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Moral Disagreement

Edited by Christopher Michael Cloos (University of California at Santa Barbara)
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  1. Henrik Ahlenius & Torbjörn Tännsjö (2012). Chinese and Westerners Respond Differently to the Trolley Dilemmas. Journal of Cognition and Culture 12 (3-4):195-201.
    A set of moral problems known as The Trolley Dilemmas was presented to 3000 randomly selected inhabitants of the USA, Russia and China. It is shown that Chinese are significantly less prone to support utility-maximizing alternatives, as compared to the US and Russian respondents. A number of possible explanations, as well as methodological issues pertaining to the field of surveying moral judgment and moral disagreement, are discussed.
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  2. David Archard, Law and Moral Disagreement : The Case of Abortion.
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  3. Marcus Arvan (2013). Groundwork for a New Moral Epistemology. Klesis 27:155-190.
    This paper argues that virtue ethics and prevailing epistemic norms in moral and political philosophy more generally both support a new kind of empirically-informed moral-virtue epistemology, or “experimental ethics” – an epistemology according to which disputed normative premises in moral and political philosophy should be epistemically evaluated on the basis of empirically-observed relationships they bear to morally admirable and morally repugnant psycho-behavioral traits, as defined by cross-cultural, cross-historical, and cross-debate agreement on the moral valence of particular traits and behaviors.
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  4. Marcus Arvan (2013). “A Lot More Bad News for Conservatives, and a Little Bit of Bad News for Liberals? Moral Judgments and the Dark Triad Personality Traits: A Follow-Up Study”. Neuroethics 6 (1):51-64.
    In a recent study appearing in Neuroethics, I reported observing 11 significant correlations between the “Dark Triad” personality traits – Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy – and “conservative” judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey. Surprisingly, I observed no significant correlations between the Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments. In order to determine whether these results were an artifact of the particular issues I selected, I ran a follow-up study testing the Dark Triad against conservative and liberal judgments on 15 additional moral (...)
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  5. Marcus Arvan (2013). Bad News for Conservatives? Moral Judgments and the Dark Triad Personality Traits: A Correlational Study. Neuroethics 6 (2):307-318.
    This study examined correlations between moral value judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey (MIS), and participant scores on the Short-D3 “Dark Triad” Personality Inventory—a measure of three related “dark and socially destructive” personality traits: Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy. Five hundred sixty-seven participants (302 male, 257 female, 2 transgendered; median age 28) were recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk and Yale Experiment Month web advertisements. Different responses to MIS items were initially hypothesized to be “conservative” or “liberal” in line with (...)
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  6. Robert Audi (2008). Intuition, Inference, and Rational Disagreement in Ethics. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11 (5):475 - 492.
    This paper defends a moderate intuitionism by extending a version of that view previously put forward and responding to some significant objections to it that have been posed in recent years. The notion of intuition is clarified, and various kinds of intuition are distinguished and interconnected. These include doxastic intuitions and intuitive seemings. The concept of inference is also clarified. In that light, the possibility of non-inferential intuitive justification is explained in relation to both singular moral judgments, which intuitionists do (...)
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  7. Robert Audi (2008). Rational Disagreement as a Challenge to Practical Ethics and Moral Theory : An Essay in Moral Epistemology. In Quentin Smith (ed.), Epistemology: New Essays. Oxford University Press. 225419.
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  8. Tom L. Beauchamp (2003). A Defense of the Common Morality. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 13 (3):259-274.
    : Phenomena of moral conflict and disagreement have led writers in ethics to two antithetical conclusions: Either valid moral distinctions hold universally or they hold relative to a particular and contingent moral framework, and so cannot be applied with universal validly. Responding to three articles in this issue of the Journal that criticize his previously published views on the common morality, the author maintains that one can consistently deny universality to some justified moral norms and claim universality for others. Universality (...)
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  9. S. I. Benn (1984). Persons and Values: Reasons in Conflict and Moral Disagreement. Ethics 95 (1):20-37.
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  10. Thomas Bennigson (1996). Irresolvable Disagreement and the Case Against Moral Realism. Southern Journal of Philosophy 34 (4):411-437.
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  11. Michael Bergmann & Patrick Kain (eds.) (2014). Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief: Disagreement and Evolution. Oxford University Press.
    Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief contains fourteen original essays by philosophers, theologians, and social scientists on challenges to moral and religious belief from disagreement and evolution. Three main questions are addressed: Can one reasonably maintain one's moral and religious beliefs in the face of interpersonal disagreement with intellectual peers? Does disagreement about morality between a religious belief source, such as a sacred text, and a non-religious belief source, such as a society's moral intuitions, make it irrational to continue trusting (...)
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  12. Brian Besong (2014). The Prudent Conscience View. International Philosophical Quarterly 54 (2):127-141.
    Moral intuitionism, which claims that some moral seemings are justification-conferring, has become an increasingly popular account in moral epistemology. Defenses of the position have largely focused on the standard account, according to which the justification-conferring power of a moral seeming is determined by its phenomenal credentials alone. Unfortunately, the standard account is a less plausible version of moral intuitionism because it does not take etiology seriously. In this paper, I provide an outline and defense of a non-standard account of moral (...)
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  13. Brian Besong (2014). Moral Intuitionism and Disagreement. Synthese 191 (12):2767-2789.
    According to moral intuitionism, at least some moral seeming states are justification-conferring. The primary defense of this view currently comes from advocates of the standard account, who take the justification-conferring power of a moral seeming to be determined by its phenomenological credentials alone. However, the standard account is vulnerable to a problem. In brief, the standard account implies that moral knowledge is seriously undermined by those commonplace moral disagreements in which both agents have equally good phenomenological credentials supporting their disputed (...)
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  14. Gunnar Björnsson (2012). Do 'Objectivist' Features of Moral Discourse and Thinking Support Moral Objectivism? Journal of Ethics 16 (4):367-393.
    Many philosophers think that moral objectivism is supported by stable features of moral discourse and thinking. When engaged in moral reasoning and discourse, people behave ‘as if’ objectivism were correct, and the seemingly most straightforward way of making sense of this is to assume that objectivism is correct; this is how we think that such behavior is explained in paradigmatically objectivist domains. By comparison, relativist, error-theoretic or non-cognitivist accounts of this behavior seem contrived and ad hoc. After explaining why this (...)
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  15. Gunnar Björnsson & Stephen Finlay (2010). Metaethical Contextualism Defended. Ethics 121 (1):7-36.
    We defend a contextualist account of deontic judgments as relativized both to (i) information and to (ii) standards or ends, against recent objections that turn on practices of moral disagreement. Kolodny & MacFarlane argue that information-relative contextualism cannot accommodate the connection between deliberation and advice; we suggest in response that they misidentify the basic concerns of deliberating agents. For pragmatic reasons, semantic assessments of normative claims sometimes are evaluations of propositions other than those asserted. Weatherson, Schroeder and others have raised (...)
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  16. Gunnar Björnsson & Ragnar Francén Olinder (forthcoming). Enoch's Defense of Robust Meta-Ethical Realism. Journal of Moral Philosophy.
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  17. Gunnar Björnsson & Tristram McPherson (2014). Moral Attitudes for Non-Cognitivists: Solving the Specification Problem. Mind 123 (489):1-38.
    Moral non-cognitivists hope to explain the nature of moral agreement and disagreement as agreement and disagreement in non-cognitive attitudes. In doing so, they take on the task of identifying the relevant attitudes, distinguishing the non-cognitive attitudes corresponding to judgements of moral wrongness, for example, from attitudes involved in aesthetic disapproval or the sports fan’s disapproval of her team’s performance. We begin this paper by showing that there is a simple recipe for generating apparent counterexamples to any informative specification of the (...)
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  18. Joseph Boyle (1994). Radical Moral Disagreement in Contemporary Health Care: A Roman Catholic Perspective. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 19 (2):183-200.
    This paper addresses the moral challenges presented by the existence of radical moral disagreement in contemporary health care. I argue that there is no neutral moral perspective for understanding and resolving these challenges, but that they must be formulated and resolved from within the various perspectives that generate the disagreement. I then explore the natural law tradition's approach to these issues as a test case for my thesis. Keywords: moral conflict, moral perplexity, natural law, radical moral disagreement, toleration CiteULike Connotea (...)
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  19. Richard B. Brandt (1944). The Significance of Differences of Ethical Opinion for Ethical Rationalism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 4 (4):469-495.
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  20. David O. Brink (1994). Moral Conflict and its Structure. Philosophical Review 103 (2):215-247.
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  21. David O. Brink (1984). Moral Realism and the Sceptical Arguments From Disagreement and Queerness. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 (2):111 – 125.
  22. Richard Yetter Chappell (forthcoming). Knowing What Matters. In Peter Singer (ed.), Does Anything Really Matter? Parfit on Objectivity. Oxford University Press.
    Parfit's On What Matters offers a rousing defence of non-naturalist normative realism against pressing metaphysical and epistemological objections. He addresses skeptical arguments based on (i) the causal origins of our normative beliefs, and (ii) the appearance of pervasive moral disagreement. In both cases, he concedes the first step to the skeptic, but draws a subsequent distinction with which he hopes to stem the skeptic's advance. I argue, however, that these distinctions cannot bear the weight that Parfit places on them. A (...)
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  23. Bridget Clarke (2010). Virtue and Disagreement. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (3):273 - 291.
    One of the most prominent strands in contemporary work on the virtues consists in the attempt to develop a distinctive—and compelling—account of practical reason on the basis of Aristotle’s ethics. In response to this project, several eminent critics have argued that the Aristotelian account encourages a dismissive attitude toward moral disagreement. Given the importance of developing a mature response to disagreement, the criticism is devastating if true. I examine this line of criticism closely, first elucidating the features of the Aristotelian (...)
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  24. Justin Clarke-Doane, Moral Realism and Mathematical Realism.
    Ethics and mathematics are normally treated independently in philosophical discussions. When comparisons are drawn between problems in the two areas, those comparisons tend to be highly local, concerning just one or two issues. Nevertheless, certain metaethicists have made bold claims to the effect that moral realism is on “no worse footing” than mathematical realism -- i.e. that one cannot reasonably reject moral realism without also rejecting mathematical realism. -/- In the absence of any remotely systematic survey of the relevant arguments, (...)
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  25. Justin Clarke-Doane (2014). Moral Epistemology: The Mathematics Analogy. Noûs 48 (2):238-255.
    There is a long tradition comparing moral knowledge to mathematical knowledge. In this paper, I discuss apparent similarities and differences between knowledge in the two areas, realistically conceived. I argue that many of these are only apparent, while others are less philosophically significant than might be thought. The picture that emerges is surprising. There are definitely differences between epistemological arguments in the two areas. However, these differences, if anything, increase the plausibility of moral realism as compared to mathematical realism. It (...)
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  26. Justin Clarke-Doane (2012). Morality and Mathematics: The Evolutionary Challenge. Ethics 122 (2):313-340.
    It is commonly suggested that evolutionary considerations generate an epistemological challenge for moral realism. At first approximation, the challenge for the moral realist is to explain our having many true moral beliefs, given that those beliefs are the products of evolutionary forces that would be indifferent to the moral truth. An important question surrounding this challenge is the extent to which it generalizes. In particular, it is of interest whether the Evolutionary Challenge for moral realism is equally a challenge for (...)
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  27. Daniel Cohnitz & Teresa Marques (2014). Disagreements. Erkenntnis 79 (1):1-10.
    This special issue of Erkenntnis is devoted to the varieties of disagreement that arise in different areas of discourse, and the consequences we should draw from these disagreements, either concerning the subject matter and its objectivity, or concerning our own views about this subject matter if we learn, for example, that an epistemic peer disagrees with our view. In this introduction we sketch the background to the recent philosophical discussions of these questions, and the location occupied therein by the articles (...)
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  28. Cristian Constantinescu (2014). Moral Vagueness: A Dilemma for Non-Naturalism. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 9. Oxford University Press. 152-185.
    In this paper I explore the implications of moral vagueness (viz., the vagueness of moral predicates) for non-naturalist metaethical theories like those recently championed by Shafer-Landau, Parfit, and others. I characterise non-naturalism in terms of its commitment to 7 theses: Cognitivism, Correspondence, Atomism, Objectivism, Supervenience, Non-reductivism, and Rationalism. I start by offering a number of reasons for thinking that moral predicates are vague in the same way in which ‘red’, ‘tall’, and ‘heap’ are said to be. I then argue that (...)
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  29. Josep E. Corbí (2002). The Relevance of Moral Disagreement. Some Worries About Nondescriptivist Cognitivism. Grazer Philosophische Studien 63 (1):217-233.
    Nondescriptivist Cognitivism vindicates the cognitive value of moral judgements despite their lack of descriptive content. In this paper,I raise a few worries about the proclaimed virtues of this new metaethical framework Firstly, I argue that Nondescriptivist Cognitivism tends to beg the question against descriptivism and, secondly, discuss Horgan and Timmons' case against Michael Smith's metaethical rationalism. Although I sympathise with their main critical claims against the latter, I am less enthusiastic about the arguments that they provide to support them.
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  30. Terence Cuneo & Russ Shafer-Landau (2014). The Moral Fixed Points: New Directions for Moral Nonnaturalism. Philosophical Studies:1-45.
    Our project in this essay is to showcase nonnaturalistic moral realism’s resources for responding to metaphysical and epistemological objections by taking the view in some new directions. The central thesis we will argue for is that there is a battery of substantive moral propositions that are also nonnaturalistic conceptual truths. We call these propositions the moral fixed points. We will argue that they must find a place in any system of moral norms that applies to beings like us, in worlds (...)
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  31. John K. Davis (2010). An Alternative to Relativism. Philosophical Topics 38 (2):17-37.
    Some moral disagreements are so persistent that we suspect they are deep: we would disagree even when we have all relevant information and no one makes any mistakes (this is also known as faultless disagreement). The possibility of deep disagreement is thought to drive cognitivists toward relativism, but most cognitivists reject relativism. There is an alternative. According to divergentism, cognitivists can reject relativism while allowing for deep disagreement. This view has rarely been defended at length, but many philosophers have implicitly (...)
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  32. William C. Davis (2009). Thomas Reid on Moral Disagreement. In Sabine Roeser (ed.), Reid on Ethics. Palgrave Macmillan.
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  33. Jason Decker & Daniel Groll (2013). The (In)Significance of Moral Disagreement for Moral Knowledge. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 8. Oxford.
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  34. Dan Demetriou (2013). There’s Some Fetish in Your Ethics: A Limited Defense of Purity Reasoning in Moral Discourse. Journal of Philosophical Research 38:377-404.
    Call the ethos understanding rightness in terms of spiritual purity and piety, and wrongness in terms of corruption and sacrilege, the “fetish ethic.” Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues suggest that this ethos is particularly salient to political conservatives and non-liberal cultures around the globe. In this essay, I point to numerous examples of moral fetishism in mainstream academic ethics. Once we see how deeply “infected” our ethical reasoning is by fetishistic intuitions, we can respond by 1) repudiating the fetishistic impulse, (...)
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  35. Philip Devine (2005). The Structure of Conventional Morality. International Philosophical Quarterly 45 (2):243-256.
    In recent years, analytically trained philosophers have given extensive attention to various issues involved in the “culture wars,” including abortion, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, and assisted suicide. There are, however, moral judgments that virtually no one questions. Defenses of adult-child sex, for example, are rare. There is also “conventional immorality”—the breach of conventional moral standards within roughly defined limits that at least limit the resulting damage to third parties and social institutions. These phenomena frame moral discussion even when, as often (...)
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  36. James Dreier (2009). Relativism (and Expressivism) and the Problem of Disagreement. Philosophical Perspectives 23 (1):79-110.
    Many philosophers, in different areas, are tempted by what variously goes under the name of Contextualism, Speaker Relativism, Indexical Relativism. (I’ll just use Indexical Relativism in this paper.) Thinking of certain problematic expressions as deriving their content from elements of the context of use solves some problems. But it faces some problems of its own, and in this paper I’m interested in one in particular, namely, the problem of disagreement. Two alternative theories, tempting for just the same kinds of expressions (...)
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  37. David Enoch (2009). How is Moral Disagreement a Problem for Realism? Journal of Ethics 13 (1):15 - 50.
    Moral disagreement is widely held to pose a threat for metaethical realism and objectivity. In this paper I attempt to understand how it is that moral disagreement is supposed to present a problem for metaethical realism. I do this by going through several distinct (though often related) arguments from disagreement, carefully distinguishing between them, and critically evaluating their merits. My conclusions are rather skeptical: Some of the arguments I discuss fail rather clearly. Others supply with a challenge to realism, but (...)
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  38. Richard Feldman & Ted Warfield (eds.) (2009). Disagreement. Oup.
    Disagreement is common: even informed, intelligent, and generally reasonable people often come to different conclusions when confronted with what seems to be the same evidence. Can the competing conclusions be reasonable? If not, what can we reasonably think about the situation? This volume examines the epistemology of disagreement. Philosophical questions about disagreement arise in various areas, notably politics, ethics, aesthetics, and the philosophy of religion: but this will be the first book focusing on the general epistemic issues arising from informed (...)
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  39. Simon Fitzpatrick (2014). Moral Realism, Moral Disagreement, and Moral Psychology. Philosophical Papers 43 (2):161-190.
    (2014). Moral Realism, Moral Disagreement, and Moral Psychology. Philosophical Papers: Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 161-190.
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  40. Ragnar Francén (2010). No Deep Disagreement for New Relativists. Philosophical Studies 151 (1):19--37.
    Recently a number of writers have argued that a new form of relativism involves a form of semantic context-dependence which helps it escape the perhaps most common objection to ordinary contextualism; that it cannot accommodate our intuitions about disagreement. I argue: (i) In order to evaluate this claim we have to pay closer attention to the nature of our intuitions about disagreement. (ii) We have different such intuitions concerning different questions: we have more stable disagreement intuitions about moral disputes than (...)
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  41. Ben Fraser & Marc Hauser (2010). The Argument From Disagreement and the Role of Cross-Cultural Empirical Data. Mind and Language 25 (5):541-560.
    The Argument from Disagreement (AD) (Mackie, 1977) depends upon empirical evidence for ‘fundamental’ moral disagreement (FMD) (Doris and Stich, 2005; Doris and Plakias, 2008). Research on the Southern ‘culture of honour’ (Nisbett and Cohen, 1996) has been presented as evidence for FMD between Northerners and Southerners within the US. We raise some doubts about the usefulness of such data in settling AD. We offer an alternative based on recent work in moral psychology that targets the potential universality of morally significant (...)
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  42. Danny Frederick, Ethical Intuitionism: A Structural Critique.
    I present a structural critique of ethical intuitionism. Ethical intuitionists regard moral knowledge as deriving from moral intuition, moral observation, moral emotion and inference. However, moral intuitions, observations and emotions are cultural artefacts which often differ starkly between cultures. Intuitionists attribute uncongenial moral intuitions, observations or emotions to bias or to intellectual or moral failings; but that leads to sectarian mutual recrimination. Intuitionists try to avoid this by restricting epistemically genuine intuitions, observations or emotions to those which are widely agreed. (...)
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  43. Roberto Frega (2012). Practice, Judgment, and the Challenge of Moral and Political Disagreement: A Pragmatist Account. Lexington Books.
    Introduction -- Inquiry as the logic of practical reasoning -- From reasoning to judgment -- Expressive inquiry -- The public sphere -- Pragmatism, pluralism, and the fact of relativism -- A pragmatic theory of objectivity -- Why justification matters? -- Pragmatism as an epistemology of practice.
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  44. Bernard Gert (2010). Moral Disagreement Concerning Abortion. Diametros 26:23-43.
    I use the example of abortion to show that there are some unresolvable moral disagreements. I list four sources of unresolvable moral disagreement: 1) differences in the rankings of the basic evils of death, pain, disability, loss of freedom, and loss of pleasure, 2) differences in the interpretation of moral rules, 3) ideological differences in the view of human nature and human societies, and 4) differences concerning who is impartially protected by the moral rules. It is this last difference that (...)
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  45. Christopher W. Gowans (2004). A Priori Refutations of Disagreement Arguments Against Moral Objectivity: Why Experience Matters. [REVIEW] Journal of Value Inquiry 38 (2):141-157.
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  46. Christopher Grau (2009). A Critical Study of Alice Crary's Beyond Moral Judgment. Philo 12 (1):88-104.
    This study offers a comprehensive summary and critical discussion of Alice Crary’s Beyond Moral Judgment. While generally sympathetic to her goal of defending the sort of expansive vision of the moral previously championed by Cora Diamond and Iris Murdoch, concerns are raised regarding the potential for her account to provide a satisfactory treatment of both “wide” objectivity and moral disagreement. Drawing on the work of Jonathan Lear and Jonathan Dancy, I suggest possible routes by which her position could be expanded (...)
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  47. Johan E. Gustafsson & Martin Peterson (2012). A Computer Simulation of the Argument From Disagreement. Synthese 184 (3):387–405.
    In this paper we shed new light on the Argument from Disagreement by putting it to test in a computer simulation. According to this argument widespread and persistent disagreement on ethical issues indicates that our moral opinions are not influenced by any moral facts, either because no such facts exist or because they are epistemically inaccessible or inefficacious for some other reason. Our simulation shows that if our moral opinions were influenced at least a little bit by moral facts, we (...)
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  48. Mark Hanin (2012). Naturalistic Moral Realism and Moral Disagreement: David Copp's Account. Res Publica 18 (4):283-301.
    To enhance the plausibility of naturalistic moral realism, David Copp develops an argument from epistemic defeaters aiming to show that strongly a priori synthetic moral truths do not exist. In making a case for the non-naturalistic position, I locate Copp’s account within the wider literature on peer disagreement; I identify key points of divergence between Copp’s doctrine and conciliatorist doctrines; I introduce the notion of ‘minimal moral competence’; I contend that some plausible benchmarks for minimal moral competence are grounded in (...)
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  49. Frank Jackson (2008). The Argument From the Persistence of Moral Disagreement. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics: Volume Iii. Oup Oxford.
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  50. Richard Joyce, What Neuroscience Can (and Cannot) Contribute to Metaethics.
    Suppose there are two people having a moral disagreement about, say, abortion. They argue in a familiar way about whether fetuses have rights, whether a woman’s right to autonomy over her body overrides the fetus’s welfare, and so on. But then suppose one of the people says “Oh, it’s all just a matter of opinion; there’s no objective fact about whether fetuses have rights. When we say that something is morally forbidden, all we’re really doing is expressing our disapproval of (...)
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