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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 16, 1991

Terence Horgan, Mark Timmons
Pages 447-465
DOI: 10.5840/jpr_1991_19

New Wave Moral Realism Meets Moral Twin Earth

There have been times in the history of ethical theory, especially in this century, when moral realism was down, but it was never out. The appeal of this doctrine for many moral philosophers is apparently so strong that there are always supporters in its corner who seek to resuscitate the view. The attraction is obvious: moral realism purports to provide a precious philosophical good, viz., objectivity and all that this involves, including right answers to (most) moral questions, and the possibility of knowing those answers. In the last decade, moral realism has re-entered the philosophical ring in powerful-looking naturalistic form. ln this paper we provide a dialectical overview: we situate the new wave position itself, and also our objections to it, in the context of the evolving program of philosophical naturalism in 20th century analytic philosophy. We seek to show that although this new contender might initially look like championship material, it succumbs to punches surprisingly similar to those that knocked out the old-fashioned versions of naturalist moral realism.

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