Meaning, moral realism, and the importance of morality

Philosophical Studies 177 (3):653-666 (2020)
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Many philosophers have suspected that the normative importance of morality depends on moral realism. In this paper, I defend a version of this suspicion: I argue that if teleological forms of moral realism, those that posit an objective purpose to human life, are true, then we gain a distinctive kind of reason to do what is morally required. I argue for this by showing that if these forms of realism are true, then doing what is morally required can provide a life with meaning, which is a widespread human need. I also argue that rival meta-ethical views, like anti-realism or non-naturalist realism, cannot make morality meaning-conferring in this way.

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Michael Zhao
University of Notre Dame


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