Facts, Values and Moral Realism

Dissertation, The University of Connecticut (1991)

From the time David Hume noticed that there seems to be a difference between matters of fact and values, an important debate in ethics has been over the nature of moral values, judgements, principles, rules. Some philosophers argue that there are moral facts which exist objectively and/or independently of any beliefs or collections of beliefs which people might have about them. Others deny that there are any moral facts, and attempt to explain the nature of morality without making any appeals to any objective and/or belief-independent states of affairs. There is, then, further debate among moral realists regarding the ontological status of moral facts, the epistemic access we have to them, and semantic considerations about the truth-values of moral statements. Among moral anti-realists there is little debate about the ontological status of moral facts, since anti-realists reject the view that there are any moral facts. Rather the debate revolves around epistemic and semantic issues regarding morality. ;I examine the moral realism/anti-realism debate, as well as its connection to an analogous dichotomy in metaphysics regarding the ontological status of the empirical world. Some philosophers have claimed that a realistic construal of the empirical world precludes realism in ethics. I argue that this claim is false, and that moral realism is perfectly compatible with at least some versions of metaphysical realism. I then develop a naturalistic moral realism which, I argue, is compatible with a naturalistic metaphysical realism
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