Moral Reality: A Defence of Moral Realism

Lund University (2004)
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Abstract

The main aim of this thesis is to defend moral realism. In chapter 1, I argue that moral realism is best understood as the view that moral sentences have truth-value, there are moral properties that make some moral sentences true, and moral properties are not reducible to non- moral properties. Realism is contrasted with non-cognitivism, error-theory and reductionism, which, in brief, deny, and, respectively. In the introductory chapter, it is also argued that there are some prima facie reasons to assume that non-cognitivism and error-theory are erroneous. In chapters 2 and 3, I suggest that the two main forms of reductionism, analytic and synthetic reductionism, are mistaken. In chapter 4, I argue that the considerations in the previous chapters in relation to non-cognitivism, error-theory and reductionism provide support to moral realism. It is also suggested that these considerations make it plausible to hypothesise that moral properties depend on non- moral properties in a way I refer to as ‘the realist formula’. The realist formula confirms moral realism since it implies that moral properties are not reducible to non- moral properties. In chapters 5, 6 and 7, I argue that moral realism, much owing to the realist formula, is able to explain significant meta-ethical issues regarding moral disagreement, moral reason and moral motivation. Among other things, externalism concerning moral motivation is defended. The explanatory value of moral realism in relation to these meta-ethical issues is taken to suggest that this view is preferable to non-cognitivism, error-theory and reductionism. Some of the meta-ethical issues discussed in these chapters, particularly moral disagreement and motivation, have been thought to provide support to non-cognitivism and error-theory. I maintain that since realism, unlike reductionism, is able to counter these arguments, it justifies us in upholding the view that moral sentences have truth-value and the view that there are moral properties. In chapter 8, various objections against realism with regard to the dependence of moral properties on non- moral properties are responded to. In chapter 9, I consider an influential argument to the effect that moral properties are not involved in causal explanations. I maintain that this argument fails and that it therefore is reasonable to assume that moral properties are natural properties. However, the discussions in chapters 8 and 9 also suggest that moral realism might face problems that cannot be thoroughly discussed in this thesis

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Author's Profile

Caj Strandberg
University of Oslo

References found in this work

Naming and Necessity: Lectures Given to the Princeton University Philosophy Colloquium.Saul A. Kripke - 1980 - Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Edited by Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel.
The moral problem.Michael Smith - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.
Studies in the way of words.Herbert Paul Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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