PhilPapers Survey: Ethics

The PhilPapers Survey was a survey of professional philosophers and others on their philosophical views, carried out in November 2009. The Survey was taken by 3226 respondents, including 1803 philosophy faculty members and/or PhDs and 829 philosophy graduate students.

The whole survey is pretty interesting. I had read it sometime early last year, and today I digged it up again to see what the survey revealed about the questions of moral philosophy. I am pasting the results related to ethics below, with brief definitions of respective issues for the benefit of those unacquainted.

Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism?

(Moral realism is the view that moral facts exist independent of subjective opinion. Anti-realism is its opposite.)

Accept or lean toward: moral realism525 / 931 (56.3%)
Accept or lean toward: moral anti-realism258 / 931 (27.7%)
Other148 / 931 (15.8%)

Moral judgment: cognitivism or non-cognitivism?

(Cognitivism is the view that moral sentences express meaningful propositions and are hence capable of being true and false. Non-cognitivism is the opposite.)

Accept or lean toward: cognitivism612 / 931 (65.7%)
Other161 / 931 (17.2%)
Accept or lean toward: non-cognitivism158 / 931 (16.9%)

Moral motivation: internalism or externalism?

(Internalism means that moral convictions necessarily have a motivating effect on the person holding the convictions. Externalism says it is not necessary, i.e. a person can believe that X is the moral thing to do and yet feel no motivation to do X.)

Other329 / 931 (35.3%)
Accept or lean toward: internalism325 / 931 (34.9%)
Accept or lean toward: externalism277 / 931 (29.7%)

Normative ethics: deontology, consequentialism, or virtue ethics?

(Deontology sees morality in terms of rules and duties, e.g. the golden rule. Consequentialism seems morality in terms of the good or bad consequences of actions, e.g. the idea that a moral action is one that leads to greatest happiness for greatest number. Virtue ethics sees morality in terms of the moral character of a person.)

Other301 / 931 (32.3%)
Accept or lean toward: deontology241 / 931 (25.8%)
Accept or lean toward: consequentialism220 / 931 (23.6%)
Accept or lean toward: virtue ethics169 / 931 (18.1%)

I am surprised to see the dominance of moral realism and cognitivism, because I had the opposite impression of it. There are no clear cut winners in internalism vs externalism, and normative ethics, which is what I would have expected. I especially feel that in Normative ethics all three dominant approaches have something valuable to say, and I would be happy if a way is found to unite all three into a single theory.


Butters said…
I was just looking at this the other day! :D

You should come on, and 'follow' me (it's like the Facebook for academics).
Butters said…
Do the correlations too, kanaa, they're very interesting.

Here are the correlation of all variables with a belief in Platonism:

Platonists are more likely to believe in moral realism! Exactly as I expected :D.