Naturalism, absolutism, relativism

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Gilbert Harman begins his essay “Is There a Single True Morality?” by telling us: As far back as I can remember thinking about it, it has always seemed to me obvious that the dictates of morality arise from some sort of convention or understanding among people, that different people arrive at different understandings, and that there are no basic moral demands that apply to everyone. (Harman 2000a: 77) Having said this, however, he immediately admits that this opinion is not shared by many of his philosophical colleagues, and he goes on to explore the issue that divides them. Harman’s hypothesis is that they have different attitudes towards naturalism. Naturalism, he tells us, decisively favors the view that basic moral demands apply only to some. He therefore spends the bulk of his paper trying to make out that connection. This is an extremely important conclusion, if it is correct, so my aim in what follows is to consider the arguments Harman provides to support his hypothesis. To anticipate, I will argue that the view that moral demands apply only to some gains no support from naturalism, and I attempt to identify where the real source of support for that view lies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEthical Naturalism
Subtitle of host publicationCurrent Debates
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780511894633
ISBN (Print)9780521192422
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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