Philosophy Colloquium
Eric Campbell
How To Be A Naturalistic Relativist

Relativists hold that reasons are related to contingent attitudes, but judgments about what people are morally required to do are profoundly insensitive to beliefs about these attitudes. This conflict with moral discourse is widely believed to be the central problem for ethical relativism. Many relativists have argued that a commitment to attitude-independent reasons requires belief in a spooky (non-naturalistic) metaphysics or epistemology. I’ll argue that the most promising defense of relativism will call upon resources that ‘quasi-realists’ have deployed in order to protect moral discourse from any commitment to spooky nonnaturalism. According to quasi-realists, a commitment to the existence of attitude-independent reasons is to be understood as a practical commitment about how (not) to justify normative claims, not a (spooky) metaphysical one. I agree with quasi-realists about this. However, quasi-realists and relativists (and everyone else) have failed to see that by turning an arcane metaphysical debate into a fundamentally practical one, quasi-realists throw relativists into their briarpatch. That is, relativists should be happy for the chance to make their stand against moral discourse on fundamentally normative ground.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Skinner 1115