Moral Realism vs Objective Ethics

One minute introduction to objective ethics
(By comparison; Original text: © 2008 Luke Mastin)

Moral Realism (or Moral Objectivism) is the meta-ethical view that ...

Objective Ethics is descriptive and normative at the same time. In other words, ethics is described in such a (correct) way that it becomes normative. It also explains why people do not follow ethical norms.

... that there exist such things as moral facts and moral values, and that these are objective and independent of our perception of them or our beliefs, feelings or other attitudes towards them.

The source of moral judgments is freedom which is the objective property of reality opposite to determinism. However, freedom is not a moral fact or moral value as such. Free beings perceive freedom by intuition, and the moral value of freedom is the result of that perception. Freedom cannot be cognized and studied.

Therefore, moral judgments describe moral facts, which are as certain in their own way as mathematical facts.

Freedom is opposite to anything certain and especially to mathematics because math is a mark of determinism.

It is a cognitivist view in that it holds that ethical sentences express valid propositions (and are therefore "truth-apt" i.e. they are able to be true or false), and that they describe the state of the real world. It contrasts with various types of Moral Anti-Realism, including non-cognitivist or expressivist theories of moral judgment, error theories, fictionalist theories and constructivist or relativist theories.

Ethical sentences express subjective opinion of free beings and can be made objective through consensus with all the other free beings. The final truth is the result of such consensus and is ultimately unachievable because the complete consensus is impossible. The process of consensus is eternal, and ethical truth is the result of partial consensus.

Moral Realism has the advantage of purportedly allowing the ordinary rules of logic to be applied straightforwardly to moral statements, (so that we can say, for example, that a moral belief is false or unjustified or contradictory in the same way we would about a factual belief). It also allows for the resolution of moral disagreements, because if two moral beliefs contradict one another, Moral Realism (unlike some other meta-ethical systems) says that they cannot both be right and so there should be some way of resolving the situation.

The rules of logic can be applied to moral statements only in the context of a chosen goal, however the choice of a goal is true as long as it is the result of consensus. The resolution of moral disagreements (ie consensus) is possible only on the basis of freedom no matter how paradoxical it may seem.

Critics have argued that, while Moral Realism may be able to explain how to resolve moral conflicts, it cannot explain how these conflicts arose in the first place. Others have argued Moral Realism posits a kind of "moral fact" which is non-material and unobservable (in the way as objective material facts are observable), and therefore not accessible to the scientific method.

Moral conflicts are result of freedom. Freedom is not accessible to the scientific method. Every free being has free will about which it is intuitively certain.

There are two main variants of Moral Realism:

Free beings have intuitive awareness of freedom and its limitation. They are also predisposed to follow ethical norms even if these norms are not the result of consensus. This predisposition is the necessary moral restraint to achieve common freedom.


Non-Cognitivism is the meta-ethical view (or family of views) that moral utterances lack truth-value (i.e. they are neither true nor false) and do not assert propositions. Therefore, if moral statements cannot be true, and if one cannot know something that is not true, Non-Cognitivism implies that moral knowledge is impossible, and moral truths are not the kind of truths that can be known.

Moral statements can be true or false in the context of a chosen goal. Beside this, the process of eternal consensus moves toward the final truth and, therefore, moral knowledge about ethical norms (ethical "reality") is possible, and moral truths are the kind of truths that can be known.

Non-Cognitivism is largely supported by the Argument from Queerness: that ethical properties, if they existed, would be different from any other thing in the universe, since they have no observable effect on the world, and there is no way of discerning (and no actual evidence for) the existence of ethical properties . It focuses on the function of normative statements in practice, arguing that they are more likely to merely express approval or disapproval, or to exhort or persuade in a prescriptive way, than to make definitive assertions of truth or falseness. Non-Cognitivists argue that the burden of evidence is on cognitivists who want to show that in addition to expressing disapproval, for example, the claim "Killing is wrong" is also true.

Ethical properties exist the same way freedom exists and they exist in relation to it.


Moral Realist doctrines in Meta-Ethics implicitly assume that ethical statements are truth-apt propositions. However, it is also possible for Moral Anti-Realist theories to accept that ethical sentences can be true or false, even if there are no natural, physical or in any way real entities or objects to make them true or false. Hilary Putnam argues in his 2004 book "Ethics without Ontology" that ethical (and for that matter mathematical) sentences can be true and objective without there being any real world objects to make them so.

Ethical (and for that matter mathematical) sentences can be: 1) true when correctly derived from axioms accepted as true and 2) objective when set to correspond to real world objects. Existence and nature of freedom, as a property of objective reality, is most plausible. Therefore, ethics that based on freedom may be considered true and objective.


Back to Ethical Liberty