Ethical Realism

May 5, 2013

The Problem of Evil & Objective Morality

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 12:54 pm
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The problem of evil refers to the fact that certain traditional views of theism involve contradictory beliefs. The problem is that God should be willing and able to make sure evil doesn’t exist, but evil exists. Some theists argue that atheists can’t reject the existence of God based on the problem of evil because atheists would then have to assume objective morality exists, but objective morality requires God. I will argue that the theist’s argument is irrelevant in consideration of one argument against one type of traditional theism, but it is somewhat relevant against another. Even so, both arguments are unsound. (more…)


August 12, 2010

Is Fantasy, such as Dungeons and Dragons or Harry Potter, Immoral?

Is fantasy immoral, evil, sinful, satanic, or unholy? Fantasy entertainment has been highly criticized from religious organizations. Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, Harry Potter, and PokéMon have been cause for concern to those who worry it could be a gateway to the occult or be used to cause illegitimate tolerance towards the occult. Such worries reveal little other than the fact that many people are irrational (and have lost their grasp of reality). The suspicion towards fantasy entertainment has revealed intolerance towards other religions and worse—a serious belief in black magic. First, I will suggest that many people really do despise fantasy and believe it is immoral. Second, I will present some reasons that people are against fantasy and reply to those worries. (more…)

September 22, 2009

A Moral Anti-Realist Perspective

There are many different moral anti-realist perspectives. On one extreme an anti-realist could just say that morality is entirely delusional. Nothing matters. Go ahead and do whatever you want. This perspective is not very satisfying and it certainly won’t satisfy anyone who finds moral realism to be worthy of consideration. On the other hand an anti-realist could try to preserve our ethical beliefs, intuitions, and experiences without claiming that morality is irreducible. Morality is part of our lives, but it might be reducible to our psychology and culture. This is a kind of constructivist perspective, and it is the kind of perspective that I will present here. Constructivists believe that morality is in some sense constructed (created) by people. We have moral rules because we tend to agree to them. (Constructivism can be compatible with cultural relativism, which states that moral statements are true when they are approved of within a culture.)

I will attempt to relate anti-realism to our everyday life and experiences by discussing how an anti-realist perspective will relate to moral knowledge, reality, and psychology. (more…)

September 18, 2009

A Moral Realist Perspective

In order to relate moral realism to everyday life, let’s take a look at how a moral realist can view moral knowledge, reality, and psychology. I am not going to argue that this is the best perspective of moral realism possible. It is merely an example of a perspective. (more…)

September 16, 2009

What is Moral Realism?

(I wrote a new introduction to moral realism — “The Debate Over Moral Realism [5/20/2011])”

Before I create an argument that Moral Realism is plausible, I want to take a close look at what exactly Moral Realism and Anti-Realism entail. First, I will take a look at what moral realism and anti-realism mean. How do we know if someone is a moral realist or not? I will later take a look at what it would be like to adopt a moral realist or anti-realist perspective. We need to know how these perspectives relate to everyday life. (more…)

August 25, 2009

Chapter 3.12 “Moral Reality” by Mark Platts

Mark Platts is mostly concerned with defending moral realism from various objections, but he also endorses a specific form of moral realism, intuitionism, in order to make his defense of moral realism more specific. He makes it clear that he is interested in a form of moral realism in which moral facts are not reducible to nonmoral facts (283). He agrees that moral facts supervene (are dependent on) on nonmoral facts, but moral facts do not merely consist in the nonmoral facts (283). He lists three main aspects of intuitionism: First, intuitionism makes it clear that moral facts are not reducible to nonmoral facts. Two, intuitionism is compatible with a moral realist use of language. Three, intuitionism can admit that genuine moral dilemmas are possible. (more…)

July 24, 2009

Chapter 3.11 “Moral Theory and Explanatory Impotence” by Geoffrey Sayre-McCord

Geoffrey Sayre-McCord argues that we can confirm moral facts through observation, and that moral facts can be confirmed in a meaningful way. He admits that there is still some room for doubt. In order to justify moral facts, he takes a close look at epistemology in general. He suggests that theories must be able to explain our observations better than alternatives. In order to do this pragmatic considerations seem relevant, and if so, moral theories could be justified.

In the final section of Sayre-McCord’s article, he suggests a strategy to argue that moral values exist: If we accept epistemological values, then we might be able to prove that we also have to accept moral values. (more…)

June 21, 2009

Chapter 3.10 “Moral Explanations” by Nicholas L Sturgeon

Many philosophers of our past wanted philosophy to be as much like mathematics as possible. That would give us the highest form of knowledge and certainty. This task is now considered unrealistic. Instead, philosophers want philosophy to be as much like natural science as possible. Nicholas L Sturgeon provides an argument that ethics can be like science because moral facts can have causal power and can therefore be necessary facts in determining our observations. (more…)

May 24, 2009

Chapter 3.9 “How to be a Moral Realist” by Richard N Boyd Part 2

Objections to Moral Realism

In order to show that moral realism can be appealing, Boyd must first show why moral realism isn’t unappealing.

Right now moral antirealism is popular and there are many objections people give to moral realism in order to prove that realism is implausible. Boyd considers several objections and shows how the same kinds of objections could be used against scientific realism, but would fail. Boyd will argue that these objections fail against moral realism for the same reason that they would fail against scientific realism.

This section will only discuss the objections to moral realism. The next section will be Boyd’s response to the objections. (more…)

May 11, 2009

Chapter 3.9 “How to be a Moral Realist” by Richard N Boyd Part 1

We need to know how we thought of moral ideas, like good and bad. If we just made it up, then we should be moral antirealists. If we discovered that things can really be good or bad, then we should be moral realists.

If you think electrons are real, then you are a scientific realist. Entities theorized about science can be real despite the fact that we can’t experience the entities with our five senses. There are very plausible philosophical arguments that we should be scientific realists. Richard Boyd argues that in order to understand a plausible account of moral realism, we should understand a plausible account of scientific realism. (more…)

March 25, 2009

Chapter 3.8 “Values and Secondary Qualities” by John McDowell

John McDowell’s article presents an argument that (intrinsic) values are real. (more…)

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…)

January 31, 2009

Chapter 3.3 “Supervenience Revisited” by Simon Blackburn

Simply put, moral supervenience is the view that a description of nonmoral facts (such as physical and mental facts) is enough to determine whether an action is good or bad. If this is true, then that fact in itself seems like a problem for morality because we want to think that morality is about something more than just physical and mental facts. Let’s put that aside for a moment and take a look at the one of the important essays about moral supervenience: (more…)

January 16, 2009

Chapter 3.2 “Ethical Consistency” by Bernard Williams

Bernard Williams discusses the problem with having conflicting obligations and a potential contradiction that might be accepted if we accept conflicting obligations. He argues that two things we ought to do can conflict because choosing to do one of them will not absolve us of the fact that we also ought to do the other. A closer look at the logic involved can reveal why no contradiction will be accepted. I will present three objections to his argument. The first questions whether or not obligations can conflict, the second admits that nonmoral “oughts” might conflict while moral ones don’t, and the third questions whether or not we can reject that beliefs conflict but accept that “oughts” can conflict. (more…)

January 14, 2009

Chapter 3.1 “Critique of Ethics and Theology” by A. J. Ayer

The first contemporary essay that I will discuss is “Critique of Ethics and Theology” by A. J. Ayer.

A. J. Ayer provides us with the first noncognitive theory that is called “emotivism” (28-40) (Noncognitivists believe that moral statements have no truth value.) He suggests that everyday ethical judgments are not what we think. We think they are cognitive, but they are actually emotional expressions. To say, “Murder is wrong,” is actually something like saying, “murder!” in an angry voice. It shows an emotional dislike of murder. (more…)

January 3, 2009

Book I: Metaethics Part 1 (What is Metaethics?)

Ethics is the philosophy of morality and values. Parts of ethics includes the following: (more…)

January 2, 2009

Introduction: History of Philosophy

Filed under: philosophy — JW Gray @ 6:42 am
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Many consider philosophy to be a strange mysterious category. Others consider it to be a waste of time, or playing language games, or arguing about semantics. There is a general disrespect and distaste towards philosophy, but this disrespect is reinforced by the academic community—including actual philosophy professors, who tend to see philosophy as somewhat inadequate or unreliable. (more…)

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