Meaning, moral realism, and the importance of morality

  • Michael ZhaoEmail author


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.


Meaning of life Moral realism Normative importance 



I am grateful to Anthony Appiah, Max Barkhausen, Camil Golub, Sam Scheffler, Sharon Street, members of the Extreme Value Theory Group at NYU, and an anonymous referee for insightful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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