Virtue and the Reductivist Challenge

Contemporary Philosophy 22:34-41 (2000)
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In a recent paper, Philip Kitcher boldly challenges the very idea of objectivism in ethics.1 The structure of his argument is disarmingly simple: objectivist moral theories must take a certain explanatory form. If they take that form, then they fail on their own terms. Hence objectivism cannot be a satisfactory theory. Proving impossibility is a dicey matter, and Kitcher qualifies his premises and conclusions in ways that my summary misses. His arguments are nuanced, and he never states his conclusion as baldly as I have. Moreover, he focuses on one particular form of objectivism—Thomas Hurka’s perfectionism2—and an uncharitable reading of Kitcher would accuse him of hasty generalization: the demise of objectivism surely does not follow from Hurka’s purported shortcomings. Nevertheless, the thrust of the argument is as I have said: objectivism has no future



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Michael Byron
Kent State University

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