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Moral Realism and Social Criticism

Hull, GTB; (2012) Moral Realism and Social Criticism. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

In many contexts, including multicultural societies and various international settings, ethical disputes arise between parties who do not share an ethical outlook. It can seem impossible for such disputes to be resolved rationally, as the parties in question will generally not take the same sorts of consideration to bear on the matter under dispute. If, however, it could be shown that there are ways of assessing an ethical outlook for correctness, neither merely by checking it for internal coherence, nor simply by assessing it by the standards of a different ethical outlook, this would mean there exist resources allowing at least some such disputes to be resolved rationally. In order to establish whether such resources exist it is necessary to consider what it is to have one ethical outlook rather than another. The existence and applicability of “thick ethical concepts” can form the basis for a defence of moral realism: a realist conception of ethical properties and moral reasons for action, and a cognitivist conception of the mental states which allow an individual (in good cases) to track ethical facts. A fresh understanding of the nature of intentional action which remedies difficulties with orthodox action theory provides additional support for this view. This realist view allows the critical force of two forms of social criticism from the German philosophical tradition to be reassessed. Nietzschean criticism by genealogy can undermine ethical views if their acceptance is shown to have come about in a way which renders continued acceptance irrational. Criticism of reification, pioneered by Lukács, can ground rejection of aspects of an ethical outlook if it is shown to involve systematic misapprehension of intentional actions as mere natural happenings. In both cases, the most faithful interpretation provides a rational resource for neutral arbitration between ethical outlooks in a context of pluralism.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Moral Realism and Social Criticism
Language: English
Keywords: Pluralism, Moral realism, Social criticism, Nietzsche, Marx, Lukács, Reification, Genealogical criticism, Action theory
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1369567
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