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Moral Realism & the Challenge of Skepticism

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1 Moral Realism & the Challenge of Skepticism
PHI 251 Introduction to Ethics

2 Moral Realists Moral realists hold that things should be taken at face value. Moral claims do purport to report facts and are true if they get the facts right. Moral realists hold that some moral claims actually are true.

3 Moral Realism Ethical sentences express propositions.
Some such propositions are true. Those propositions are made true by objective features of the world, independent of subjective opinion.

4 Moral realism stands in opposition to all forms of moral anti-realism, including 
Ethical subjectivism (which denies that moral propositions refer to objective facts) Error theory (which denies that any moral propositions are true) Non-cognitivism (which denies that moral sentences express propositions at all).

5 American Philosopher Richard Boyd
Moral statements are the sorts of statements which are true or false The truth or falsity of moral statements is largely independent of our moral opinions, theories, etc.; Ordinary canons of moral reasoning—together with ordinary canons of scientific and everyday factual reasoning—constitute, under many circumstances at least, a reliable method for obtaining and improving moral knowledge

6 Moral Realism Moral facts exist and are part of the fabric of the universe; they exist independently of our thoughts about them. 3 Main Elements: Objectivist Element Cognitivist Element Metaphysical Element

7 Objectivist Element Moral principles have objective validity
and do not depend on social approval. What theory says moral principles depend upon social approval?

8 Cognitivist Element Moral judgments can be evaluated as true or false.
The view that ethical sentences express  propositions and can therefore be true or false.

9 Moral facts exist in reality.
Metaphysical Element Moral facts exist in reality. Metaphysics is concerned with explaining the features of reality that exist beyond the physical world and our immediate senses.

10 Types of Moral Realists
Theistic Moral Realists Naturalistic Moral Realists Nonnaturalistic Moral Realists

11 Theistic Moral Realists
Moral values exist within Religion Obedience God None of the above

12 Naturalistic Moral Realists
Moral values exist within the natural world and are connected with specific properties such as pleasure or satisfaction. Pleasure and satisfaction are ______________ facts within the universe

13 Ethical sentences express propositions.
Some such propositions are true. Those propositions are made true by objective features of the world, independent of human opinion. These moral features of the world can be reduced to some set of non-moral features.

14 Nonnaturalistic Moral Realists
They ground moral values in nonnatural facts about the world—facts that can’t be detected through scientific means.

15 Plato’s Cave

16 Non-naturalistic Moral Realism
To call goodness "non-natural" does not mean that it is supernatural or divine. It does mean, however, that goodness cannot be reduced to natural properties such as needs, wants or pleasures.  

17 J.L. Mackie Moral Skepticism – there are no objective moral facts. He says we have no good reason to believe that objective moral facts exist. Error theory – the assumption that claims to objective moral facts are false.

18 Mackie’s Three Arguments
Argument from Relativity Argument from Queerness Argument from Projection

19 Argument from Relativity
No universal moral code that all people everywhere adhere to, which seems to indicate that morality is culturally dependent.

20 Argument from Queerness
This aims at showing the implausibility of supposing that such things as values have no independent existence. If there were objective, then they would have to be “of a very strange sort.” That everything — including any particulars events, facts, properties, and so on — is part of the natural physical world that science investigates

21 Argument from Projection
The belief in objective value is the result of psychological tendencies to project subjective beliefs to the outside world. Hume – we impose the notion of immorality from within our own feelings. Mackie – the “pathetic fallacy,” our tendency to read our feelings into their objects.

22 Inventing Morality The Greek philosopher Xenophon said that religion is an invention, the making of God in the image of one’s own group. Mackie – “We need morality to regulate interpersonal relations, to control some of the ways in which people behave towards one another, often in opposition to contrary inclinations. We therefore want our moral judgments to be authoritative for other agents as well as for ourselves: objective validity would give them the authority required.”

23 Moral Nihilism The doctrine that there are no moral facts, no moral truths, and no moral knowledge. Morality is simply an illusion: nothing is ever right or wrong, ust or unjust, good or bad. Some extreme nihilists have even suggested that morality is merely a superstitious remnant of religion.

24 In Defense of Moral Realism
1. Pojman suggests arguments that promote happiness and reduce suffering. 2. Not all truths or facts about the universe are empirically accounted for. The law of identity: p is p at the same time and in the same respect.

25 Supervenient Properties
Color is not in the object itself, but there is a causal relationship between the light rays and our perceptions. Similarly, moral properties may supervene, or emerge out of natural ones. For example, badness is a supervenient property of the natural property of pain.

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