A Taxonomy of Moral Realism Essay

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A Taxonomy of Moral Realism

ABSTRACT: The realist dispute in ethics has wide implications for moral ontology, epistemology, and semantics. Common opinion holds that this debate goes to the heart of the phenomenology of moral values and affects the way in which we understand the nature of moral value, moral disagreement, and moral reflection. But it has not been clearly demonstrated what is involved in moral realist theory. I provide a framework which distinguishes three different versions of the theory while at the same time showing the interrelations between them. I also demonstrate how issues such as objectivity, cognitivism, and truth can be related into the discussion by means of this framework. Since morality exercises a deep
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Our aim in moral deliberation, according to the realist, is to discover, or come into contact with, this aspect of reality. It is this element which marks out moral realism in the pursuit of objectivity in ethics.

But what is a moral fact? What is the nature of the moral epistemology in such a conception of our moral experience? These are, by themselves, baroque claims. Moral realism is not a recent invention. It has a history that can plausibly be traced as far back as Plato, and can count among its exponent philosophers like Francis Hutcheson, Richard Price, Thomas Reid, G. E. Moore, H. A. Prichard, W. D. Ross. Following a period of neglect, the theory has recently come back strongly into fashion, and has gained the attention of contemporary moral philosophers. In the last twenty years or so, the lively debate between moral realists and their opponents has become the focal point of much of the moral philosophy as pursued by philosophers in the Anglo-American analytic tradition. Though there are different moral theories that may plausibly be described as realist, it would be useful to note that despite the variation, moral realists aspire, on the whole, to arguing for objectivity in ethics in the distinctive way just mentioned. I set out to determine whether there is any sense in asserting the theory

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