Moral Realism, Fundamental Moral Disagreement,
and Moral Reliability
Published online: 22 December 2016
Ó Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Over the last thirty years or so, an increasing number of philosophers have been
willing to identify themselves as moral realists. While not all authors mean the
same thing by ‘‘moral realism,’’ one common understanding of the position involves
three commitments: 1) moral judgments express beliefs, 2) some (non-trivial) moral
beliefs are true, and 3) the truth of these beliefs is stance-independent—that is, their
truth does not constitutively depend on the attitudes that any (actual or hypothetical)
agents bear towards their contents.
Virtually all moral realists also endorse an
epistemological commitment, namely that 4) many of us have at least some justiﬁed
(non-trivial) moral beliefs. Let us call the conjunction of these four claims non-
skeptical moral realism.
The existence of widespread moral disagreement has long been thought to pose a
challenge to such a view. The literature on this topic is large, but most attempts at
ﬂeshing out the challenge can be divided roughly into two categories. Metaphysical
arguments from disagreement contend that the phenomena of (actual or possible)
moral disagreement give us reason to think there are no stance-independent moral
facts. Epistemological arguments from disagreement, in contrast, allow for the sake
of argument that there are such facts, and try to show that we cannot be justiﬁed (or
warranted) in any of our judgments about them once we become aware of
widespread and intractable disagreements.
Both types of arguments raise a direct
challenge to non-skeptical moral realism.
& Justin Horn
Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA
I borrow the term ‘‘stance-independent’’ from Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism: A Defence (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2003).
There is a third type of argument from disagreement that does not fall neatly into either category,
namely semantic arguments from disagreement. See Don Loeb, ‘‘Moral Realism and the Argument from
J Value Inquiry (2017) 51:363–381