Moral Epistemology

Moral epistemology is the systematic and critical study of morality as a body of knowledge. It is concerned with such issues as how or whether moral claims can be rationally justified, whether there are objective moral facts, whether moral statements strictly admit of truth or falsity, and whether moral claims are universally valid or relative to historically particular belief systems, conceptual schemes, social practices, or cultures.

The subdiscipline of moral epistemology is hardly a recent arrival on the philosophical scene. Plato's Republic,

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Hume's Treatise on Human Nature, Kant's Critique of Practical Reason, and Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit all grapple with moral-epistemological themes and issues. However, the lion's share of explicit, self-conscious reflection on moral-epistemological problems has taken place in the twentieth century, reflecting Western philosophy's more general preoccupation with the problem of knowledge since the time of Kant. This entry describes and critically evaluates some of the major options in moral epistemology taken during that period.

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