Moral disagreement and moral expertise

In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics: Volume 3. Oxford University Press. pp. 87-108 (2008)
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The phenomenon of persistent ethical disagreement is often cited in connection with the question of whether there is any ‘‘absolute’’ morality, or whether, instead, morality is in some sense merely ‘‘a matter of personal opinion’’. Citing disagreement, many people who hold strong views about controversial issues such as the permissibility of abortion, eating meat, or the death penalty deny that these views are anything more than ‘‘personal beliefs’’. But while there might be inconsistencies lurking in this position, it is not obviously at fault for according the facts about disagreement some epistemic weight. This paper addresses the question of whether and to what extent moral disagreement undermines moral knowledge. The most familiar arguments from disagreement in the literature purport to establish conclusions about the metaphysics of morality: that there are no moral facts, or that there are no moral properties, or that the moral facts are relative rather than absolute. Of course, the conclusions of some such metaphysical arguments might be perfectly consistent with the existence of considerable moral knowledge. For example, even if there is some successful argument from disagreement to the conclusion that moral facts are relative rather than absolute, this might very well be consistent with our having just as much moral knowledge as we..



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Sarah McGrath
Princeton University

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