Scientific and Moral Realism

Dr. des. Leon-Philip Schäfer (doctoral project, completed in 2021)

The research project I am working on is concerned with an integration of general epistemology of science and metaethics, particularly regarding the debates about scientific and moral realism. Having implications about the semantics, the epistemology and the metaphysics of scientific theories, scientific realism entails strong commitments about the objectivity of scientific knowledge. Similarly, moral realism is a metaethical view that commits us to believe in the objectivity of moral knowledge in an analogous way.

Consequently, one might argue that both views share some general ideas and can be defended from a common perspective: According to both views, theoretical assumptions and moral judgments are truth-apt (semantic realism), some of them are actually true (success-theory), and they are true because of certain natural or moral facts (metaphysical realism).

But although both views share these similarities, the debates in philosophy of science and metaethics are unfortunately separated from each other. Especially, non-naturalist versions of moral realism, which are currently defended by some philosophers, it seems, have lost the connection to scientific realism that was apparent in early developments of their naturalist equivalents. Therefore, I want to investigate whether we can achieve a general defence of both, scientific and moral realism, by comparing the two views with each other and applying arguments that support the one view to the debate about the other.

In particular, I am interested in the following kind of questions: Which of the metaethical arguments might support moral realism? Given their application to philosophy of science, do these arguments lead to a novel defence of scientific realism that differs from the ones based on the no-miracles-argument? And conversely, can we apply inferences to the best explanation, like the no-miracles-argument, to the metaethical debate in order to defend moral realism in an original way?