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How To Understand Moral Fictionalism

Philosophy : Ethics

Moral fictionalism is something of a recent phenomenon in the theory of ethics, at least when it comes to it being taken seriously.

Moral fictionalism was floated as an idea many years ago but did not take off. However in recent times it has grown in popularity and has now spurned quite a lot of debate.

Moral fictionalism in ethics is, as the name implies, the theory that morality is a fiction. It is a convenient fiction that has arisen and been propagated because having morality is preferential to an orderly and sustainable society.

In a lawless situation, there is no safety and everything goes, making life more dangerous and perilous. Hence it is in the interest of most to have a moral system around them that imposes what they should and shouldn't do, and punishes them when they break the rules.

What is the nature of morality though - are there absolute truths as to what is right and wrong, or is morality rather defined by a society and varies from time to time?

Fictionalism is a non-realist theory of ethics, as it claims ethical statements are not absolutely true or false but gain their 'truth' status relative to the society in which they were constructed as a fiction. Morality is a fiction, in other words, that has been created, a bit like a story in a book. However unlike a book where we all clearly know it is fiction and the limits of the system, morality is a real life system.

There are many intriguing arguments for and against fictionalism and it can be seen how it could be an attractive view by many, though it has its sharp critics too and constructing a coherent version of fictionalism can be more challenging than it may seem.

By: Fred

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