Moral Reality and the Empirical Sciences

New York: Routledge (2018)
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Are there objective moral truths, i.e. things that are morally right, wrong, good, or bad independently of what anybody thinks about them? To answer this question more and more scholars have recently turned to evidence from psychology, neuroscience, cultural anthropology, and evolutionary biology. This book investigates this novel scientific approach in a comprehensive, empirically-focused, and partly meta-theoretical way. It suggests that while it is possible for the empirical sciences to contribute to the moral realism/anti-realism debate, most arguments that have so far been proposed fail (because they misrepresent, cherry-pick, or overlook the invalidity of (parts of) the available scientific evidence). The book’s main chapters address five prominent science-based arguments for or against the existence of objective moral truths: the argument from moral disagreement, the evolutionary debunking argument, the sentimentalist argument, the presumptive argument, and the projectivist argument. Thomas Pölzler investigates in which sense the underlying empirical hypotheses would have to be true in order for these arguments to work, and then shows how the available scientific evidence fails to support them. Finally, he makes suggestions as to how to test these hypotheses in a more valid way. Moral Reality and the Empirical Sciences is an important contribution to the moral realism/anti-realism debate that will appeal to philosophers and scientists interested in moral psychology and metaethics.

Author's Profile

Thomas Pölzler
University of Graz


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