Moral Realism

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The book, ‘Foundation of Ethics’ by Schafer Landau and Cuneo, gives a comprehensive anthology that incorporates a number of important books that provides a good approach towards the structure of morality. This provides an essential resource for any philosophy student who has the urge to specialize in that area. This paper illustrates some of the important papers in meta-ethics found in the book as well as interesting introductory essays by the author (Brink, 1989).

The two authors, Shafer-Landau and Cuneo, have collected an effective combination of old as well as new sources that involve authors who portray excellence in their specialties. The book has a cumulative number of 38 essays, ‘Foundation of Ethics’ enables a large amount of flexibility as well as providing an important overview of meta-ethics. The reason behind this book is to select a number of the best writings in meta-ethics, things that make meta- ethics meaningful (Kotkavirta et al, 2004). These include moral meta-ethics, epistemology, moral psychology as well as the philosophy of language. It also includes a number of essays written by ethicists such as G.E Moore, Simon Blackburn, Gilbert Herman, Michael Smith and a number of other prominent figures of moral theory. The book accumulates them in a single volume in order to create easy access to the students, lecturers and everybody interested in the study of meta-ethics. This contributes to the novelty of this work of art to libraries and courses involved in the teaching of meta-ethics. It involves works of art that were studied in the earlier times as well as more influenced readers to refer and be sure of the components and the practice of meta-ethics. The book is well arranged and plans of editing are successful, making it popular among readers (Brink, 1989).

Some objections have been associated with Moral Theory. This paper tries to explain that morality and epistemology are determined by defensible generalizations – generalizations that basically explain and perform like laws and also being challenged by exceptions. It is also necessary to determine the requirements for considering a moral judgment that is reliable. This paper tries to challenge a number of themes that are normally used to support moral judgments such as the belief that taking appropriate stance to moral wisdom is dispassionate one that is not concerned with emotion, feelings and sentiments and also the belief that moral investigation can be referred to as a search for a particular code of morality. This paper argues that emotional exception is not a factor to be put into consideration and it can be misleading. The paper also tries to explain the perspective of moral epistemology on the side of feminist theory. Feminist theory provides us with information that enables us refute the traditional models of beliefs. There have been several arguments that try to disagree with the theory of moral realism. A number of such arguments exist. This paper tries to illustrate how the theories of Noncognitivism and the error theory argue against this theory.

Methods of rejecting moral realism

Moral realism is the belief that things should be believed according to the way they appear on the face value. Their purpose is not geared towards reporting the facts but getting the facts right. They also believe in certain moral claims to be true. Consequently, those who oppose this theory are classified on the basis of those who believe moral claims do not have the purpose of reporting facts, based on the degree of truth and those who agree that moral claims actually have this purpose, but do not agree that moral claims are true. The paper tries to explain the argument of Non-cognitivism and the error theories in trying to challenge the theory of moral realism.

Noncognitivism as a method of rejecting moral realism

There are two major claims by non-cognitivists to the claim of moral realism. One of the claims is that it should not be accepted that predicative moral claims represent true situations. It claims that the content of information provided by a person does not actually mean that the statement is true. The other claim of noncognitivists is that the mental condition of the mind of the person uttering beliefs may either fall on the cognitive or in cognitive side. They also claim that moral sentences are neither meaningful nor are used by speakers in a manner, which implies they mean what they are saying. A number of non-cognitivists support their claims with positive explanations for the meanings of moral sentences as well as concerning the mental status. They claim that their non-cognitivism is supported by a range of proposals that contribute to different ranges of non-cognitivism (Kotkavirta et al, 2004). An explanation brought by emotivists support non-cognitivism by suggesting that moral sentences promote non-cognitivism by not asserting that the speaker has the attitude he is speaking about. They also explain that the mental status created by the expression of moral sentences reflects the ability to accept all norms and rules that dictate the conduct, emotions and maybe involving a judgment that the subject matter is in conformance with the norms.

Error theory of rejecting moral realism

According to this theory, all ordinary moral judgments are not true. For instance, the claims that ‘murder is wrong’ and ‘murder is not wrong’ are both not true due to the fact that nothing can be claimed to be morally wrong (Sayre-McCord, 1988). It suggests that a claim that something is morally wrong cannot be regarded as existent just like the claims concerning things that things are morally wrong for being not true according to unicorns.

This theory, however, is in agreement with the claim that, when people speak about morality there is always an intention of saying something true or false that is in agreement with the moral facts. Their disagreement is only that all moral ideas do not refer to a particular thing due to the absence of moral facts. They conclude that there is nothing that can be regarded as right or wrong, good or bad or something as having a virtue or intrinsic value (Walzer, 1977).

Error theorists, however, agree with the idea that it would be beneficial to agree to a social contract to allow us to speak conveniently, if morality is real. This is the basis on which the theory of ‘factionalism’ is made.

Assessment of merits and selection of the most plausible theory

The positive thing about non-cognitivism is that it illustrates that self-interest and morality are not the same. However, the error theory does not support this belief. This makes the non-cognitivism theory more acceptable than the error theory. According to this claim, if a person says that something is good for him, it does not necessarily mean that it is the right thing. For instance, a careful and effective thief steals while injuring someone in the process, the action he is doing can be considered wrong. In this case, the error theory claims that being moral is based on a reason and morality is only accepted during activities of interest to a person.

In addition, the non-cognitivism theory makes us believe in non-controversial truth in morals, while the error theory does not. The fact is that meta-ethical theory is focused on the reality that there is a possibility of making reasonable judgments without doing a wrong act. This is opposed by the error theory. In uncontroversial situations, individuals may be involved in a situation that makes them make moral judgments like the judging that the decision to kill people without reason is wrong. The limitation of the error is that it requires people to believe that the way they understand morality is totally wrong, though they may be having some idea about morality. Due to this characteristic of the error theory, it would be reasonable to use the non-cognitivism theory in explaining the meaning of morality (Heinemann, 1995).


Moral judgments are made in everyday`s life in a number of ways. These judgments are thought to be either true or false, despite emotivists stating the opposite. Occasionally, one can think that such judgments are true despite both non-cognitivists stating the opposite. We also think that individual judgments are the best, but the error theory does not approve this. In spite of these, moral perceptions may be true or genuine but it may not be true to everyone. These meta-ethical beliefs suggest its own answers to the reality problems that are related to morality and they are accompanied with a number of criticisms that are likely to result in debates before one of them can be considered.

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