Repository logo

Moral Realism – Time To Relax?



Change log


Boeddeling, Annika 


This thesis critically assesses ‘relaxed realism’ – a group of views that have entered the metaethical debate recently (Dworkin, 1996; Kramer, 2009; Parfit, 2011; Scanlon, 2014). Relaxed realism promises a novel perspective on our normative practice. In particular, it aims for a view that is genuinely distinct from traditional non-naturalism on the one hand, and sophisticated forms of expressivism on the other. This thesis calls into question whether such an aspiration can be met. The approach is twofold.

First, the thesis argues that relaxed realism can meet various of its objectives better by relying on theoretical resources that expressivism offers. To argue for this claim, it discusses three challenges that relaxed realism should be able to meet according to its own objectives. With regards to each challenge, it then shows that as it stands relaxed realist views fail to adequately respond to it. Finally, the thesis suggests that relaxed realism can better respond to the respective challenges – and hence, better meet their own objectives – by endorsing certain expressivist resources.

Second, the thesis argues that relaxed realism is an inherently unstable view. It does so by raising a dilemma. Either relaxed realism fails to establish the desired difference to expressivism or it succeeds, but at the expense of erasing the difference to traditional non-naturalism. The conclusion of the thesis is critical: the relaxed realist aspiration for a novel take on our normative practice – distinct from both traditional non-naturalism and expressivism – remains unmet.





Huw Price, Huw Price


metaethics, moral realism, metaphysics, expressivism, non-naturalism, relaxed realism


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge