What Pessimism about Moral Deference Means for Disagreement

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (1):121-136 (2018)
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Abstract

Many writers have recently argued that there is something distinctively problematic about sustaining moral beliefs on the basis of others’ moral views. Call this claim pessimism about moral deference. Pessimism about moral deference, if true, seems to provide an attractive way to argue for a bold conclusion about moral disagreement: moral disagreement generally does not require belief revision. Call this claim steadfastness about moral disagreement. Perhaps the most prominent recent discussion of the connection between moral deference and moral disagreement, due to Alison Hills, uses pessimism about the former to argue for steadfastness about the latter. This paper reveals that this line of thinking, and others like it, are unsuccessful. There is no way to argue from a compelling version of pessimism about moral deference to the conclusion of steadfastness about moral disagreement. The most plausible versions of pessimism about moral deference have only very limited implications for moral disagreement.

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James Fritz
Virginia Commonwealth University

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