Ethical Realism

October 12, 2010

Top 10 Posts on Ethical Realism from 2009

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 12:17 am

I have turned many of my early posts into two free ebooks:

I organized the posts within these ebooks to be read in an order that makes sense. However, it might also be helpful to take a look at some of my most important posts. Here is my top 10 list:

10. What is Moral Realism?

One of the main issues I have discussed is “moral realism” and it is here that I discuss my personal understanding of moral realism. This is what I see as a very modest form of moral realism, but not all moral realists seem to agree that intrinsic values exist. They might think that intrinsic values might exist, but prefer to not talk about them. For example, W. D. Ross thought that many moral truths are “self evident” and he didn’t think we needed to know anything about intrinsic values to know moral truths.

9. Ancient Ethics

Studying the ethics from ancient philosophers is still important because their observations and arguments are still relevant. For example, few of the ancient philosophers thought that God is essential for morality, and all of the ancient philosophers seem to be moral realists.

8. How to Be A Moral Realist by Richard N Boyd Part 1 & Part 2

Boyd develops an argument for moral realism and a comprehensive account of moral realism by comparing moral realism to scientific realism. He thinks that if you think electrons exist, then you should think moral facts exist as well. Boyd didn’t actually provide an argument for moral realism, but he did give us the materials necessary to create an argument.

7. The Subjectivity of Values by J. L. Mackie

Mackie gave us the most important argument against Moral Realism: The Argument from Queerness. If moral realism should be rejected, then it will probably be because we should accept an argument from queerness against morality. The question we should ask ourselves is, “Would anything be different if moral realism is false?” I think that the answer is, “Yes.”

6. An Argument Against Moral Realism Part 3: The Argument from Queerness

Here is my response to the argument from queerness. I consider implications the argument from queerness has against the fact that we have minds and conclude that we seem to know something about minds and morality that can’t be so easily explained away.

5. An Objection to Moral Realism Part 2: Intuition is Unreliable

One form of the argument from queerness objects to the fact that morality seems to only be known through intuition (rather than observation). Some moral realists believe in moral observation, such as Torbjörn Tännsjö, but what we call “moral intuition” might not be as implausible as many seem to think anyway.

4. History of Philosophy

Knowing the history of philosophy can help us understand why philosophy became disregarded, marginalized, and excluded from everyday life.

3. What does “Meaning of Life” Mean?

This is where I discuss intrinsic values in depth and I talk about various common confusions about intrinsic values. The most important sort of “meaning of life” is that we can live a life that really matters and makes the world better.

2. Denying the Meaning of Life

What’s so important about intrinsic values and moral realism? Wouldn’t everything be the same? Why study meta-ethics? I discuss these issues in “Denying the Meaning of Life.”

1. An Argument for Moral Realism

The most personally satisfying post I have written so far is “An Argument for Moral Realism.” It is here that I argue that intrinsic values exist. I have not heard a single persuasive reason to reject my argument, but I found out that my ideas are not entirely unique. Torbjörn Tännsjö‘s argument for moral realism is similar to my own, but I think they complement each other nicely.

Honorable Mention: An Objection to Moral Realism Part 1: The Is/Ought Gap

The is/ought gap has been taken to be an objection to moral realism, but it’s actually just a question: How do we get morality? The only reason that this could be taken to be an objection to moral realism is because some people might think that it’s impossible for morality to exist as an irreducible part of reality. This concern is based on certain assumptions about reality, such as the belief that everything has to be descriptive or prescriptive but not both.

Paul Bloomfield also wrote a good discussion about the is/ought gap in Moral Reality (where he answers the question, “What linguistic rules determine moral language?”)


  1. how much time ot required for you to write this good article ?

    Comment by thegriff — October 14, 2010 @ 3:47 pm | Reply

    • My posts can take weeks to hours to write depending on the length and research that goes into them. This one is obviously easier than usual, so it took around an hour or two.

      Comment by James Gray — October 14, 2010 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

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