A Normative Approach to Moral Realism


The realist belief in robustly attitude-independent evaluative truths – more specifically, moral truths – is challenged by Sharon Street’s essay “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value”. We know the content of human normative beliefs and attitudes has been profoundly influenced by a Darwinian natural selection process that favors adaptivity. But if simple adaptivity can explain the content of our evaluative beliefs, any connection they might have with abstract moral truth would seem to be purely coincidental. She continues the skeptical attack in “Objectivity and Truth: You’d Better Rethink It”, concentrating on the intuitionist realism of Ronald Dworkin. The latter sees the issue fundamentally as a holistic choice between moral objectivity and the genocide-countenancing consequences of abandoning objective standards. Street counters that, because of realism’s skeptical difficulties, Dworkin’s Choice (as I call it) actually works in favor of her Euthyphronic antirealism. I will argue that she misrepresents the realist’s skeptical challenge, and that clarifying the character of that challenge renders the case for normative realism much more appealing. Indeed, I claim that Street fails to exclude the genuine possibility of a rational basis for moral truth.

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Gerald Hull
State University of New York at Binghamton


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