Moral Skepticism

Absent from this discussion about ethics are those who are moral skeptics. These people do not believe that:

there is no adequate reason for moral belief, or

there is never enough reason to act morally.

Moral skepticism can be refined into more specific denials:

1. Denial of moral reality

Some believe that moral beliefs can be false and that moral beliefs cannot be true unless based on fact. Moral skeptics do not believe that moral facts or properties exist.

2. Denial of moral truth

Some believe that moral belief is neither true or false. They hold that moral belief are expressions of emotion or opinion and therefore cannot be evaluated as a truth.

3. Denial of moral knowledge

Some doubt that moral knowledge is possible; some assert that it is impossible. They believe that no one knows whether moral knowledge is true or false.

4. Denial of justified moral belief

Some believe that no one is justified in living by a moral belief. If there isn’t any moral reality, moral beliefs cannot be true, moral beliefs cannot be known to be true, and moral beliefs cannot be justified as an independent truth.

While the conclusions of moral skepticism suggest immorality, it is important to note that moral skeptics can act morally and hold to a moral belief that is virtuous. It is this contradiction and paradox that many non-theists are not moral skeptics. If they deny moral reality, moral truth, moral belief, or justified moral belief, how can a moral skeptic claim to be a moral or good person or have any moral belief?

©2003 A resource for learning how to read the Bible.