SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Metaethical Contextualism and the Problem(s) of Lost Disagreement
(Ethics, English)

A''Metaethical contextualism'' is the view that the meaning -- and hence the truth-conditions -- of moral claims depend on certain features of context, e.g. a contextually salient set of moral standards. Therefore, when uttering the same moral sentence in different contexts, different speakers can say different things. Following Alex Silk, I distinguish between versions of speaker contextualism, which take the set of standards endorsed by a speaker to be relevant to the context-sensitivity of moral expressions and versions of group contextualism, which take a set of standards shared by the speaker's group to be relevant.
Although metaethical contextualism has some theoretical advantages, the overall prospects of (different versions of) the view remain to be explored. Like its epistemological counterpart, metaethical contextualism is fraught with the notorious problem of ''lost disagreement'': It is often argued that contextualism cannot give a satisfactory account of disagreement because on a contextualist interpretation the parties to an apparent disagreement do not actually contradict each other. However, Silk has recently argued that this problem only affects versions of speaker contextualism, but not versions of group contextualism.
I argue that a different problem of lost disagreement arises for versions of group contextualism: the challenge to account for cases of inter-group disagreement, i.e. disagreement between members of different groups. This shows that Silk's claim only holds under the assumption of an undue restriction to cases of intra-group disagreement, i.e. disagreement between members of the same group. The problem of lost inter-group disagreement has so far been underexplored in discussions of (metaethical) contextualism, but takes center stage in related discussions of moral relativism. Therefore, I look at how contemporary moral relativists deal with the phenomenon of inter-group disagreement and assess these strategies in comparison to canonical solutions to the problem of lost disagreement as confronted by versions of speaker contextualism.

Reference: Alex Silk (forthcoming): ''Metaethical Contextualism'', in: David Plunkett &Tristram McPherson (eds.), The Handbook of Metaethics. Routledge.

Chair: Zsolt Ziegler
Time: 18:00-18:30, 13 September 2017 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.007

Katharina Anna Sodoma 
(University of Vienna, Austria)

I am a PhD student in Philosophy at the University of Vienna working on a dissertation on moral relativism and moral progress as part of the ERC Advanced Grant Project ''The Emergence of Relativism -- Historical, Philosophical and Sociological Perspectives'' (PI Martin Kusch). My supervisors are Prof. Martin Kusch and Prof. Herlinde Pauer-Studer.
Before starting on the relativism project, I completed my MA in Philosophy and my BA in Philosophy and German Philology at the University of Vienna. My MA-thesis was about Ludwig Wittgenstein's early philosophy, more specifically the question how the logical notation developed in the Tractatus relates to Wittgenstein's understanding of philosophy.

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