Moral Realism, Meta-Ethical Pyrrhonism and Naturalism

  • Drew Khlentzos
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 110)


This paper argues that naturalistic moral realism is vulnerable to a Hard Problem that has gone largely unrecognized. This problem is to explain how natural moral properties are detected by the folk. I argue that Thomas Nagel’s persuasive case for moral realism founded on the priority of first-order moral evaluations over second-order reflection is not conclusive—a certain type of moral agnosticism which I call Meta-Ethical Pyrrhonism can account for our inability to think of first-order moral evaluations as merely subjective or relative. Although unsatisfactory as metaphysics, Meta-Ethical Pyrrhonism is arguably all that a moral naturalist is entitled to by way of a meta-ethical theory.


Hard Problem Meta-Ethical Pyrrhonism Moral realism Moral skepticism Naturalism 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bechara A, Damasio H, Damasio AR (2000) Emotion, decision-making and the orbitofrontal cortex. Cerebral Cortex 10(3):295–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blinov A (2003) Rationalities in conflict: compensatory logico-cognitive irrationality in interactive contexts. Yearbook of logical investigations 10:233–241, Nauka, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  3. Burge T (1995) Mind-body causation and explanatory practice. In: Heil J, Mele A (eds) Mental causation. Clarendon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  4. Burgess JA (1998) Error theories and values. Australas J Philos 76(4):534–552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Capporeal LR (1976) Ergotism: the Satan loosed in Salem? Science 192:21–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Churchland PM, Hooker CA (eds) (1985) Images of science: essays on realism and empiricism, with a reply by Bas van Fraassen. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  7. Damasio AR (1994) Descartes’ error: emotion, reason and the human brain. Grosset/Putnam, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Davidson D (1984) The method of truth in metaphysics: Essay 14. In: Inquiries into truth and interpretation. Clarendon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Dolan RJ (2002) Emotion, cognition and behavior. Science 298:1191–1194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dummett M (1991) The logical basis of metaphysics. Duckworth, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Heil J, Mele A (eds) (1995) Mental causation. Clarendon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Hurley S (1989) Natural reasons: personality and polity. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  13. Jackson F (1992) Natural reasons: personality and polity by Susan Hurley—review essay. Australas J Philos 70(4):475–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Khlentzos D (2004) Naturalistic realism and the antirealist challenge. Bradford Books, Cambridge MAGoogle Scholar
  15. Kim J (2000) Mind in a physical world. Bradford Books, Cambridge MAGoogle Scholar
  16. Mackie JL (1977) Ethics: inventing right and wrong. Penguin, HarmondsworthGoogle Scholar
  17. Nagel T (1997) The last word. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  18. Quine WVO (1960) Word and object. The MIT Press, Cambridge MAGoogle Scholar
  19. van Fraassen B (2002) The empirical stance. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Drew Khlentzos

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations