This paper defends pro-realism, the view that it is better if moral realism is true rather than any of its rivals. After offering an account of philosophical angst, I make three general arguments. The first targets nihilism: in securing the possibility of moral justification and vindication in objecting to certain harms, moral realism secures something that is non-morally valuable and even essential to the meaning and intelligibility of our lives. The second argument targets antirealism: moral realism secures a desirable independence (...) for moral justification that is qualitatively different from the anti-realistic construal of independence that is only explicable in terms of degrees of distance from our subjective responses and attitudes. Finally, I argue that while the pan-expressivist semantic program of quasi-realism has significant effects on what can be appropriately said in meta-ethical discourse, it provides no comfort to the pro-realist who is already angsty about anti-realism. (shrink)
Many of us are unmoved when it is objected that some morally or intellectually suspect source agrees with our belief. While we may tend to find this kind of guilt by epistemic association unproblematic, I argue that this tendency is a mistake. We sometimes face what I call the problem of unwelcome epistemic company. This is the problem of encountering agreement about the content of your belief from a source whose faults give you reason to worry about the belief's truth, (...) normative status, etiology, or implications. On the basis of an array of cases, I elaborate four distinct kinds of problems that unwelcome epistemic company poses. Two of these are distinctly epistemic, and two are moral. I canvass possible responses, ranging from stubbornness to an epistemic prudishness that avoids unwelcome company at all costs. Finally, I offer preliminary lessons of the problem and distinguish it from the problem of peer disagreement. (shrink)
In a previous volume of Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, Melis Erdur defends the provocative claim that postulating a stance-independent ground for morality constitutes a substantive moral mistake that is isomorphic to the substantive moral mistake that many realists attribute to antirealists. In this discussion paper I reconstruct Erdur’s argument and raise two objections to the general framework in which it arises. I close by explaining why rejecting Erdur’s approach doesn’t preclude normative criticism of metaethical theories.
Drawing on the writings of the Jewish thinker, Abraham Joshua Heschel, I defend a partial response to the problem of divine hiddenness. A Jewish approach to divine love includes the thought that God desires meaningful relationship not only with individual persons, but also with communities of persons. In combination with John Schellenberg’s account of divine love, the admission of God’s desire for such relationships makes possible that a person may fail to believe that God exists not because of any individual (...) failing, but because the individual is a member of a larger community that itself is culpable. (shrink)
Moral realism and some of its constitutive theses, e.g., cognitivism, face the following challenge. If they are true, then it seems that we should predict that deference to moral testimony is appropriate under the same conditions as deference to non-moral testimony. Yet, many philosophers intuit that deference to moral testimony is not appropriate, even in otherwise ordinary conditions. In this paper I show that the challenge is cogent only if the appropriateness in question is disambiguated in a particular way. To (...) count against realism and its constitutive theses, moral deference must fail to be appropriate in specifically the way that the theses predict it is appropriate. I argue that this is not the case. In brief, I argue that realism and allied theses predict only that deference to moral testimony is epistemically appropriate, but that the intuitive data plausibly show only that it is not morally appropriate. If I am right, then there is reason to doubt the metaethical relevance of much of the skepticism regarding moral deference in recent literature. (shrink)
Peer disagreement presents religious believers, agnostics, and skeptics alike with an epistemological problem: how can confidence in any religious claims (including their negations) be epistemically justified? There seem to be rational, well-informed adherents among a variety of mutually incompatible religious and non-religious perspectives, and so the problem of disagreement arises acutely in the religious domain. In this paper, we show that the transformative nature of religious experience and identity poses more than just this traditional, epistemic problem of conflicting religious beliefs. (...) In encountering one another, believers, agnostics, and skeptics confront not just different beliefs, but different ways of being a person. -/- To transition between religious belief and skepticism is not just to adopt a different set of beliefs, but to transform into a different version of oneself. We argue that the transformative nature of religious identity intensifies the problem of pluralism by adding a new dimension to religious disagreement, for there are principled reasons to think we can lack epistemic and affective access to our potential religious, agnostic, or skeptical selves. Yet, access to these selves seems to be required for the purposes of decision-making that is to be both rational and authentic. Finally, we reflect on the relationship between the transformative problem of religious disagreement and what it shows about the epistemic status of religious conversion and de-conversion, in which one disagrees with one’s own (transformed) self. (shrink)
In the Hebrew Scriptures, there are familiar consequences for disobedience to God—destruction of holy sites, slavery, exile, and death. But there is one consequence that is less familiar and of special interest in this chapter. Disobedience to God sometimes results in stark reversals in God’s very relationship and experiential availability to God’s own people. Such people may even remove God’s very presence. This is a curious form of punishment that threatens the very spiritual identity of the victims of the reversal. (...) This chapter explores divine reversal in the Hebrew Scriptures (and its continuation in the New Testament). Insofar as the self-identified people of God commit positive injustices against others, and even insofar as they are culpable for failing to prevent such injustices from occurring, devotees of the Hebrew Scriptures—so, devout Jews and Christians alike—ought to take seriously the possibility that God will side with those who suffer the injustices and even, in a sense, sanctify their life, practices, and identity. Divine reversals pose problems for Jewish and Christian ethics, which must grapple with the possibility that God might seem to adopt inconsistent moral positions across time—or at least inconsistent moral postures. (shrink)