Can Cornell Moral Realism Adequately Account for Moral Knowledge?



This article raises a problem for Cornell varieties of moral realism. According to Cornell moral realists, we can know about moral facts just as we do the empirical facts of the natural sciences. If this is so, it would remove any special mystery that is supposed to attach to our knowledge of objective moral facts. After clarifying the ways in which moral knowledge is to be similar to scientific knowledge, I claim that the analogy fails, but for little-noticed reasons. A preliminary conclusion of the article will be that this positive comparison to scientific knowledge hurts, rather than helps, the realist position. Yet, rather than spell trouble for moral realism altogether, I suggest that the apparent failure of Cornell realist moral epistemology points to a better way forward for moral realism.