Shakespeare, moral judgements, and moral realism

Authored by: Matthew H. Kramer

The Routledge Companion to Shakespeare and Philosophy

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138936126
eBook ISBN: 9781315677019
Adobe ISBN:


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Among the many areas of scholarship that can be enriched through an engagement with Shakespeare’s plays, moral philosophy is a particularly fruitful territory. In the present essay, I draw on a couple of Shakespearean tragedies to come to grips with a challenge that has sometimes been mounted against moral realism. Moral realism I take to be the thesis that morality (or ethics more broadly) is objective along a number of different ontological, epistemic, and semantic dimensions. Here the challenge to be countered - with assistance from Shakespeare - is focused on the foremost respect in which morality is semantically objective. That is, some opponents of moral realism have sought to deny that moral judgments are ever truth-apt, by contending that such judgments are inherently possessed of motivational force. This essay will examine their reasoning, with the aim of showing that (insofar as the reasoning is sound) it can readily be accommodated by moral realism.

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