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How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living.

Are ethical statements objectively true?
Do ethical statements provide information about anything other than human opinions and attitudes?

Ethical realists think that human beings discover ethical truths that already have an independent existence.
Ethical non-realists think that human beings invent ethical truths.
The problem for ethical realists is that people follow many different ethical codes and moral beliefs. So if there are real ethical truths out there (wherever!) then human beings don’t seem to be very good at discovering them.

One form of ethical realism teaches that ethical properties exist independently of human beings, and that ethical statements give knowledge about the objective world.

To put it another way; the ethical properties of the world and the things in it exist and remain the same, regardless of what people think or feel – or whether people think or feel about them at all.

On the face of it, it [ethical realism] means the view that moral qualities such as wrongness, and likewise moral facts such as the fact that an act was wrong, exist in rerum natura, so that, if one says that a certain act was wrong, one is saying that there existed, somehow, somewhere, this quality of wrongness, and that it had to exist there if that act were to be wrong.

R. M Hare, Essays in Ethical Theory, 1989

Four ethical ‘isms’
When a person says “murder is bad” what are they doing?

That’s the sort of question that only a philosopher would ask, but it’s actually a very useful way of getting a clear idea of what’s going on when people talk about moral issues.

The different ‘isms’ regard the person uttering the statement as doing different things.

We can show some of the different things I might be doing when I say ‘murder is bad’ by rewriting that statement to show what I really mean:

I might be making a statement about an ethical fact
“It is wrong to murder”
This is moral realism
I might be making a statement about my own feelings
“I disapprove of murder”
This is subjectivism
I might be expressing my feelings
“Down with murder”
This is emotivism
I might be giving an instruction or a prohibition
“Don’t murder people”
This is prescriptivism

cs regimes.[70][71]