Parfit's and Scanlon's Non-Metaphysical Moral Realism as Alethic Pluralism

Veluwenkamp, H., Aug-2017, In : Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. 20, 4, p. 751-761 11 p.

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Thomas Scanlon and Derek Parfit have recently defended a meta-ethical view that is supposed to satisfy our realistic intuitions about morality, without the metaphysical implications that many find hard to accept in other realist views. Both philosophers argue that truths in the normative domain do not have ontological implications, while truths in the scientific domain presuppose a metaphysical reality. What distinguishes Scanlon and Parfit’s approach from other realistic meta-ethical theories is that they maintain that normative entities exist in a way that is different from (some) non-normative entities. Moreover, they think that the way normative entities exist helps to answer the metaphysical worries that are often thought to plague non-naturalism. To make sense of this idea, I develop their view as a version of alethic pluralism: the position that there is more than one truth property. I argue, however, that when their view is developed in this way it fails to satisfy our realistic intuitions about morality. This shows that on a plausible and initially promising reading of what it takes for a normative entity to exist in a way that is different from non-normative entities, Parfit’s and Scanlon’s non-metaphysical moral realism fails to be more realistic than contemporary versions of anti-realism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-761
Number of pages11
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number4
Early online date31-Mar-2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2017


  • Alethic Pluralism, Anti-realism, Mind-dependence, Parfit, Scanlon

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