The Normative Web: An Argument for Moral Realism

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Antirealist views about morality claim that moral facts or truths do not exist. Does this imply that other types of normative facts, such as epistemic facts, do not exist? The Normative Web develops a positive answer to this question. Terence Cuneo argues that moral and epistemic facts are sufficiently similar so that, if moral facts do not exist, then epistemic facts do not exist. But epistemic facts do exist: to deny their existence would commit us to an extreme version of epistemological scepticism. Therefore, Cuneo concludes, moral facts do exist. And if moral facts exist, then moral realism is true.

It is sometimes said that moral realists rarely offer arguments for their position, settling instead for mere defenses of a view they find intuitively plausible. By contrast, The Normative Web provides not merely a defense of robust realism in ethics, but a positive argument for this position. In so doing, it engages with a range of antirealist positions in epistemology such as error theories, expressivist views, and reductionist views of epistemic reasons. These positions, Cuneo claims, come at a prohibitively high theoretical cost. Given this cost, it follows that realism about both epistemic and moral facts is a position that we should find highly attractive.

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About the Author:

Terence Cuneo is at Calvin College, Michigan.

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"Terence Cuneo, someone already identified by those who have been paying attention as a young moral philosopher to watch, has written a splendid book. The core idea is not a novel one and has received the occasional airing, a sentence here, a paragraph there, in the literature. But Cuneo is the first that I've noticed to really pick this particular ball up and have a real shot at running with it over some distance."--James Lenman, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews


"Terence Cuneo has written a powerful defense of moral realism.... This is a great idea for a book and Cuneo does it justice: it ought to be ready by anyone concerned with metaethics or with issues regarding normativity in general. The structure of the argument is clear, the methodology is straightforward, and each premise has a prima facie plausibility that only deepens as the book progresses. The bar that must be reached for those who wish to reject moral realism has been raised.... Metaethicists of all stripes, moral realists and nonrealists alike, have good reason to spend time with Cuneo's work. The realist will basically find solace in it, everyone else will find it very challenging indeed."--Paul Bloomfield, Social Theory and Practice


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