The relativity of ethical explanation

Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 6 (2016)
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Ethical theory is an explanatory endeavor, but until recently relatively little attention has been paid to the question of what makes for an adequate ethical explanation. This chapter argues that like explanation generally, ethical explanation is relativized to a contrast space: it is not a two-place relation between an explanandum and an ethical theory, but a three-place relation involving a background framework that, among others things, specifies a contrast space. The chapter then draws two morals from this thesis. The first is that ethical theorizing can be a morally problematic activity, even when it produces adequate explanations, if the contrast space it relies upon is itself morally questionable. The second is that some conflicts between ethical explanations are merely apparent and in fact reflect a difference in contrastive focus.



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Kenneth Walden
Dartmouth College

Citations of this work

Explanatory Pluralism in Normative Ethics.Pekka Väyrynen - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics.
Normative explanation unchained.Pekka Väyrynen - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (2):278-297.

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