The Self-Undermining Arguments from Disagreement

Oxford Studies in Metaethics 14:23-46 (2019)
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Abstract

Arguments from disagreement against moral realism begin by calling attention to widespread, fundamental moral disagreement among a certain group of people. Then, some skeptical or anti-realist-friendly conclusion is drawn. Chapter 2 proposes that arguments from disagreement share a structure that makes them vulnerable to a single, powerful objection: they self-undermine. For each formulation of the argument from disagreement, at least one of its premises casts doubt either on itself or on one of the other premises. On reflection, this shouldn’t be surprising. These arguments are intended to support very strong metaphysical or epistemological conclusions about morality. They must therefore employ very strong metaphysical or epistemological premises. But, given the pervasiveness of disagreement in philosophy, especially about metaphysics and epistemology, very strong premises are virtually certain to be the subject of widespread, intractable disagreement—precisely the sort of disagreement that proponents of these arguments think undermine moral claims. Thus, these arguments undermine their own premises. If Chapter 2’s argument is sound, it provides realists with a single, unified strategy for responding to any existing or forthcoming arguments from disagreement.

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Eric Sampson
Rhodes College

Citations of this work

Dilemmas, Disagreement, and Dualism.Elizabeth Jackson - 2021 - In Scott Stapleford, Kevin McCain & Matthias Steup (eds.), Epistemic Dilemmas: New Arguments, New Angles. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 217–231.
Moral Realism and Expert Disagreement.Prabhpal Singh - 2020 - Trames: A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences 24 (3):441-457.

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References found in this work

Moral Realism: A Defence.Russ Shafer-Landau - 2003 - Oxford University Press.
Epistemology of Disagreement: The Good News.David Christensen - 2007 - Philosophical Review 116 (2):187-217.
Reflection and Disagreement.Adam Elga - 2007 - Noûs 41 (3):478–502.

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