The Argument from Discourse

Christian F. R. Illies

in The Grounds of Ethical Judgement

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780198238324
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191679612 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Philosophical Monographs

The Argument from Discourse

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Two highly developed transcendental arguments exist in the current ethical and meta-ethical debates about moral realism and moral judgements. Karl-Otto Apel has developed what is known as an ‘argument from discourse’, while Alan Gewirth has suggested an ‘argument from agency’. This chapter analyses Apel's account and a similar account by Wolfgang Kuhlmann to justify ethics. Both understand truth as a consensus and, consequently, reason as a form of discourse. Their central argument is that to reason at all everyone (including the sceptic) must accept the rules and principles which are required for any discourse to be rational. Both Apel and Kuhlmann demonstrate very clearly the manner in which their argument is supposed to escape the naturalistic fallacy. However, Apel and Kuhlmann cannot show that every reasoner necessarily anticipates a universal discourse community in his reasoning. This chapter discusses moral realism and the argument from discourse, how the argument from discourse answers the naturalistic-fallacy objection, restricted and unrestricted normative judgements, and what moral realism must achieve.

Keywords: transcendental arguments; Karl-Otto Apel; Wolfgang Kuhlmann; truth; argument from discourse; reasoning; moral realism; naturalistic fallacy; normative judgements; ethics

Chapter.  12790 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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