Academic Philosophy can be a breeding ground for people with nonsense ideas. Hell, where else are they going go? If you know of other departments that produce as much nonsense in terms of quality and quantity, let me know! With that being said, let’s get into a branch of philosophy known as ethics.
One idea that gets under my skin is ‘objective morality’. My frustration is primarily due to the fact that the term is vague and can be interpreted in at least 20 different ways. Ethicists sometimes define objective morality in terms of tying it to moral realism. What is moral realism? And are there multiple definitions of moral realism? Good questions.
Yes, there are multiple definitions of moral realism. One definition affirms that moral claims are capable of being true in a mind-independent way, and in fact some moral claims are actually true in a mind-independent way; this is merely a semantic thesis, whereas many moral realists want to add on to the semantic thesis. Many moral realists want to add a metaphysical thesis, which is the further idea that moral claims are true in virtue of corresponding to some mind-independent object or thing.
The metaphysics thesis endorsed by moral realists strikes me as non-parsimonious and bizarre. I don’t see any reason as to why we need to posit a grand metaphysical object for things like mathematics/numbers. So why would we need to do that with morality? Not only do I not see a reason to posit morality and numbers as mind-independent facts, but I most definitely do not see a good reason to think that they correspond to some grand metaphysical object-whether that object correspond to God, a platonic object, Spock, etc. What predictions does moral realism make that allows me to go out and test/confirm moral realism as being true? And what difference would it make to my life and my preferences (and our lives and our preferences) if moral realism were true?
If I’m going to accept that there are moral facts, and if I am going to accept that there are mind-independent moral facts, and if I’m going to accept that mind-independent moral facts are ontologically ‘robust’, then I’m going to need to hear some serious arguments. Though, it’s important to note that we can still have a high view of morality, even if our meta-ethical view of morality isn’t comforting at an ultimate level. For example, a utilitarian could still think it’s morally wrong to kill 8 billion people in order to save one person, but that’s still the case whether or not moral realism (in any sense) is true.