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Moral Skepticism

Moral Skepticism

According to Russ Shafer-Landau, moral skepticism is the idea that there are no objective ethical standards; instead, people can have no moral knowledge (Shafer-Landau 2012). Russ argues that skeptics consistently state that for one to have moral knowledge or just knowledge about anything, one must have valid and justified beliefs. However, true beliefs are unreliable because they can result from guesswork, misinterpretation of evidence, or untrustworthy sources, among other reasons. Therefore, the beliefs must be supported or justified, which is where the problem comes in, as skeptics argue that there cannot be enough support for one’s beliefs. Therefore, this makes moral knowledge an impossibility.

Further, Russ lists five reasons explaining why moral skepticism is getting popular. These reasons include certainty, irrelevant influences, the “who’s to say” question, Hume’s argument, and the skeptical argument from disagreement (Shafer-Landau, 2012). I believe these reasons are good and make one think about morality and determining right and wrong, particularly regarding issues like ethical relativism, ethical pluralism, and absolutism (Hinman, 2012).

In my opinion, I believe the best argument for moral skepticism is irrelevant influences. Often, people’s moral beliefs are heavily influenced by their culture (Boss, 2011); for example, some cultures believe that the death sentence is acceptable for certain crimes, while others hate such kind of punishment, regardless of the crime committed. All these factors that influence people’s view of right or wrong are based on true beliefs and justifiable reasons; however, weighing these reasons against each other determines which of the two sides is correct.


Boss, J. A. (2011). Ethics for life: A text with readings.

Hinman, L. M. (2012). Ethics: A pluralistic approach to moral theory. Cengage Learning.

Shafer-Landau, R. (2012). The fundamentals of ethics (p. 400). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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Moral Skepticism

Moral Skepticism

Russ Shafer-Landau gives good reasons for why moral skepticism is on the rise. Do you think his reasons are good? Could you think of any other reasons?

What is the best argument for moral skepticism (regardless of your belief)?

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