Ethical Realism

July 19, 2011

The Is/Ought Gap: How Do We Get “Ought” from “Is?”

The is/ought gap illustrates the difficulty in understanding what it means to say that we ought to do something, and how we can know what we ought to do. What is the is/ought gap and what’s it all about? I will describe the is/ought gap, discuss its implications in meta-ethics, and discuss various solutions to the is/ought gap. (more…)

February 25, 2011

Why Intrinsic Values Are Common Sense

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 5:42 am
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I will argue that the belief in intrinsic value—that at least one thing is good or bad just for existing—is common sense.1 It’s not only intuitive and compatible with our moral beliefs and emotions, but the denial of intrinsic value seems to be highly counterintuitive and lead to absurdities. (I don’t know how an alternative hypothesis could avoid being counterintuitive, but it might be possible.) (more…)

September 26, 2010

A Moral Realist Point of View Free Ebook (PDF)

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 7:01 pm
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I have organized some of my essays (blog entries) to make a free ebook that tries to answer the question, How can a moral realist understand the world? It can be difficult to understand why moral realism is important unless we can see how it relates to our worldview, ethics, and our lives as a whole. This is a sequel to, Is There A Meaning of Life? (more…)

July 14, 2010

A Review of Moral Realism by Torbjörn Tännsjö

One of the defenses for moral realism that makes use of common sense was given by Torbjörn Tännsjö in his book Moral Realism published in 1979 and revised in 1990. The reason that his argument makes use of common sense is because it demystifies the strangeness of morality by opening us up to the fact that moral observation is possible. Tännsjö technically mainly only defends moral realism because he argues that there is no good reason to reject moral realism of the sort he defends. If his defense succeeds and we can fully justify his beliefs, then the following argument for moral realism is implied:

  1. If we have moral knowledge, then moral realism is true.
  2. We have moral knowledge.
  3. Therefore, moral realism is true.

(more…)

December 21, 2009

Does Morality Require God?

Some people believe that God is required or morality will no longer be justified. In particular, God has to exist or “nothing really matters.” Plato and many Christians agree that morality requires a foundation: The Forms or God. Either there is an ideal (Form) of the person that we must try to emulate, or God is the ultimate source of perfection that we must try to emulate. Without the Forms or God, supposedly there would be no intrinsic value. It is true that we want morality to be based on reality. We don’t want morality to be merely delusional or “just a matter of taste.” However, I will argue that the reality described by science seems to be sufficient to explain how intrinsic values can exist. (i.e. We don’t need a transcendent reality in order for something to “really matter.”) Pain seems to be bad and giving people an aspirin to help them avoid pain makes perfect sense, even if God doesn’t exist. (more…)

December 6, 2009

Denying the Meaning of Life

Filed under: ethics,metaethics,philosophy — JW Gray @ 8:27 am
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Imagine that you will no longer exist within the next two seconds. If done properly, you will think about what your existence really means and appreciate the fact that you still exist. You will realize how amazing it is to be alive. Expect to no longer exist every moment and you will appreciate your life every moment. This is evidence that either our life really matters, or our life is worth living for some other reason. If we are not deluded when we imagine the value of our own existence, then we have evidence that something really does matter. However, it isn’t easy to be sure.

Do you want people to stop doing horrible crimes? Do you want to live a meaningful life? Do you want to make the world a better place? If so, you need to know if “anything really matters.” Philosophers have been trying to find out if “anything really matters” for thousands of years, and we have a lot we can learn from them. I am not going to currently attempt to prove that “something really matters.” Instead, I want to prove to you that the question, “Does anything really matter?” is something we should be asking ourselves, and we should want to know the best answers to the question available. (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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