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Ethics And The Realism Debate

Philosophy : Ethics

Realism of course (and anti-realism) are hotly debated areas in all areas of philosophy.

One area where realism causes particular debate still is with regard to ethics.

What is interesting is that most people who are new to the subject or approaching it from the more casual perspective tend to start off arguing for realism, or believe in realism.

However the seasoned pros, as it were, the philosophers, if you will, tend to be much more anti-realists and not in the least bit tempted by realism.

This is an interesting phenomenon and requires explanation. And the explanation is that examining most things leads to you seeing things more clearly than you do initially, and picking holes in the foundations that it is convenient to think that are there.

Clearly in some ways realism would be very convenient - if there were moral facts independent of ourselves. If what is good was good independent of there being humans or not, then we could act in quite an assured manner in our lives, just so long as we correctly identified what was good and didn't think what was good was bad and so on.

The biggest problem with saying that doing x is good or bad because of y and/or z which are independent of anyone's belief, language and so on is proving it, and imagining what it is that makes that the case and how to access that fact.

What are these moral facts independent of ourselves, how do we access them? They clearly aren't physical objects that we can expect like the objects of science. And even if they are there, how do we know them, why do we all disagree about them - can some people access them better than others, and why is this? Why do moralities differ so strongly from person to person, culture to culture and across time and spatial boundaries?

All of this seems to imply that morality and ethics is closely linked to collections of individual, in fact it is the product or expression of the values of those individuals and so far from existing independently, it is an extension of themselves.

Very few people argue for a realist position these days outside of some philosophical frameworks constructed by great philosophers and also particularly those who believe in one religion or another; where the realism comes from the commandments of God for instance.

By: Fred

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