An Argument Against Moral Facts

In a seminar on Metaethics (h/t John Brunero) , I encountered an argument against moral facts that I hadn’t heard before. Here is a brief sketch:

(1) We’re justified in believing in some fact only if it plays a role in the explanation of our observations and other non-moral facts.
(2) Moral facts don’t play this role.

(3) We are not justified in believing moral facts.

In order to motivate (1), we can appeal to some flavors of naturalism. Many will argue that a completed science will account for (or give an explanatory account of) everything that exists. That is, a completed science will explain all physical phenomena. We’re justified in believing in electrons, in neurons, and in germs, insofar as they explain our observations of the natural world.

As for (2), it seems that we can explain the world around us without resorting to explanations that involve moral facts. We can explain the behavior of human beings with reference to psychology, biology, and neuroscience without using moral terms. We can explain political, social, and cultural actions without requiring moral facts to be a part of that explanation. It’s hard to see what explanatory work moral facts do.


Link: "Humanism, Moral Relativism, and Ethical Objectivity" by John Shook
What is the Connection between Moral Values and Moral Duties?
Charles Pidgen on the So-Called "Naturalistic Fallacy" in Meta-Ethics
The Slaughter of the Canaanites - Principles of Justice
About Matt DeStefano

Matt is pursuing his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Arizona.