An argument for robust metanormative realism

Dissertation, New York University (2003)
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Abstract

In this essay, I defend a view I call “Robust Realism” about normativity. According to this view, there are irreducibly, perfectly objective, normative truths, that when successful in our normative inquiries we discover rather than create or construct. My argument in support of Robust Realism is modeled after arguments from explanatory indispensability common in the philosophy of science and the philosophy of mathematics. I argue that irreducibly normative truths, though not explanatorily indispensable, are nevertheless deliberatively indispensable, and that this kind of indispensability is just as respectable as the more familiar explanatory kind. Deliberative indispensability, I argue, justifies belief in normative facts, just like the explanatory indispensability of, say, theoretical entities like electrons justifies belief in electrons. In the introduction I characterize the view I will be arguing for and sketch the main argument of this essay. In chapter 1 I draw the analogy between explanatory and deliberative indispensability, and argue that there is no non-question-begging reason to take the former but not the latter seriously. Here I also present the master-argument of the thesis, and clarify the argumentative work that needs to be done by each of the following chapters. In chapter 2 I address the worries of the antirealist who is willing to reject arguments from explanatory indispensability as well. In other words, in this chapter I try to justify the move from indispensability (of whatever kind) to belief. In chapter 3 I develop an account of deliberation that supports the premises about deliberation needed for my master-argument to go through. In chapter 4 I reject some alternative views, showing that none of them can allow for sincere deliberation. In this chapter, in other words, I support the indispensability premise: I argue that it really is impossible to deliberate sincerely without believing in irreducibly normative truths..

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David Enoch
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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