Beyond Vulgar Moral Relativism

After you’ve gotten your chuckles and inspiration from Revere’s Freethinker Sunday Sermonette, check out Russell Blackford’s most recent post on moral scepticism. A sample:

The plausible meta-ethical positions seem to be a group of sophisticated moral relativist theories — the sort of position I associate with Gilbert Harman, David Wong, Neil Levy, Max Hocutt, and others — and the error theories (moral scepticism) of people like JL Mackie, Richard Garner, Richard Joyce, and Joshua Greene. There are various other positions in the same ballpark, such as the sophisticated non-cognitivism of Simon Blackburn. I am sometimes irritated when other philosophers assume that the only theory in this sort of ballpark is the popular but vulgar kind of moral relativism that we are all taught to avoid in first-year ethics courses.

One thought on “Beyond Vulgar Moral Relativism”

  1. This is something I’ve been trying to communicate when I have written about morality, though Russell Blackford, being professionally trained in philosophy, expresses it much more clearly.

    In my mind people are uncomfortable with the idea of “moral scepticism” (as Russell calls it) is because of their inherent discomfort with non-discrete value statements. “Fuzzy sets” are at first a difficult subject to wrap one’s head around for this reason. Something having a degree of truth in some “universe of discourse” goes against our intuitions about how the world works. When someone says that “murder is wrong”, the idea that it isn’t absolutely wrong in some ethereal, Platonic way implies what is intuitively the contrary proposition. The problem people see with saying that morality is contingent regarding human desires, emotions, suffering, etc. is that it is not an immutable anchor to ground their inherent moral intuitions in.

    Interesting essay, if I do say so myself.

Comments are closed.