Moral Facts And Honda Civics

by Patrick Appel

Wilkinson debates moral realism:

I’m definitely a realist about institutional facts, such as the fact that I own my 1996 Honda Civic. As John Searle helpfully puts it, these kinds of facts are ontologically subjective they are facts in virtue of mental states but epistemically objective. If you believe that I don’t own my 1996 Civic, you’re just wrong. I do own it. And I have a piece of paper from the State of Iowa that proves it. That this piece of paper proves it is due to a firmly-established, widely-shared set of beliefs and intentions.

I think moral facts are a lot like the fact that I own my car. But the firmly-established, widely-shared beliefs, sentiments, and dispositions to judgment in virtue of which moral claims are true or false vary over time and space. I do think some of these moral facts give us rationally authoritative reasons for action, but others don’t. (There are bad moralities!) So, I’m still not sure whether or not I count as a moral realist.