Moral Properties and Mental Properties

I’ve been reading an article on realization.  Realization is a bit tricky to define.  As a matter of fact that is one of the problems that many people have against it.  It is most often used in thought and conversation related to philosophy of mind and mental properties specifically.  For example, broadly, “The mind is realized by the brain.”  More specifically, “Pain is realized by a certain region of the brain.”  One can see that we could get even more specific than this.  Mental realization finds its home in the outflow of functionalism in philosophy of mind.  Without getting into more details, realization in the realm of the mental, to me, seems a little more at home in that area than saying that moral properties are realized.  Realized by what?  Mental properties are commonly associated with brain functions.  But what about moral properties?  Since moral properties are properties associated with human beings do they also get realized by the brain?  The reason this seems out of place is that we know that moral properties are very often, not always, linked with external events.  So when someone murders another person, we say that person X committed the immoral act of murdering person Y.  The moral property linked to this event is the wrongness of taking someones life, and it is a property of the event that occurred which was brought about by a person.  The constituents of the event are X, the perpetrator, and Y, the victim.  So, where does the realization of the moral property occur and what does the realizing of it?  Mental properties have the benefit of seemingly having a physical object in which these properties can be attributed location and dependence.  Moral properties resist this.  Maybe moral properties are just a subset of mental properties and really are just masquerading as different properties.  The moral realist would like to think there is something more than this because they want to avoid a slippery slope to anti-realist subjectivist views of morality.  If we identify moral properties with mental properties, then we begin to get the feel that subjectivism will win the day because so much of our mental life is characterized by our own subjective thought life.  Maybe moral properties are just subjective thoughts like many of our other thoughts.  The moral realist who wants to maintain that moral properties are objective, normative, and possibly absolute and universal wants to stay clear of this possibility.  I think these are interesting questions for those that think that realization is a relation that holds in the real of moral philosophy.  My work over the summer is to look at a few people that advocate some notion of realization of moral properties and try to get clear on what they mean by it and then critique their views for coherence and reasonableness.  We’ll see if we can pin these moral properties down.

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About Mike

I am a husband, father and someone completing my graduate studies in philosophy and have the privilege of teaching philosophy and ethics at a small college. I love the intellectual life, particularly as it intersects with what Jesus, Plato and Aristotle referred to as the "Abundant Life", "The Good" and "The Good Life".
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