Toward honest ethical pluralism

Philosophical Studies 132 (2):191 - 210 (2007)
Abstract
I give the label “ethical pluralism” to the meta-ethical view that competing moral views are valid. I assume that validity is conferred on a moral view by its satisfying the relevant meta-ethical criteria in a maximally satisfactory way. If the relevant meta-ethical criteria are based on something roughly like the wide reflective equilibrium model, then ethical pluralism is likely to be correct. Traditional moral views do not grant exemptions from their own binding rules or principles to agents – should any exist – who adhere to a competing valid moral view. Given the usual conception of accepting a moral view, an ethical pluralist cannot honestly accept a traditional moral view. Consequently, I argue, an ethical pluralist is committed to the view that all traditional moral views are invalid. Given the likelihood of ethical pluralism, this conclusion is alarming. I set forth a weak conception of accepting a moral view that is designed to allow an ethical pluralist honestly to accept a traditional moral view. In particular, my conception is designed to explain how someone can (a) be guided by the view that she accepts; (b) accept her own moral view while rationally not accepting competing views that she thinks are equally valid; and (c) not be prepared to prescribe morally to those who are following other valid views. Central to my formulation are what I call a stance of modest respectful disapproval toward other people’s wrong behavior, together with acceptance of decisive moral reasons for oneself that are generated by the valid moral view that one accepts.
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