Morality is neither an external object nor a personal preference, it's a simplifying framework

Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
The central question in meta-ethics, and arguably all of ethics, is the question of what moral statements refer to. Several candidates have been proposed, including Platonic objects, natural objects, commands, and personal preferences. The answer, I suggest, is that it is none of these. Rather, morality is a framework. We see this by looking at common moral terms: ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘justice’, ‘guilt’, ‘responsibility’, ‘blame’, and ‘rights’. These terms all have something in common: they are legal terms. Since morality dates to prehistoric times, it’s easy to see where this could have come from: prehistoric societies observed nature acting in a ‘court-like’ way – for example punishing them for overhunting – and inferred that this was a larger version of their own tribunal processes. Thus, we can define morality as an anthropomorphic framework based on the analogy of a human court, applied to human behaviour and its relation to nature. The framework persisted through human religious history, with various gods being the lawmaker and judge. This presents a problem: human society has worked hard to eliminate non-natural objects from our model of the world, replacing them with natural descriptions. Assuming we don’t really believe nature is a giant court, the question is how we replace morality with a natural description.
(categorize this paper)
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
Archival date: 2016-10-27
View upload history
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
18 ( #40,548 of 42,199 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
7 ( #40,158 of 42,199 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.