Relaxing about Moral Truths

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6:869-890 (2019)
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As with all other moral realists, so-called relaxed moral realists believe that there are moral truths. Unlike metaphysical moral realists, they do not take themselves to be defending a substantively metaphysical position when espousing this view, but to be putting forward a moral thesis from within moral discourse. In this paper, I employ minimalism about truth to examine whether or not there is a semantic analysis of the claim ‘There are moral truths’ which can support this moral interpretation of one of moral realism’s key theses. My results are both discouraging and encouraging: Whilst I will argue that the claim ‘There are moral truths’ cannot be shown to be both moral and capable of demarcating relaxed realism from irrealism on the basis of a convincing semantic analysis that would be compatible with relaxed commitments, the moral interpretation of moral realism can be secured by modifying our understanding of what distinguishes relaxed realism from error-theoretic irrealism. Yet, we will see that this moral interpretation of moral realism does not ‘tumble out’ of the semantics provided for its central claims. Rather, hard work needs to be done before we can fully relax.

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Christine Tiefensee
Frankfurt School of Finance & Management


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