Moral realism

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Moral realism is the meta-ethical view which claims that:

This makes moral realism a non-nihilist form of cognitivism. 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), and non-cognitivism (which denies that moral sentences express propositions at all). Within moral realism, the two main subdivisions are ethical naturalism and ethical non-naturalism.

According to Richard Boyd[1], moral realism means that:

Most philosophers today lean towards moral realism, as do most meta-ethicists.[2] Some examples of robust moral realists include David Brink, John McDowell, Peter Railton[3], Geoffrey Sayre-McCord[4], Michael Smith, Terence Cuneo[5], Russ Shafer-Landau[6], G.E. Moore[7], John Finnis, Richard Boyd, Nicholas Sturgeon[8], Thomas Nagel, and Plato. Norman Geras has argued that Karl Marx was a moral realist.[9]


Robust versus minimal moral realism

The robust model of moral realism commits moral realists to three theses:[10]

The minimal model, on the other hand, leaves off the metaphysical thesis, treating it as matter of contention among moral realists (as opposed to between moral realists and moral anti-realists). This dispute is not insignificant, as acceptance or rejection of the metaphysical thesis is taken by those employing the robust model as the key difference between moral realism and moral anti-realism. Indeed, the question of how to classify certain logically possible (if eccentric) views—such as the rejection of the semantic and alethic theses in conjunction with the acceptance of the metaphysical thesis—turns on which model we accept [11]. Someone employing the robust model might call such a view "realist non-cognitivism," while someone employing the minimal model might simply place such a view alongside other, more traditional, forms of non-cognitivism.

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