Relativism, realism, and reflection

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

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.

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Citations of this work

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

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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.

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