Are we "realists" about something we think reduces to something mind dependent? I assumed not, due to reduction meaning that there is only that reduced to thing.

If you read this article, when moral properties reduce to something mental they may be "real".

But that makes no sense to me.

  • i suppose that a property that is only mental may (the thinking goes) be independent of any particular mental state, and in this way it is weakly real – user25714 Jul 31 '17 at 0:11
  • who are we "realists" ? why we? – virmaior Aug 1 '17 at 13:18
  • why not? @virmaior ? – user25714 Aug 2 '17 at 7:41

It depends on whether you are a realist about mental objects. If you believe that only the physical is real, then the purely mental is not, by definition. But mental realism is not unheard of --many mathematicians, for instance, still hew to the Platonic idea that things like numbers have a real existence as mental entities independent of human observers.

  • so ethical naturalism is realism because the moral properties reduce to real mental events? – user25714 Jul 31 '17 at 16:04

Something can be mental but real. Something is not real if it depends on how we represent it. But for example a mental state such as being in pain could be independent of the way we represent ourselves being in pain (which is like a second order mental state).

Note also that reductionism does not mean that what is reducible does not exist. This view is rather called eliminativism. Reduction could mean that it exists only in virtue of something else.


Perhaps the details don't matter. We aspire to be realists if we form our views based on what is real even if we make mistakes about what is real. There are those who would say that both corporeal and mental events are not real, however, the Buddhists for instance, in which case most realists are fantasists.


My understanding of the article you linked is that "moral naturalism" is sometimes used to refer to a kind of moral realism which does not seek to reduce morality to mental properties, but rather holds that moral facts are objective facts grounded in natural reality - the claim of this kind of "moral realism" is not as narrow as you suggest. It is perhaps a compromise between grounding morality in something non-natural, and the position you suggest, which is reducing morality to mental properties. Someone that holds this position could ground morality in something non-mental, say social relationships. It is kind of like saying morality is a natural property of human life as another kind of animal life - there is nothing inherently "spiritual" (i.e. non-natural) about human morality, but neither should morality be reduced to mental properties, since behaviour between animals of the same kind (and for that matter, perhaps, of different kinds) is never simply reducible to their mental states, it is also ingrained in their "natural" social conditions.

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