Ethical Realism

February 26, 2009

Chapter 3.7 “Truth, Invention, and the Meaning of Life” by David Wiggins

David Wiggins wrote the first moral realist essay that I will discuss. In particular, Wiggens wants to know what it means to live a meaningful life and what kinds of things could have intrinsic value. (more…)

February 22, 2009

Chapter 3.6 “Ethics and Observation” by Gilbert Harman

Harman examines whether or not we can “observe” moral facts in the sense that we can observe scientific facts (119). If so, we can treat ethics as a natural science. Harman’s essay is related to a very important philosophical problem: Is the truth about moral facts relevant to our beliefs about moral facts? If our moral beliefs are unrelated to the truth about moral facts, then we have little reason to trust our moral beliefs. (more…)

February 12, 2009

Chapter 3.5 “The Subjectivity of Values” by J. L. Mackie

This article by J. L. Mackie presents one of the most extreme views about moral realism: Ethical judgments are are all false. This is known as nihilism or “error theory.” For example, ethical judgments about “goodness” are metaphysical (a claim about reality), but we are mistaken to think that our idea of “goodness” approximates reality. Even though Mackie’s view is an extreme, I find it to be one of the most plausible anti-realist positions to have. (That isn’t to say that I agree with it.) (more…)

February 4, 2009

Chapter 3.4 “Ethics, Mathematics, and Relativism” by Jonathan Lear

Jonathan Lear presents challenges to two forms of moral relativism: Cognitivist and noncognitivist. (more…)

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