Tag Archives: moral realism

David Brink

In many areas of dispute between realism and antirealism, realism is the natural metaphysical position. We begin as realists about the external world or the unobservable entities mentioned in well-confirmed scientific theories. Generally, people become antirealists about these things (if they do) because they become convinced that realism is in some way naive and must be abandoned in the face of compelling metaphysical and epistemological objections. So too, I think, in ethics. We begin as (tacit) cognitivists and realists about ethics. Moral claims make assertions, which can be true or false; some people are morally more perceptive than others; and people’s moral views have not only changed over time but have improved in many cases (e.g., as regard slavery). We are led to some form of antirealism (if we are) only because we come to regard the moral realist’s commitments as untenable, say, because of the apparently occult nature of moral facts or because of the apparent lack of a well developed methodology in ethics.

David Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics, Cambridge, 1989, p. 23

Michael Huemer

I have been a moral realist for as long as I can remember. I think the reason is roughly this: it seems to me that certain things, such as pain and suffering to take the clearest example, are bad. I don’t think I’m just making that up, and I don’t think that is just an arbitrary personal preference of mine. If I put my finger in a flame, I have a certain experience, and I can directly see something about it (about the experience) that is bad. Furthermore, if it is bad when I experience pain, it seems that it must also be bad when someone else experiences pain. Therefore, I should not inflict such pain on others, any more than they should inflict it on me. So there is at least one example of a rational moral principle.

Michael Huemer, Ethical Intuitionism, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 2005, p. 250