Rational learners and metaethics: Universalism, relativism, and evidence from consensus

Mind and Language 35 (1):67-89 (2020)
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Abstract

Recent work in folk metaethics finds a correlation between perceived consensus about a moral claim and meta-ethical judgments about whether the claim is universally or only relatively true. We argue that consensus can provide evidence for meta-normative claims, such as whether a claim is universally true. We then report several experiments indicating that people use consensus to make inferences about whether a claim is universally true. This suggests that people's beliefs about relativism and universalism are partly guided by evidence-based reasoning. In a final study, we show that the rejection of universalism does not generate a simple subjectivism but is associated with a more moderate relativism on which highly atypical positions are regarded as mistaken.

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Author Profiles

Alisabeth Ayars
University of British Columbia
Shaun Nichols
Cornell University

References found in this work

The moral problem.Michael Smith - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.
The emotional construction of morals.Jesse J. Prinz - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Myth of Morality.Richard Joyce - 2001 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis.Frank Jackson - 1999 - Philosophical Quarterly 49 (197):539-542.

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