Aristotle and Moral Realism

By Robert Heinaman | Go to book overview

Introduction ROBERT HEINAMAN
In this introduction I will very briefly discuss a few of the philosophical views associated with the topic of the colloquium, and summarize the main points contained in the principal papers.Questions connected with the issue of moral realism fall into the branch of ethics known as meta-ethics, which deals with foundational issues in moral philosophy. One of these issues is the question of how, if at all, morality can be justified.Although one might try to "justify" morality in other ways, moral realism attempts to do so by showing that it is objective. To explain what this involves, the moral realist must address several questions, including:
-- What is the meaning of statements to the effect that something is morally right or wrong, or of (non-moral) value?
-- Are judgements that positively assert that something is valuable, or morally good or evil, ever true?
-- If so -- as the moral realist will assert -- what kind of fact is reported by such a true statement, and how can we acquire knowledge of it?
-- What precisely does ethical objectivity consist in, and how can the belief in objectivity be maintained in face of the seemingly irresolvable disagreements about value between different societies and individuals?

However, the label "moral realism" can be taken to suggest not merely the idea that morality is objective, but the further claim that there are moral properties "out there" that may be correctly attributed to objects by true moral statements. Some philosophers regard morality as objective but reject this sort of metaphysical commitment. For example, some think that the objectivity of morality can be established on the basis of explaining what counts as a good reason for action. Here the objective truth of an ethical claim such as "I ought to

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