Naive Moral Fictionalism


As a descriptive theory, moral fictionalism proposes that moral claims are typically based on the fundamental error of attributing moral values with an objective, independent status that they cannot possess. This illusory belief in the reality of moral values has been aptly described as naïve moral realism. Yet, the assumed prevalence of moral realism, however naïve, is a crucial question that has not been adequately defended by proponents of moral fictionalism and is found to be inconsistent with much empirical research in moral psychology that reveals a much more sophisticated understanding of the meanings of moral beliefs and judgements. In addition to these empirical weaknesses, moral fictionalism tends to rely on a naïve interpretation of: (1) the conceptual validity and scope of the cognitivivist/non-cognitivist distinction (2) the categoricity of moral judgements (3) the descriptive language of moral discourse These serious flaws provide good reason for describing the theory itself as naïve moral fictionalism.



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Thomas Johnson
City College of New York

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