Disagreement, correctness, and the evidence for metaethical absolutism

In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics: Volume 8. Oxford University Press (2015)
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Metaethical absolutism is the view that moral concepts have non-relative satisfaction conditions that are constant across judges and their particular beliefs, attitudes, and cultural embedding. If it is correct, there is an important sense in which parties of moral disputes are concerned to get the same things right, such that their disputes can be settled by the facts. If it is not correct, as various forms of relativism and non-cognitivism imply, such coordination of concerns will be limited. The most influential support for absolutism comes from an argument with two related premises. According to the first premise, moral thinking and moral discourse display a number of features that are characteristically found in paradigmatically absolutist domains, and only partly in uncontroversially non-absolutist domains. According to the second, the best way of making sense of these features is to assume that absolutism is correct. This paper defends the prospect of a non-ad hoc, non-absolutist, explanation of these "absolutist" features, thus calling into question the second premise. But instead of attempting to directly explain why the moral domain displays these features, it attends to how they are partially displayed by paradigmatically non-absolutists judgments about taste and likelihood. Based on this, it proposes independently motivated general accounts of attributions of agreement, disagreement, correctness and incorrectness that can explain both why absolutist domains display all "absolutist" features and why these non-absolutist domains display some. Based on these accounts, it provides preliminary reasons to think that these features of moral discourse can be given a non-absolutist explanation

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Gunnar Björnsson
Stockholm University


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