Moral realism: an anti-projectionist account of moral values as aspects of the manifest image

  • Joseph Fearn

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis will argue that a significant part of our moral experience can be explained by an analogy with the phenomenon of aspect perception discussed by Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations. I will argue that projectivism cannot give a satisfactory account of moral perception. This difficulty constitutes an argument against projectivism; namely that projectivism is hopeless as an account of the phenomenology of morality, because it is at variance with the way we actually think and talk morally. It will be shown how quasi-realism is an attempt to remove the most important range of objections to projectivism - namely that it cannot account for the phenomena of serious moral thought and talk. I argue that the project of quasi-realism ultimately fails, leaving realism as the theory most able to account for our moral experience. I shall reveal the untenable assumptions of the ‘Absolute’ viewpoint entailed by the non-realist arguments of J.L.Mackie, and reveal the perpectival outlook that lies behind an aspect-seeing account of moral perception, and also illuminate why the key issue for moral realism is the question of whether we can establish moral objectivity. I shall then go on to say how much objectivity is possible. Finally, I shall show how a Wittgensteinian analogy between moral values and aspects helps to explain our common moral experience. The ability to perceive moral values will be shown to be tied in with the concept-dependency of moral perception, relying on discriminations that can only be made through the use of language, and hence through a shared form of life. The account will be shown to be fully capable of giving an account of our common moral experience
    Date of Award2001
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    • University of Leicester
    SupervisorChristopher Winch (Supervisor)

    Cite this