Intro to: Value Realism

By Andy Xu

Here, I will discuss the central ideas of value realism. Before I get to that, however, there are some general remarks to be made about philosophical realism. Philosophical realism consists in two general aspects: (1) existence and (2) independence. Existence means that “objects,” such as chairs, babies, men and women, all exist. It also means that they possess certain properties. Independence points to the fact that, for example, chairs’ existing and possessing certain properties is independent of anything anyone happens to say or think.

Even though philosophers could choose to accept or reject realism across the board, they could also be selectively realist or non-realist about various topics. Therefore, with regard to the kind of realism in question here, value realism, accepting the doctrines of value realism does not necessarily commit one to other subtypes of realism.

What is value realism then? The central theses of value realism are summarized with the following four propositions: (1) value claims, such as “romantic relationships are good” and “dictators are bad” can be true or false, (2) some such claims are indeed true, (3) the truth of those claims is not just a matter of subjective opinions, (4) facts about value enjoy a certain metaphysical independence from other matters of fact.

Given the above characterization of value realism, it isn’t hard to infer that realism about value is a matter of degree. While the robust value antirealist will reject all four claims, there are a variety of realist positions from weak objective idealist views, to mind‐independent naturalist views, and finally robustly non‐naturalist views of value.

Further reading:

Encyclopedia Britannica entry on philosophical realism

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on realism

Crispin Wright – “Moral Values, Projection, and Secondary Qualities,” “Truth and Objectivity,” “Realism, Meaning, and Truth,” and more

Peter Geach — “Ascriptivism

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