Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics

Key components of moral theory are presented in this book.


This book investigates key issues of moral theory. Can we make a presumption in favor of moral realism, the view that certain things really are good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust? (Moral anti-realism, of course, claims just the opposite.) This is the view of David Brink. While I agree with moral realism for my own reasons (not discussed in this review), I show that his reasons for making such a presumption in favour of moral realism beg the question, or assume what he needs to prove. Brink also considers views such as intuitionism in ethics, and claims to defuse two major objections to intuitionism which I claim are not rebutted at all by Brink. This very sophisticated philosopher also considers many well-known objections to realism, such as the is-ought gap and the fact of widespread moral disagreement. In the end, Brink defends a version of "indirect utilitarianism," which argues that it maxmizes utility for moral agents not to decide moral matters in a utilitarian fashion. This should sound paradoxical, and in fact I argue that there are a number of advantages to a more "direct" approach such as may be found in my own anti-utilitarian ethical theory, best caring ethics (which I sketch in my article, found elsewhere on this web site, entitled "The Rights of Animal Persons").

Brink, David. Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. 340 pages.

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