Shakespeare, Moral Judgments, and Moral Realism

20 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2015 Last revised: 3 Nov 2016

See all articles by Matthew H. Kramer

Matthew H. Kramer

University of Cambridge; University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2015


Among the many areas of scholarship that can be enriched through an engagement with Shakespeare’s plays, moral philosophy is a particularly fruitful territory. In the present essay, I draw on a couple of Shakespearean tragedies to come to grips with a challenge that has sometimes been mounted against moral realism. Moral realism I take to be the thesis that morality (or ethics more broadly) is objective along a number of different ontological, epistemic, and semantic dimensions. Here the challenge to be countered - with assistance from Shakespeare - is focused on the foremost respect in which morality is semantically objective. That is, some opponents of moral realism have sought to deny that moral judgments are ever truth-apt, by contending that such judgments are inherently possessed of motivational force. This essay will examine their reasoning, with the aim of showing that (insofar as the reasoning is sound) it can readily be accommodated by moral realism.

Keywords: Shakespeare, moral realism, moral judgment, objectivity, morality, truth-aptitude, moral philosophy, judgment-internalism

JEL Classification: K4, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Kramer, Matthew H., Shakespeare, Moral Judgments, and Moral Realism (January 1, 2015). University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 1/2015, Available at SSRN: or

Matthew H. Kramer (Contact Author)

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University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law ( email )

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