SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Moral Relativism, Metalinguistic Negotiation, and "Equal Validity"
(Ethics, English)

The phenomenon of widespread and persistent moral disagreement plays an important but conflicting role for moral relativism. On the one hand, arguments for moral relativism often appeal to the prevalence of intractable moral disagreements. On the other hand, accounting for the possibility of moral disagreement presents a challenge for moral relativists. This challenge takes the form of a dilemma the relativist faces: Either there is moral disagreement between members of different communities, then at least one of the parties to the disagreement must be at fault, or there is no disagreement between members of different communities, then their views are compatible. I show that moral relativists can meet this challenge by accounting for moral disagreements in terms of what David Plunkett and Tim Sundell call a "metalinguistic negotiation".

I begin by explaining what I mean by 'moral relativism' and 'moral disagreement' respectively and showing what role moral disagreement plays in arguments for moral relativism. Then, I explain why accounting for moral disagreement, at the same time, presents a challenge for moral relativists and discuss two different strategies to meet this challenge. Finally, I argue that accounting for moral disagreement in terms of "metalinguistic negotiation" presents the best solution to the challenge moral disagreement poses for moral relativists because it allows the relativist to account for disagreement without incurring any additional semantic commitments. I reply to an objection and discuss a consequence of this solution having to do with the moral relativist's purported commitment to "equal validity". I conclude by summarizing my argument and considering its consequences for the question of how moral relativism should be understood.


Chair: Damiano Ranzenigo
Time: 14:40-15:10, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.004

Katharina Anna Sodoma 
(University of Vienna, Austria)

Katharina Anna Sodoma is a PhD student in Philosophy at the University of Vienna writing 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".

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