Moral realism, disagreement, and conceptual ethics

Michael Klenk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Moral disagreement is often thought to be of great metaethical significance for moral realists. I explore what remains of that significance when we look at moral disagreement through the lens of a combination of two influential and independently plausible hypotheses about moral language. The Morality-As-Cooperation (MAC) hypothesis says that our capacity for and use of moral language is an adaptation to increase mutualistic cooperation. The Concepts-As-Tools (CAT) hypothesis says that we often engage in disputes about language use and that many apparent moral disagreements are linguistic disagreements in disguise. The combined MAC-CAT view that I explore suggests that we frequently engage in linguistic disputes to find optimal means for mutualistic cooperation. I show that this perspective weakens sceptical claims based on moral disagreements, that is offers a novel way for moral realists to explain the apparent genuineness of moral disagreements without the need to accept theses borrowed from non-cognitivism.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalInquiry (United Kingdom)
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • conceptual ethics
  • moral anthropology
  • Moral disagreement
  • moral scepticism


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