1 - Realism and Irrealism  pp. 1-20

Realism and Irrealism

By Folke Tersman

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INTRODUCTION

It is surely an understatement to say that most of the issues that are discussed within meta-ethics appear esoteric to nonphilosophers. Still, many can relate to the questions that, in my view, provide its core, namely those that concern the objectivity of ethics. Can our moral commitments be valid or true? If so, can they be valid in some sense independently of us, for example, of the contingent fact that we accept them?

Why care about these things? Many try to live by their moral views. Some even die (or kill) for them. Behind the interest in questions about the objectivity of ethics lies the nagging suspicion that unless there is room for some objectivity, the role of moral thinking in our lives is somehow inapt. What's the point of making sacrifices in order to abide by rules whose claims to objective authority are as unfounded as any others? What's the point of carefully weighing arguments for and against moral opinions if no truth is to be found?

Of course, it is not evident that the lack of objectivity in ethics (whatever that may mean, more specifically) really does motivate taking a more casual attitude towards it. But the potential significance of such questions in that context helps to explain why nonphilosophers may find them more important than other meta-ethical questions. It also provides a perspective from which the arguments that are discussed in this book can be seen.

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Reference Title: References

Reference Type: reference-list

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