Two Accounts of Moral Objectivity: from Attitude-Independence to Standpoint-Invariance

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (4):763-780 (2017)
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How should we understand the notion of moral objectivity? Metaethical positions that vindicate morality’s objective appearance are often associated with moral realism. On a realist construal, moral objectivity is understood in terms of mind-, stance-, or attitude-independence. But realism is not the only game in town for moral objectivists. On an antirealist construal, morality’s objective features are understood in virtue of our attitudes. In this paper I aim to develop this antirealist construal of moral objectivity in further detail, and to make its metaphysical commitments explicit. I do so by building on Sharon Street’s version of “Humean Constructivism”. Instead of the realist notion of attitude-independence, the antirealist account of moral objectivity that I articulate centres on the notion of standpoint-invariance. While constructivists have been criticized for compromising on the issue of moral objectivity, I make a preliminary case for the thesis that, armed with the notion of standpoint-invariance, constructivists have resources to vindicate an account of objectivity with just the right strength, given the commitments of ordinary moral thought and practice. In support of this thesis I highlight recent experimental findings about folk moral objectivism. Empirical observations about the nature of moral discourse have traditionally been taken to give prima facie support to moral realism. I argue, by contrast, that from what we can tell from our current experimental understanding, antirealists can capture the commitments of ordinary discourse at least as well as realists can.

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Jeroen Hopster
Utrecht University


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