Realism without Reification: The Humane Model of Moral Understanding
The experience of value is central to understanding human agency. However, with the rise of the scientific worldview it has become increasingly difficult to clarify its nature. Most contemporary ethicists are reluctant to fully embrace scientific explanations of value and yet remain highly skeptical of clarifications that do not fit the model of science. This project aims to move beyond this impasse by developing a new model for understanding value that could move the debate forward.
The “humane” model of moral understanding that this project investigates starts from the idea that understanding value is at least partly a matter of understanding ourselves. At the same time, it recognizes that value is essentially experienced as having its source outside our beliefs and desires – as emanating from the world rather than from ourselves. A theory suited to explain this realist experience thus paradoxically needs to center both human agents and the world external to them.
Arguing that mainstream metaethical approaches to moral realism lose grip on this issue by focusing exclusively on moral judgments, this project not only seeks to illuminate our initial experiences of intrinsic normativity and moral objectivity, but also aims to remove the unwarranted suspicion about such basic human responses. This is significant because it overcomes the current deadlock between naturalism and non-naturalism in metaethics by providing an alternative framework for defending moral realism.
Key words: ethical theory, philosophical anthropology, hermeneutics, social theory, metaethics, moral realism.