Matilal's Metaethics

In Colin Marshall (ed.), Comparative Metaethics: Neglected Perspectives on the Foundations of Morality. London: Routledge. pp. 139-156 (2019)
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Bimal Krishna Matilal (1935-1991) was a Harvard-educated Indian philosopher best known for his contributions to logic, but who also wrote on wide variety of topics, including metaethics. Unfortunately, the latter contributions have been overlooked. Engaging with Anglo-American figures such as Gilbert Harman and Bernard Williams, Matilal defends a view he dubs ‘pluralism.’ In defending this view he draws on a wide range of classical Indian sources: the Bhagavad-Gītā, Buddhist thinkers like Nāgārjuna, and classical Jaina concepts. This pluralist position is somewhere between relativism and absolutist realism. Unlike the relativist, he argues that there is a genuinely universal morality; unlike the absolutist, he argues that there are multiple, but often conflicting and incommensurable, moral frameworks and ideals. This paper will explain his objections to relativism, as well as flesh out his suggestive remarks about his own pluralistic account.

Author Profiles

Nicolas Bommarito
Simon Fraser University
Alex King
Simon Fraser University


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