Disagreement, Correctness, and the Evidence for Metaethical Absolutism [chapter]

Gunnar Björnsson
2015 Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 10  
Metaethical absolutism, or just absolutism, is the view that moral concepts have non-relative satisfaction conditions that are constant across judges and their particular beliefs, attitudes, and cultural embedding. Absolutism is compatible with a variety of more widely discussed views about moral semantics-descriptivist and non-descriptivist, naturalist and non-naturalist, realist and constructivist-but it arguably has more practically important consequences than either of these. If absolutism
more » ... s true, there is an important sense in which parties of moral disputes are concerned to get the same things right, such that their disputes can be settled by the facts. If it is not true, as various forms of relativism and non-cognitivism imply, such coordination of concerns will be limited. 2 The most influential support for absolutism comes from two related premises. According to the first, moral thinking and moral discourse display a number of features that are characteristically found in paradigmatically absolutist domains, and only partly in uncontroversially non-absolutist domains. Among these features, we find ways of thinking about moral disagreement, and ways of attributing correctness to moral judgments. According to the second premise, the best way of making sense of these features is to assume that absolutism holds for this domain. Moral thinking and discourse display a certain unity that would be less straightforwardly explained if forms of metaethical relativism or non-cognitivism were true. 3 One can object to this argument from unity in two ways. One might reject the first premise, denying that morality displays "absolutist" patterns of disagreement. Or one might 1 I am grateful for feedback from audiences at
doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198738695.003.0007 fatcat:bxwzy5bm6bdlnbin2maue7n3ye