“Verbindlichkeit”: Some drafts of a groundwork in moral philosophy

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All of metaethical positions today can be replaced by a universal architecture of moral philosophy, all but one: moral realism. Here, I use the term “metaethics” to refer to any theory of ethics concerning the groundwork of ethics, on the one hand, and the inquiry of the use of philosophical words, concepts or methods on the other. In this article, I will present my hypothesis that in moral philosophy, we do not need any specialized metaethics at all. Metaethics as a discipline of philosophy is only required by the work of moral realists, who try to show us a realm of values and norms that exist (per se) naturally, non-naturally or supernaturally. How can they know? The effort of metaethical realists cannot be proven either in ontology or in the philosophy of language or in cognitive science or in any meta-science that works en plus to ethics, because even in every additional discipline, we have to accept the presupposition of a validity of judgments. So, let us try it the other way around; we have to find a way to found ethics by following its structures, and that means, based on David Velleman’s concepts: a) We have to search for a ubiquitous point of ethical theory in its foundation – here, no kind of value or norm can be found that is not based on a universal formal structure of normativity. b) We have to start an empirical inquiry to collect norms and values in actual use. MFT, moral psychology and moral sociology are in charge here. The combination of such an abstract groundwork with mere empirical study has to be legitimized again. Hence, I am going to try to sum up the main ideas of such a project to show the relevance of a new architecture of moral philosophy today. There is a line of reasoning that addresses the possibility of a transcendental critique in practical philosophy; therefore, it has to look into the different notions of “intuition” in moral methods like it was used by Sidgwick (Rashdall, Green, Ross, Brentano, McTaggart) and Moore on the one hand and Brentano and Bergson on the other. In my view, there is a way to combine these perspectives using the two-level-model of Hare, Singer, Greene, where “intuition” is used to categorize habits and customs of the common sense morality in general while a critical reflection uses act-utilitarian calculus to provide a universal decision – in the sense of “concrete reason” – for any possible actor in a singular situation (Hegel, Peirce, Bloch etc.). The change between these levels may be explained by means of a pragmatistic kind of continuum of research with an ideal summum bonum in the long run and a concept of common sense morality as can be found in every group or society.

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