SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The amoral Common Ground of Subjectivist Metaethics
(Ethics, English)

The aim of this paper will be to call into question the ability of subjectivism to provide moral common ground across personal and cultural divides. Subjectivism is a metaethical approach which is uniquely suited for the naturalist worldview dominant in the modern age, as it manages to avoid the is/ought gap by equating moral prescription with the description of subjective attitudes agreeing with such prescriptions. Through this move, however, subjectivism sacrifices the ability to endorse one ethical system over another, as long as both systems are internally coherent from the agent's perspective. They sacrifice the possibility of moral common ground.

The paper will be a critique of Sharon Street's attempt to use her "Humean Constitutivism" to find such common ground outlined in her paper "Constructivism in Ethics and the Problem of Attachment and Loss". There, Street illustrates a strategy of how a purely subjectivist view on moral value may nonetheless be able to arrive at a universally shared moral system, by identifying a fundamental problem which affects all moral agents, and finding as its only solution an ethical outlook. Street thinks she is able to find such a problem in what she calls "the problem of attachment and loss"(AT), which only an ethical standpoint can solve.

In the paper I will show that, while the strategy is functional given the preconceptions of Humean Constitutivism, the "common ground" it brings is not a moral one.

I will defend the notion that a more basic problem than AT is implied by the nature of Street's conception of value systems, namely that of any values going frustrated at all. I will argue that this problem corresponds to a genuine value which is present in all possible value systems, and that when Street's notion of entailment is applied to it, it leads us not to a universal ethical system, but radical value quietism or even antivitalism. Relativism, it seems then, far from being a problem which can be overcome by subjectivism, may be its best option out of a bad bunch.




Chair: Gregor Greslehner
Time: 16:50-17:20, 07 September 2022 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.005
Remark: (Online Talk)

Konstantin Eckl 
(University of Vienna, Österreich)



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