Moral Progress, Knowledge and Error: Do People Believe in Moral Objectivity?

Philosophical Psychology:1-37 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

A prevalent assumption in metaethics is that people believe in moral objectivity. If this assumption were true then people should believe in the possibility of objective moral progress, objective moral knowledge, and objective moral error. We developed surveys to investigate whether these predictions hold. Our results suggest that, neither abstractly nor concretely, people dominantly believe in the possibility of objective moral progress, knowledge and error. They attribute less objectivity to these phenomena than in the case of science and no more, or only slightly more, than in the cases of social conventions and personal preferences. This finding was obtained for a regular sample as well as for a sample of people who are particularly likely to be reflective and informed (philosophers and philosophy students). Our paper hence contributes to recent empirical challenges to the thesis that people believe in moral objectivity.

Author Profiles

Lieuwe Zijlstra
University of Groningen
Thomas Pölzler
University of Graz

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