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Quasi-realism

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Quasi-realism is an expressivist meta-ethical theory propounded by Simon Blackburn. In essence it forwards that whilst our moral claims are projectivist we understand them in realist terms as part of our ethical experience of the world. Blackburn derives this stance from a Humean account of the origin of our moral opinions, adapting Hume's genealogical account in the light of evolutionary game theory.

It has been claimed that Blackburn's programme is fictionalist, which he himself disputes. However, there are certainly continuities between both approaches. Blackburn argues that moral fictionalism is tantamount to us claiming to hold attitudes that we do not really have; that we are in some way insincere. In support of his argument, Blackburn invokes Locke's theory of colour, which defines colours as dispositional (that is, in the eye of the beholder) but in some way reliant upon facts about the world.

This means that whilst the moral fictionalist is in some ways having her cake and eating it; the quasi-realist has seemingly more difficult position to defend. She may feel secure in disagreeing with Bentham that talk of human rights is "nonsense upon stilts" but she would also argue that such rights could not be said to exist in a realist sense. Whilst no doubt problematic, quais-realism captures in some important ways the structure of our ethical experience of the world and why we can assert claims such as "It is wrong to be cruel to children" as if they were facts even though they do not share the properties of facts; namely the inference of independent truth-values.

From this position, Blackburn's "way forward" is to re-assert Hume's common point of view.

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