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Lecture 1

PHIL250 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Animal Rights, Meta-Ethics, Penicillin

3 pages52 viewsFall 2016

Philosophy at St Joseph's College
Course Code
Howard Nye

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PHIL 250
September 7, 2016 - The Relativist Challenge
Ethical Relativism
Metaethics: the investigation of what ethical thought and talk is really all about
Central questions: Can ethical claims be objectively correct or incorrect,
independent of what people happen to think about them?
If so, how can we determine whether or not an ethical claim is correct?
Many people are tempted towards the view that there are no objective ethical truths
Ethical Relativism: Different cultures just have different ethical views, and none
of these views can be more correct or accurate than any others
Why might this seem plausible?
Disagreement (just say it is due to culture), lack of objective support (no
good model to get objective ethics?), tolerance (not judging others for
their ethical morals)
The Argument from Disagreement
The argument from ethical disagreement
(P) Different cultures have different views about what’s right and wrong, good
and bad, etc.
\ (C) There is no culture-independent fact of that matter about what’s right and
wrong, good and bad, etc.
But does the mere fact that people disagree about something mean there’s no fact
of the matter about it?
E.g. climate change,
Any descriptive thing there
The argument from geographical disagreement
(P) Different cultures have different views about the shape of the earth (us –
‘round!’; them – ‘flat!’)
\ (C) There is no culture-independent fact of that matter about the shape of the
There is still a fact of the matter, we have the evidence to prove it, don’t want to
go from individuals disagree to the fact of the matter… How do we figure out the
truth of ethics?
Is Ethics Different?
In the case of earth-shape, history, biology, etc.
We have methods of resolving the disagreement, even though applications can
be variant, and challenges to the evidence. But there is a realization that evidence
must be presented for these claims.
Views seem to reflect some common fact of the matter, even if we don’t know
what it is. Empirical study vs. normative study. Beliefs can latch onto the effects,
no concrete reality in ethics.
In some cases, might seem to be no way of showing one side’s ethical view to be
uniquely correct
Cremating the dead (Greeks) vs. funerary cannibalism (Callatians)
There can be situations where neither side has plausible objective support…
Overall theme is similar. The objectively right view is to respect the deceased by
whatever conventional method is best.
But are all examples like this?
find more resources at
find more resources at
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