Originally posted September 11, 2016
Robust moral realism is the view that moral facts exist, but that they are not reducible to non-moral or natural facts. According to the robust realist, when I say something like ‘It is morally wrong to torture an innocent child for fun’, I am saying something that is true, but whose truth is not reducible to the non-moral properties of torture or children. Robust moral realism has become surprisingly popular in recent years, with philosophers like Derek Parfit, David Enoch, Erik Wielenberg and Russell Shafer-Landau all defending versions of it.
What is interesting about these philosophers is that they are all avowedly non-religious in their moral beliefs. They don’t think there is any connection between morality and the truths of any particular religion. Indeed, several of them are explicitly atheistic in their moral outlook. In a recent paper, however, David Killoren has argued that robust moral realism is a kind of religious belief: one that must be held on faith and that shares other properties with popular religions. At the same time, he argues that it is an ‘excellent’ kind of religious belief, one that could be attractive to the non-religious and religious alike.