Ethical Realism

May 31, 2011

Three Forms of Evidence

An argument uses premises to reach a conclusion, but we can’t just accept that every valid argument proves the conclusion to be true. If an argument has a valid form, we need to know that the premises are true before we can know the conclusion is true. We rarely know for certain that the premises of an argument are true. Instead, we do our best at justifying the premises. One way to do this is to provide evidence—reasons we should believe something to be likely true or accurate. Many people equate “evidence” with “observation,” but there could be other reasons to accept beliefs as well. I will discuss three types of evidence: (more…)


November 6, 2009

Objections to Moral Realism Part 3: Argument from Queerness

If morality is irreducible to nonmoral facts, it might still be part of the materialist worldview like any other domain, but we would merely be unable to fully describe morality in nonmoral terms. (To say that moral facts are reducible is to say that we can find out that moral facts “are really something else.”) I have argued that morality must be irreducible, but this is a substantial metaphysical claim. Such a metaphysical claim must be especially justified due to Occam’s razor—We must not multiply entities beyond necessity.1 (Or, more specifically, we shouldn’t multiply irreducible domains of reality beyond necessity.) I will present three objections against the claim that morality is irreducible, then I will attempt to reply to those objections in order to show them to be unconvincing. In particular I want to show that morality’s irreducibility is just as justified as psychology’s irreducibility, that we have reason to believe psychology is irreducible, and that we have more reason to accept that morality is irreducible than to reject it. (more…)

October 27, 2009

Objections to Moral Realism Part 2: Intuition is Unreliable

Many ethicists agree that moral philosophy requires the use of intuition. My argument for moral realism itself requires the use of intuition. However, philosophers will require that we justify our use of intuition. Some philosophers have argued that intuition is too mysterious or unreliable to be used for philosophy. I will present the case that intuition represents our tendency to be unable to verbalize various justifications. I will explain how our intuitions makes use of relatively reliable justifications, consider four objections against intuition, and I will attempt to explain why the objections are not convincing. (more…)

October 19, 2009

Objections to Moral Realism Part 1: The Is/Ought Gap

Although I have already discussed several objections to moral realism, some of them are worth discussing in more detail. In particular, the is/ought gap has proven to be a source of confusion. The is/ought gap is ambiguous and there are at least two main interpretations: One is ontological and one is epistemological. In other words, one says that the is/ought gap is a description of reality and another says that it is a description of our evidence. (more…)

October 7, 2009

An Argument for Moral Realism

Moral realism is the view that some things “really matter” and have intrinsic value. I will argue that we have good reason to believe that at least one thing has intrinsic value, so we have good reason to believe moral realism is true. In particular, I will argue that we have good reason to accept that pain has intrinsic value. The evidence of intrinsic value requires us to accept that anti-realists will fail to explain our moral experiences involving pain. We have more reason to accept realism than anti-realism in so far as moral realism can better account for our moral experiences involving pain. (more…)

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