Ethical Realism

January 14, 2010

How to Find the Meaning of Life

I have suggested that several things seem to “really matter.” If something “really matters,” such as happiness, then we can live a meaningful life when we promote it (such as make people happy). If something “really matters” then it has “intrinsic value.” I have argued that there is at least one meaning of life (one thing that has intrinsic value)—Pain. However, pain is “bad.” If pain is the only thing that matters, then nothing could make life worth living. I don’t want to suggest that pain is the only thing with intrinsic vale, but we need to know how to find out what has intrinsic value. I have discussed one way to provide evidence that something has intrinsic value—our moral experiences.

We can provide evidence that X has intrinsic value based on the following evidence:

  1. We experience X as good (or bad).
  2. We know X is good (or bad) for everyone.
  3. X’s intrinsic value explains our moral experiences.
  4. Our experience of X’s value can’t be fully accounted for as a “final end,” usefulness, and/or a pre-existing desire.

I will attempt to explain each of these elements of evidence: (more…)


November 10, 2009

Objections to Moral Realism Part 4: Moral Beliefs Can’t Motivate

There is evidence that moral values involve desires. When we say “human life has intrinsic value,” we expect a desire to promote human life and a pro-attitude towards human life. The connection between moral beliefs and desires is not clear, and some people have argued that morality is only about desires. If morality is only about desires, then we should reject the existence of intrinsic values because our intrinsic value beliefs would merely state our desires. These concerns reflect Humean psychology, which states that there are beliefs and desires, and beliefs can’t motivate. Mark Platts, John Searle, and others have disputed Humean psychology. Although not all philosophers agree with Humean psychology, I will not question it here. Instead, I will attempt to prove that Humean psychology is compatible with moral realism. (more…)

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