Disagreement, Anti-Realism About Reasons, and Inference to the Best Explanation

25 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2018

Date Written: August 6, 2018


I revisit, refine and defend an inference to the best explanation (IBE) argument for anti-realism about reasons for acting based on the history of intractable disagreement in moral philosophy. The four key premises of the argument are: 1. If there were objective reasons for action, epistemically-well-situated observers would eventually converge upon them after two thousand years; 2. Contemporary philosophers, as the beneficiaries of two thousand years of philosophy, are epistemically well-situated observers; 3. Contemporary philosophers have not converged upon reasons for action; 4. Conclusion: there are no objective reasons for action (IBE from the first three premises). The key premises of the IBE are (1) sentimentalism; (2) non-cognitivism about basic affects; and (3) philosophical arguments for what our reasons for action are always involve arguments that depend on a basic intuitive moral judgment (that can be explained in terms of a basic non-cognitive affect). All these premises are explored in detail, and various objections addressed.

Keywords: inference to the best explanation, anti-realism, metaethics, reasons, consilience, conservativism, simplicity, deontology, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, duality of practical reason, Nietzsche, Parfit, Enoch

Suggested Citation

Leiter, Brian, Disagreement, Anti-Realism About Reasons, and Inference to the Best Explanation (August 6, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3228060 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3228060

Brian Leiter (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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