Moral discourse, pluralism, and moral cognitivism

Metaphilosophy 37 (1):92–111 (2006)
In the face of pluralism, moral constructivists attempt to salvage cognitivism by separating moral and ethical issues. Divergence over ethical issues, which concern the good life, would not threaten moral cognitivism, which is based on identifying generalizable interests as worthy of defending, using reason. Yet this approach falters given the inability of the constructivist to provide us a sure path by which to discern generalizable interests in difficult cases. Still, even if this approach to constructivism fails, cognitivist aspirations may not be defeated if we can continue discursively in a project of identifying and appreciating the interests of others. Grasping the interests of others may require a transformation of moral sensibility such that agents recognize values they have not acknowledged before. This view calls for external moral discourse—that is, moral discourse that makes no appeal to an agent's present interests or desires but rather engages in description of the moral situation in hopes of bringing about a change in moral sensibility.
Keywords Habermas  moral cognitivism  moral discourse  relativism  McDowell  interests  constructivism  moral pluralism
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