Relativism, realism, and reflection

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 41 (4):377 – 410 (1998)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The paper undertakes a critical examination of three key strands- relativism, antirealism, and reflection- in Bernard Williams's sceptical interpretation of ethical thought. The anti-realist basis of Williams's 'relativism of distance' is identified and the way this threatens to render his relativism more subversive than initially appears. Focusing on Williams's anti-realism, the paper argues that it fails because it is caught on the horns of a dilemma: either it draws on a conception of reality that is metaphysically incoherent, or else it employs a 'best explanation' criterion that question-beggingly excludes from further consideration the sort of reason-based explanations that disclose ethical properties to be real. Finally, it is noted that Williams's relativism and anti-realism destabilize his picture of ethical reflection.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,873

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Relativism and our warrant for scientific theories.Paul Faulkner - 2004 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 12 (3):259 – 269.
Ethical relativism and universalism.Saral Jhingran - 2001 - Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.
Do Moral Explanations Matter?Charles Sayward - 1988 - Philosophy Research Archives 14:137-142.
Quasi-realism, sensibility theory, and ethical relativism.Simon Kirchin - 2000 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 43 (4):413 – 427.


Added to PP

99 (#178,800)

6 months
28 (#111,967)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Citations of this work

Moral relativism.Christopher Gowans - 2015 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Add more citations

References found in this work

The question of realism.Kit Fine - 2001 - Philosophers' Imprint 1:1-30.
Values and Secondary Qualities.John McDowell - 1985 - In Ted Honderich (ed.), Morality and objectivity: a tribute to J.L. Mackie. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 110-129.
Non-cognitivism and rule-following.John McDowell - 1981 - In Steven H. Holtzman & Christopher M. Leich (eds.), Wittgenstein: To Follow A Rule. Boston: Routledge. pp. 141--62.
Values and Secondary Qualities.John McDowell - 1997 - In Thomas L. Carson & Paul K. Moser (eds.), Morality and the good life. New York: Oxford University Press.
Truth in ethics.Crispin Wright - 1995 - Ratio 8 (3):209-226.

View all 13 references / Add more references