Realism vs. Anti-Realism

  • Thread starter EmeraldHike
  • Start date


Aug 8, 2020
  • #1
What are you? Are you a realist or an anti-realist? Do you know what each is? If not, read on below and I'll do my best to explain.

What if you were to get in an argument with someone one day? Let's say that the two of you were arguing about the morality of hunting. You say that it's a terrible thing to do and it's immoral under any circumstance. The person with whom you're arguing states that while he doesn't love the idea of hunting, it's a necessary and natural thing to do in order to survive. Or to enjoy oneself while spending time in the woods. That's the crux of things. You would rather do nothing while he would hunt out of necessity or while seeking enjoyment.

Let me know what you think about this concept. How do you feel about there being an ultimate moral truth? I'll use an example to illustrate. Let's say that all early Model T cars were yellow. Would this be a true fact of history? Of course not. We all know that all early Model Ts were painted black. The saying goes something like, "The Model T comes in a variety of colors, as long as it's black." So if someone were to walk up to you and state that these particular cars were all painted yellow, you would know that the statement was incorrect. It's not a part of factual reality. Similarly, when discussing philosophy and morals, many people will make a lot of different claims. Heated arguments have erupted during these types of conversations. One person may claim that such and such is wrong on any and all levels while someone else may claim that that particular activity isn't wrong, but actually right and helpful. The question I have for you in this post is, are there any universal moral truths that can apply to something all of the time without question or are morals relative to one's culture and upbringing? If you say yes, there are moral truths out there and that some things are always wrong or always right, then you would be characterized as a moral realist. If you disagree and say that there can't be any moral truths because an outside or affecting influence always has to exist somewhere, you would be characterized as a moral anti-realist.

I guess the next question would be, what is a moral realist, anyway? Well, this is someone who believes that certain things in this world are just wrong, no matter what. Or right, no matter what. No matter how we feel, think, were raised, were taught in church - anything. In my example at the beginning of this post, I mentioned an argument between two people about hunting. If the person who was arguing against it was brought up in a hunting family and learned in school and church that hunting was a necessary thing to do, but still believed it was wrong, they'd be engaging in moral realism. Even if this person saw the benefit of hunting and knew how enjoyable it could be, but still knew, deep down, that it was wrong - yes, that's moral realism. It's the going against the grain that defines this phrase. It's the, no matter how many people, groups, cultures, or friends around you are telling you that something is okay, you still know it's wrong.

Conversely, we've got the anti-realists. These are folks who simply can't subscribe to the realist's way of thinking. Can anything really ever always be bad? They don't think so. What if everyone in a community was going to die from starvation and the only thing that would save them was to hunt an elephant? Would it still be wrong to do so? The moral realist would say yes. The moral anti-realist would say no. To the anti-realist, losing just one elephant to feed an entire community would not only not be wrong, but it would actually be right. To anti-realists, no set of moral truths can exist outside of beliefs and cultures. These people subscribe to something that's referred to as moral relativism, otherwise known as a set of morals that's been devised through time and relates to how certain groups act and live. It's up to the group to define what's moral and what's not, not some outside law. They also believe that no one with one set of beliefs should walk into another group and attempt to impose his or her morals on them. To anti-realists, morals are relative and the product of culture or agreed upon set of rules.

I've thought a lot about these different ways of perceiving morals and I must admit that I'm somewhat torn. For instance, I life in the country out in the middle of nowhere. If someone were to approach me and tell me that a new law was being written where everyone from rural USA was going to be forced to live in cities because the government wanted to give nature back to the wild, I'd be appalled. But really, I'd only be appalled because I happen to live in a rural area. Now, if someone asked me if people shouldn't live outside of cities because those people are using up too much land and wildlife doesn't have as much as it needs, I'd tell them that yes, people shouldn't live in rural areas. So on one hand, I have a view that's based on moral realism, which is firm and steadfast, yet, I'm also an anti-realist because we rural folk have been doing this for a long time and we don't appreciate outsiders telling us how to live. Or what's right and wrong. So I'm not sure how many purists there are out there one way or another. There's an argument to be made for both sides.

Where do you fall on this? Would you consider yourself a moral realist or a moral anti-realist and why?
Realism vs. Anti-Realism was posted on 08-20-2020 by EmeraldHike in the Philosophy Forum forum.


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