The Normative Web: An Argument for Moral Realism


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That is, it contends that moral and epistemic facts are sufficiently similar that, if moral facts do not exist, then epistemic facts also do not exist.

Premise 1: If moral facts do not exist, then epistemic facts do not exist.

But epistemic facts facts that concern reasons for belief , it is argued, do exist. So, moral facts also exist. And if moral facts exist, then moral realism is true. This argument provides not simply a defence of a robustly realist view of ethics, but a positive argument for this position. In so doing, it engages with sophisticated sceptical positions in epistemology, such as error theories, expressivist views, and reductionist views of epistemic reasons.


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These positions, it is claimed, come at a high theoretical cost. It follows that realism about both epistemic and moral facts is a position that we should find highly attractive. Don't have an account? Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use for details see www.

The Normative Web: An Argument for Moral Realism

University Press Scholarship Online. Publications Pages Publications Pages. Search my Subject Specializations: Classical, Early, and Medieval Plays and Playwrights: The defense of the premises turns around using the non realist moral arguments again epistemic normative facts by converting them to that purpose. Cuneo shows that nihilism about epistemic normative facts makes Cuneo's argument is that there is a parity between epistemic norms and moral ones. Cuneo shows that nihilism about epistemic normative facts makes it impossible to act as a rational agent at all, and therefore error theory about moral facts won't work either.

Moral Realism, For and Against

He then shows that expressivist theories fail to retain our common understanding about what we are doing when invoking facts about epistemic norms without lapsing into nihilism or realism. I found his discussions about traditional and non traditional expressivisms, the former the more familiar emotivism or prescriptivism and the latter quasi-realist positions helpful. The last argument he tackles is reductionism where he demonstrates that reductionist pictures of epistemic normative facts fail to preserve either internal or external justification as they only allow for hypothetical reasons, so that unless someone's belief comes by way of their desires and goals they fail to be justified.

In his discussion about the symmetry between epistemic and moral normative facts he points out that many epistemic failings are also moral ones, ones that turn on dishonesty or being unjustly biased etc are both moral and epistemic failings.

Therefore if moral facts are too 'objectionable' by having a weird ontology or having categorical application, then so are epistemic ones, and then the alternatives fall prey to his analysis I described above. He also points out that, re Gibbard et al, the worry that moral reasons have to be about endorsement are misplaced, they merely give merit to endorsement, not endorsement itself.

Dec 10, Michael Fitzpatrick rated it liked it. A very good argument, and well stated, but the book is a perfect example of how analytic writing has gotten so pedantic that the writing gets in the way.

The Normative Web: An Argument for Moral Realism by Terence Cuneo

It's a difficult read, and could have been stated much simpler, shorter and clearer. That being said, the case for moral realism grows. I hope to see more from Cuneo in the future.


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