CFP: /Philosophies/ Special Issue: Moral Realism and Moral Epistemology

Submission deadline: July 30, 2021

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Dear Colleagues,

Moral realism consists of three claims: (1) judgements of the form ‘it is wrong/bad to do act A’ are beliefs, and so have a truth value; (2) at least some of these beliefs are true; and (3) what makes those beliefs true are corresponding mind-independent moral facts. For much of the twentieth century, moral realism, especially in its non-naturalist form, looked dead and buried, and various forms of non-cognitivism prospered. But during the 1980s and 1990s realism re-emerged as a philosophically respectable position, even in its non-naturalist form.

Nonetheless, it is still plagued by serious philosophical worries, especially on metaphysical, epistemological, and psychological grounds. A growing number of philosophers argue that the supposed mind-independent moral facts that would make our beliefs true are so metaphysically suspect that they feel forced to deny that there are any such facts. Those who accept that moral judgements are beliefs are forced to conclude that all moral beliefs are false. Non-cognitivists argue that we should abandon the realist assumption that moral judgements are beliefs. They maintain that their view also fits with certain psychological facts about the motivational force of moral judgements. Yet others argue that we should abandon the idea that what makes moral judgements true are mind-independent moral facts, and maintain that truth in ethics is determined by the outcome of some constructive procedure.

Epistemological concerns about moral realism tend to focus on non-naturalistic versions of the view that, if the moral facts are non-natural, we could not know them in the way in which we know natural facts. But all forms of realism are subject to certain epistemological concerns, for instance, those that arise as a result of evolutionary debunking arguments. Significant progress has been made in addressing these issues over the past 30 years, but there still remain significant issues to be resolved for non-naturalist realists, for instance, about the nature of intuitions, how they put us in the right relation to the moral facts, what the role of adequate understanding is, and how such knowledge could motivate.

This Special Issue will contribute to the ongoing debate around the metaphysics and epistemology of moral realism. Must realist assumptions drive us towards nihilism (error theory)? Is this something we could believe, and if so what would it be like to genuinely think that nothing matters? Can we know mind-independent moral facts, and if so how? Can evolutionary debunking arguments be rebutted, or are these fatal to realism? If there are moral facts, must they be non-natural facts, and how do these facts relate to our knowledge of them?

Prof. Dr. Philip Stratton-Lake
Guest Editor


  • moral realism
  • epistemology
  • intuition
  • non-naturalism
  • self-evidence

Please contact Special Issue Editor Clyde Cui at for further information.

Philosophies (ISSN 2409-9287, is an international peer-reviewed open access journal. The journal has recently been indexed into Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) in Web of Science.

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