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PHIL Speakers Program: Justin Kalef (Rutgers) "Sympathy for the Relativist"

Date & Time:
November 1, 2013 | 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

The Philosophy Speakers Program presents

JUSTIN KALEF on "Sympathy for the Relativist"

Location: Social Sciences Building,
Room 1253


About the Talk

In this paper, I consider the most extreme versin of moral relativism -- 'naive relativism -- according to which morality is purely a matter of social convention. Unlike the more sophisticated version of relativism recently proposed by Harman, Wong, and Prinz, naive relativism does not allow room for any external limitations whatsoever (from human nature, game theory, etc.) on what can count as legitimate morality. Whatever Society A deems moral, on this view, is automatically moral for Society A. This form of relativism is generally thought to be beneath serious philosophical consideration, as the familiar arguments against it are taken to be devastating. In this paper, I consider these arguments (marshalled by Migley, Shafer-Landau, Streiffer, and others) and make the case that they are completely unsuccessful in refuting, or even in establishing a presumption again, naive relativism. While, like these critics, I hold the opinion that naive moral relativism is false, I conclude that there is at present no sound basis for that opinion. 

About the Speaker

Justin Kalef received his PhD from the University of Victoria in 2010 with his dissertation entitled "Answering Harman's Relativism". He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University, focusing his research on normative ethics and metaethics, and also meta-metaethics. He is working as part of a team under Steve Stich and Edouard Machery on the largest ever cross-cultural experimental philosophy project. He also has a strong interest in philosophical teaching methods, and is in the process of doing a set of final revisions to an article on that subject.

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