On the Alleged Laziness of Moral Realists

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Melis Erdur, “Moral Realism and the Incompletability of Morality,” The Journal of Value Inquiry 52, no. 2 (2018): 228.

  2. 2.

    Erdur, 230.

  3. 3.

    Erdur, 231.

  4. 4.

    Subsequent to the submission of this piece, a pre-print of Justin Horn’s arguments along these same lines was posted online: Justin Horn, “On Moral Objections to Moral Realism,” The Journal of Value Inquiry, 2019. My arguments share much in common with Horn’s argument in section 2 of his article.

  5. 5.

    If the telegraph does not say this, then Erdur must be wrong about the value of moral wakefulness, and her argument fails. If she does say this, then her argument fails for the reasons discussed below.

  6. 6.

    For a similar objection see Horn, “On Moral Objections to Moral Realism,” 8.

  7. 7.

    This is similar to an argument David Enoch makes about moral deference to peers: David Enoch, “A Defense of Moral Deference,” Journal of Philosophy 111, no. 5 (2014): 241–43. I thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting this reference. Enoch notes that his point about deference extends to “general norms of appropriate response to moral uncertainty,” which includes cases like asking the moral telegraph.

  8. 8.

    Erdur, “Moral Realism and the Incompletability of Morality,” 231.

  9. 9.

    Horn provides some arguments in favor of this view (and thus against Erdur): Horn, “On Moral Objections to Moral Realism,” 6–7.

  10. 10.

    Erdur, “Moral Realism and the Incompletability of Morality,” 229.

  11. 11.

    One might object and say that it is not wrong to fail to lie to Val for the wrong reasons, or even to lie to Val for the wrong reasons, so long as everything turns out well in the end. That is a characteristically consequentialist approach, as opposed to the more deontological cant that I have used to describe the situation. Anyone inclined to make this objection will not agree with Erdur that it is always morally wrong to bypass wakefulness, and so if this objection succeeds, Erdur’s argument fails.

  12. 12.

    Another way to put this is that the moral telegraph refuses to let anyone act on the basis of what Enoch calls “opaque evidence.” Enoch, “A Defense of Moral Deference,” 237.

  13. 13.

    Erdur, “Moral Realism and the Incompletability of Morality,” 233.

  14. 14.

    Erdur’s claim shares much in common with Allison Hills’s suggestion that acceptance of moral testimony is objectionable because it doesn’t necessarily give us “moral understanding,” which is separate from moral knowledge: Alison Hills, “Moral Testimony and Moral Epistemology,” Ethics 120, no. 1 (2009): 94–127. Sarah McGrath has argued that moral deference, which is acceptance of moral testimony as dispositive for determining one’s view on a moral matter, poses a threat to moral realism: Sarah McGrath, “Skepticism About Moral Expertise as a Puzzle for Moral Realism,” The Journal of Philosophy 108, no. 3 (2011): 111–37. My own view is that questions about testimony and deference turn on issues unrelated to Erdur’s point, because the telegraph to the moral realm or the easily deducible moral truths do not involve complications about our relationships to other agents. Thus for instance a solution to McGrath’s attack on moral realism which relies on the status of other agents, like McGrath’s own or Cory Davia and Michele Palmira’s, would not work as a solution to Erdur’s objection to moral realism: see Sarah McGrath, “The Puzzle of Pure Moral Deference,” Philosophical Perspectives 23, no. Ethics (2009): 321–244; Cory Davia and Michele Palmira, “Moral Deference and Deference to an Epistemic Peer,” The Philosophical Quarterly 65, no. 261 (2015): 605–25. But one might think that the worrisome nature of trusting the telegraph or easily deducing the moral truths is linked to the worrisome nature of accepting moral testimony or engaging in moral deference. For an overview of the topic of testimony see Alison Hills, “Moral Testimony,” Philosophy Compass 8, no. 6 (2013): 552–59. On moral deference and understanding, see also the aforementioned Enoch paper. I thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting I mention these issues in relation to Erdur’s argument.

  15. 15.

    Erdur, “Moral Realism and the Incompletability of Morality,” 231.

  16. 16.

    Erdur, 231.

  17. 17.

    Erdur, 231.

  18. 18.

    Erdur elsewhere argues that moral realism is a substantive moral thesis, but not that it is this substantive moral thesis. See Melis Erdur, “A Moral Argument Against Moral Realism,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19, no. 3 (2016): 591–602. That is, even if we grant Erdur’s other argument, moral realism is not the thesis that there is nothing morally wrong about acquiring the moral facts, no matter how one goes about it. For a response to Erdur on this other point see Joshua Blanchard, “Melis Erdur’s Moral Argument Against Moral Realism,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22, no. 2 (2019): 371–77. For another response see Horn, “On Moral Objections to Moral Realism.”

  19. 19.

    See Erdur, “Moral Realism and the Incompletability of Morality,” 228. I do not think moral anti-realists must be committed to the view that moral inquiry amounts to tracking our actual attitudes or opinions, and even if they are committed to this, they need not be committed to the further view that this vindicates moral inquiry. So, this may be a non-sequitur. But this point is not important for the argument at hand.

  20. 20.

    Erdur, 228. Erdur elsewhere rejects moral anti-realism, along with moral realism, because she thinks they both constitute substantive moral mistakes: Erdur, “A Moral Argument Against Moral Realism.”

  21. 21.

    On Cornell realism, see for instance Richard Boyd, “How to Be a Moral Realist,” in Essays on Moral Realism, ed. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988), 181–228; David Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

  22. 22.

    On homeostatic property clusters see Boyd, “How to Be a Moral Realist,” 196–99.

  23. 23.

    I thank an anonymous reviewer for The Journal of Value Inquiry for very helpful suggestions, and Martin Lin for a brief conversation on this topic.

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Weltman, D. On the Alleged Laziness of Moral Realists. J Value Inquiry 54, 511–518 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10790-019-09723-3

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