nature through invention. There is a lot of the artist in the anti-realist’s view of the scientist. This is true for Cartwright as well as, for example, Van Fraassen in his doctrine of constructive empiricism. It would appear, then, that the philosophy of science has absorbed some concepts that are ordinarily housed in aesthetics. And it has done so profitably. The aim of this paper is to reverse the direction of disciplinary influence. Can art, in relation to its status as a cognitive enterprise, be illuminated by scientific anti-realism? I will argue that it can. In an unexpected reference to the Nicomachean Ethics, Cartwright draws a suggestive parallel between theoretical laws and general moral principles, on the one hand, and physical phenomena and everyday moral conduct, on the other hand. If we add to this the claim that a central component of art’s value is cognitive, then we have the basic materials with which to flesh out a broadly anti-realist view of art. In the production of art, artists can construct models that mediate between everyday ethical phenomena and general ethical tendencies. These models reveal the ways in which there are implicit consistencies or inconsistencies, conflicts or congruences and so forth, between the phenomena and the tendencies. On this basis art can contribute to the reflective understanding of ethical life. This constitutes to a large degree art’s status as a cognitive enterprise. To apprehend art cognitively as artist or critic is to engage in aesthetic cognition. (shrink)
This critical survey of recent work on Kant's doctrine of the fact of reason and his doctrine of the practical postulates (of freedom, God, and immortality) assesses the implications of these doctrines for the debate about realism and antirealism in Kant's moral philosophy. Section 1 briefly surveys some salient considerations from the first Critique and Groundwork. In section 2, I argue that recent work on the role, content, "factual" nature, and epistemic status of the fact of reason does not (...) support an anti-realist interpretation of Kant's ethics. In section 3, I argue that recent work on the derivation and epistemic and ontological status of the practical postulates does not support an anti-realist interpretation of Kant's ethics. (shrink)
In this paper I provide an account of the metaphysical foundations of mental illness in terms of a realism debate. I motivate the importance of such metaphysical analysis as a means of avoiding some intractable problems that beset discussion of the concept of mental illness. I apply aspects of the framework developed by Crispin Wright for realism debates in order to examine the ontological commitments to mental illness as a property that humans may exhibit and to examine the various arguments (...) that realists and anti-realists can use to defend their position on mental illness. I pay particular attention to characterising Szasz's account of mental illness as that of an anti-realist error-theory and present ways in which a realist may counter such a position. Ultimately I argue that in order to hold a realist position on mental illness one would have to adopt some form of realism towards values, such as moral realism. (shrink)
I will be concerned with the following question: are there compelling arguments for postulating a distinction between the truth of a statement and the recognition of its truth, when truth is conceived along the lines of a suitable generalization of the intuitionistic idea that it should be characterized as the existence of a proof? I will argue that the distinction is not necessary within the conceptual framework of intuitionism by replying to two arguments to the contrary, one based on the (...) paradox of inference, the other on considerations concerning the content of a statement. (shrink)
We discuss the implications of the findings reported in the target article for moral theory, and argue that they represent a clear and genuine case of fundamental moral disagreement. As such, the findings support a moderate form of moralanti-realism – the position that, for some moral issues, there is no fact of the matter about what is right and wrong.
Metaethics is a perennially popular subject, but one that can be challenging to study and teach. As it consists in an array of questions about ethics, it is really a mix of (at least) applied metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and mind. The seminal texts therefore arise out of, and often assume competence with, a variety of different literatures. It can be taught thematically, but this sample syllabus offers a dialectical approach, focused on metaphysical debate over moral realism, which (...) spans the century of debate launched and framed by G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica. The territory and literature are, however, vast. So, this syllabus is highly selective. A thorough metaethics course might also include more topical examination of moral supervenience, moral motivation, moral epistemology, and the rational authority of morality. Authors Recommend: Alexander Miller, An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003). This is one of the few clear, accessible, and comprehensive surveys of the subject, written by someone sympathetic with moral naturalism. David Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Brink rehabilitates naturalism about moral facts by employing a causal semantics and natural kinds model of moral thought and discourse. Michael Smith, The Moral Problem (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994). Smith's book frames the debate as driven by a tension between the objectivity of morality and its practical role, offering a solution in terms of a response-dependent account of practical rationality. Gilbert Harman and Judith Jarvis Thomson, Moral Relativism & Moral Objectivity (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996). Harman argues against the objectivity of moral value, while Thomson defends it. Each then responds to the other. Frank Jackson, From Metaphysics to Ethics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). Jackson argues that reductive conceptual analysis is possible in ethics, offering a unique naturalistic account of moral properties and facts. Mark Timmons, Morality without Foundations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). Timmons distinguishes moral cognitivism from moral realism, interpreting moral judgments as beliefs that have cognitive content but do not describe moral reality. He also provides a particularly illuminating discussion of nonanalytic naturalism. Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001). A Neo-Aristotelian perspective: moral facts are natural facts about the proper functioning of human beings. Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism: A Defence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003). In this recent defense of a Moorean, nonnaturalist position, Shafer-Landau engages rival positions in a remarkably thorough manner. Terence Cuneo, The Normative Web (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). Cuneo argues for a robust version of moral realism, developing a parity argument based on the similarities between epistemic and moral facts. Mark Schroeder, Slaves of the Passions (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). Schroeder defends a reductive form of naturalism in the tradition of Hume, identifying moral and normative facts with natural facts about agents' desires. Online Materials: PEA Soup: http://peasoup.typepad.com A blog devoted to philosophy, ethics, and academia. Its contributors include many active and prominent metaethicists, who regularly post about the moral realism and naturalism debates. Metaethics Bibliography: http://www.lenmanethicsbibliography.group.shef.ac.uk/Bib.htm Maintained by James Lenman, professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield, this online resource provides a selective list of published research in metaethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu See especially the entries under 'metaethics'. Sample Syllabus: Topics for Lecture & Discussion Note: unless indicated otherwise, all the readings are found in R. Shafer-Landau and T. Cuneo, eds., Foundations of Ethics: An Anthology (Malden: Blackwell, 2007). (FE) Week 1: Realism I (Classic Nonnaturalism) G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, 2nd ed. (FE ch. 35). W. K. Frankena, 'The Naturalistic Fallacy,'Mind 48 (1939): 464–77. S. Finlay, 'Four Faces of Moral Realism', Philosophy Compass 2/6 (2007): 820–49 [DOI: [DOI link]]. Week 2: Antirealism I (Classic Expressivism) A. J. Ayer, 'Critique of Ethics and Theology' (1952) (FE ch. 3). C. Stevenson, 'The Nature of Ethical Disagreement' (1963) (FE ch. 28). Week 3: Antirealism II (Error Theory) J. L. Mackie, 'The Subjectivity of Values' (1977) (FE ch. 1). R. Joyce, Excerpt from The Myth of Morality (2001) (FE ch. 2). Week 4: Realism II (Nonanalytic Naturalism) R. Boyd, 'How to be a Moral Realist' (1988) (FE ch. 13). P. Railton, 'Moral Realism' (1986) (FE ch. 14). T. Horgan and M. Timmons, 'New Wave Moral Realism Meets Moral Twin Earth' (1991) (FE ch. 38). Week 5: Antirealism III (Contemporary Expressivism) A. Gibbard, 'The Reasons of a Living Being' (2002) (FE ch. 6). S. Blackburn, 'How To Be an Ethical Anti-Realist' (1993) (FE ch. 4). T. Horgan and M. Timmons, 'Nondescriptivist Cognitivism' (2000) (FE ch. 5). W. Sinnott-Armstrong, 'Expressivism and Embedding' (2000) (FE ch. 37). Week 6: Realism III (Sensibility Theory) J. McDowell, 'Values and Secondary Qualities' (1985) (FE ch. 11). D. Wiggins, 'A Sensible Subjectivism' (1991) (FE ch. 12). Week 7: Realism IV (Subjectivism) & Antirealism IV (Constructivism) R. Firth, 'Ethical Absolutism and the Ideal Observer' (1952) (FE ch. 9). G. Harman, 'Moral Relativism Defended' (1975) (FE ch. 7). C. Korsgaard, 'The Authority of Reflection' (1996) (FE ch. 8). Week 8: Realism V (Contemporary Nonnaturalism) R. Shafer-Landau, 'Ethics as Philosophy' (2006) (FE ch. 16). T. M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), ch. 1. T, Cuneo, 'Recent Faces of Moral Nonnaturalism', Philosophy Compass 2/6 (2007): 850–79 [DOI: [DOI link]]. (shrink)
SOME THINK THAT MORAL REALISTS CANNOT RECOGNIZE THE PRACTICAL OR ACTION-GUIDING CHARACTER OF MORALITY AND SO REJECT MORAL REALISM. THIS FORM OF ANTI-REALISM DEPENDS UPON AN INTERNALIST MORAL PSYCHOLOGY. BUT AN EXTERNALIST MORAL PSYCHOLOGY IS MORE PLAUSIBLE AND ALLOWS THE REALIST A SENSIBLE EXPLANATION OF THE ACTION-GUIDING CHARACTER OF MORALITY. CONSIDERATION OF THE PRACTICAL CHARACTER OF MORALITY, THEREFORE, DOES NOT UNDERMINE AND, INDEED, SUPPORTS MORAL REALISM.
I argue, contra Sabina Lovibond, that one cannot defend a viable form of moral realism from the perspective of linguistic conventionalism. Appealing to the later Wittgenstein, I argue that Wittgenstein's alleged linguistic conventionalism rests on the objective ground of the notion of a rule. While Wittgenstein acknowledges that the subjective and social context out of which we operate precludes getting at reality independent of a perspective, neither is he an anti-realist nor does he replace truth conditions with assertibility conditions. (...) If conventions are grounded in the notion of a rule, we can then use this conclusion to defend a form or moral realism. (shrink)
I scrutinize the relationship between the way emotions give rise to modal judgement and the metaphysical necessity we ascribe to the latter. While moral concepts are often described as response-dependent, I propose to analyse them as response-enabled or grokking. I discuss how grokkingness is embedded in the emotional mechanisms that provoke imaginative resistance; how it shapes our manifest image of the world and the place of morality in it; the latter’s deep contingency as contrasted to its metaphysical necessity; and (...) what is essential to a moral outlook notwithstanding deep contingency. (shrink)
This book is a systematic and constructive treatment of a number of traditional issues at the foundations of ethics. These issues concern the objectivity of ethics, the possibility and nature of moral knowledge, the relationship between the moral point of view and a scientific or naturalist world-view, the nature of moral value and obligation, and the role of morality in a person's rational lifeplan. In striking contrast to traditional and more recent work in the field, David Brink (...) offers an integrated defense of the objectivity of ethics. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that anti-reductionist moral realism still has trouble explaining supervenience. My main target here will be Russ Shafer-Landau's attempt to explain the supervenience of the moral on the natural in terms of the constitution of moral property instantiations by natural property instantiations. First, though, I discuss a recent challenge to the very idea of using supervenience as a dialectical weapon posed by Nicholas Sturgeon. With a suitably formulated supervenience thesis in hand, I try (...) to show how Shafer-Landau's proffered strategy to explain supervenience not only fails to explain supervenience, but that it also has a number of implausible consequences. The more general lesson is that strategies which may work well for explaining supervenience in the philosophy of mind and other areas cannot be assumed to carry over successfully to the metaethical context. We should therefore treat so-called `companions in guilt' arguments in this area of philosophy with considerable skepticism. Key Words: expressivism moral realism non-naturalism reductionism supervenience trope. (shrink)