Isaiah Berlin Lecture HT12
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Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 4 HT08

Event Name Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 4 HT08
Start Date 4th Feb 2008 4:30pm
End Date 4th Feb 2008 6:30pm
Duration 2 hours

Neil Sinclair (Nottingham), ‘Presumptive Arguments for Moral Realism’ to be held in the Lecture Room, 10 Merton Street. - Seminars in Moral Philosophy webpage


Presumptive arguments for moral realism shape much of the landscape of meta-ethics and yet are seldom scrutinized. In this paper I hope to address this deficit. I distinguish two desiderata for meta-ethical theories. First, their ability to ‘save the appearances’ of moral discourse. Second, their consistency with our wider philosophical views. I then distinguish three species of presumptive argument: the first claim that only moral realism could save the appearances; the second that only moral realism has so far saved the appearances; the third that realism is the most natural or intuitive way to save the appearances. Dismissing arguments of the third kind I argue that the remaining arguments are prone to one of two mistakes. First, falsely assuming that some of the claims of moral realism infect the appearances; second, underestimating the resources available to the realists’ opponents. My tentative conclusion is that most extant presumptive arguments fail to support moral realism.

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