What does Moral Realism mean?


Moral Realism is a theory in Philosophy that believes in the existence of moral facts which include descriptive moral statements applied to a particular individual as in, “Tom is a morally good” as well as moral judgments that apply to all individuals as in “Cheating for financial gains is morally wrong”. Such moral judgments, in a way lay down principles or code for acceptable and unacceptable human behavior. The focus of moral realism is to identify moral values that are objective.

What is the use of Moral Realism?

Moral realism makes it possible to apply rules of logic to judge moral statements. Thus a moral belief can be described as false or contradictory just like factual beliefs. Moral realism comes to the rescue when there are moral disagreements about the credibility of certain moral beliefs. Moral realism believes that if two beliefs are contradictory then obviously only one of them is right and hence the focus should be on seeking the right moral belief.

How to detect Moral Realism?

A moral realist is of the view that among all the facts there is one moral fact which is important and cannot be sidelined. According to moral realism moral statements are sometimes true. The determining factor is the existence of a truth-making relation which makes the moral statements true. As a result the things that establish the truth of moral statements must truly exist. For example, a moral statement such as “Cheating is bad” has to be evaluated in terms of its truth or falsity. It has to be then determined in terms of real-world relationships based on its advantages and disadvantages to an individual and society.

What are the views against Moral Realism?

Moral realism as a type of philosophy has a large falling but the claims of moral realism are opposed by certain classes who are termed as anti-realists. The disagreements between the realists and anti-realists are basically in the areas of cognitivism, moral truth and objectivity. Anti-realists believe more in the philosophy of noncognitivists according to which the acceptance of moral statements is subject to an individual’s personal convictions and beliefs. In fact, it may be difficult to prove a moral statement in term of a real relationship. A third debate has recently emerged called the Quasi-realism which opposes the claims made by realism and antirealism.

Who are the philosophers of Moral Realism?

Richard Boyd is a moral realist who believes that moral statements are largely true or false and in all cases this judgement is not dependent on any moral theories or opinions. In fact moral knowledge can be obtained by applying ordinary, everyday canon of scientific and factual reasoning. Most philosophers believe and are inclined towards moral realism as against anti-realism. They include John McDowell, David Brink, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Peter Railton, Terence Cuneo, Michael Smith, Richard Boyd, G.E.Moore, Russ Shafer-Landau, Nicholas Sturgeon, John Finnis, Plato and Thomas Nagel.  

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