Moral Realism, Moral Disagreement, and Moral Psychology

Philosophical Papers 43 (2):161-190 (2014)
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Abstract

This paper considers John Doris, Stephen Stich, Alexandra Plakias, and colleagues’ recent attempts to utilize empirical studies of cross-cultural variation in moral judgment to support a version of the argument from disagreement against moral realism. Crucially, Doris et al. claim that the moral disagreements highlighted by these studies are not susceptible to the standard ‘diffusing’ explanations realists have developed in response to earlier versions of the argument. I argue that plausible hypotheses about the cognitive processes underlying ordinary moral judgment and the acquisition of moral norms, when combined with a popular philosophical account of moral inquiry—the method of reflective equilibrium—undercut the anti-realist force of the moral disagreements that Doris et al. describe. I also show that Stich's recent attempt to provide further theoretical support for Doris et al.'s case is unsuccessful.

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Simon Fitzpatrick
John Carroll University

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