Revisiting Folk Moral Realism

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 8 (2):455-476 (2017)
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Abstract

Moral realists believe that there are objective moral truths. According to one of the most prominent arguments in favour of this view, ordinary people experience morality as realist-seeming, and we have therefore prima facie reason to believe that realism is true. Some proponents of this argument have claimed that the hypothesis that ordinary people experience morality as realist-seeming is supported by psychological research on folk metaethics. While most recent research has been thought to contradict this claim, four prominent earlier studies indeed seem to suggest a tendency towards realism. My aim in this paper is to provide a detailed internal critique of these four studies. I argue that, once interpreted properly, all of them turn out in line with recent research. They suggest that most ordinary people experience morality as “pluralist-” rather than realist-seeming, i.e., that ordinary people have the intuition that realism is true with regard to some moral issues, but variants of anti-realism are true with regard to others. This result means that moral realism may be less well justified than commonly assumed.

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Thomas Pölzler
University of Graz

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