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Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity

ISBN: 978-0-631-19211-4
240 pages
January 1996, Wiley-Blackwell
Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity (0631192115) cover image


Do moral questions have objective answers? In this great debate, Gilbert Harman explains and argues for relativism, emotivism, and moral scepticism. In his view, moral disagreements are like disagreements about what to pay for a house; there are no correct answers ahead of time, except in relation to one or another moral framework.

Independently, Judith Jarvis Thomson examines what she takes to be the case against moral objectivity, and rejects it; she argues that it is possible to find out the correct answers to some moral questions. In her view, some moral disagreements are like disagreements about whether the house has a ghost.

Harman and Thomson then reply to each other. This important, lively accessible exchange will be invaluable to all students of moral theory and meta-ethics.

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Table of Contents


Part I: Moral Relativism (Harman):.

1. Moral Relativism.

2. Social Contracts.

3. Expressing Basic Disagreement.

4. Universality of Practical Reasons?.

5. Judgements about Outsiders.

Part II: Moral Objectivity (Thomson):.

6. Epistemological Arguments for Moral Skepticism.

7. Emotivism.

8. Evaluations and Directives.

Part III: Responses:.

9. Harman's Response to Thomson's Part II.

10. Thomson's Response to Harman's Part I.


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Author Information

Gilbert Harman is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Princeton. His publications include Thought (1973), The Nature of Morality (1977), and Change in View (1986).

Judith Jarvis Thomson is Professor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her publications include The Realm of Rights (1990), and Rights, Restitution and Risk (1986).

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The Wiley Advantage

  • A lucid and lively debate for a wide student readership
  • An illuminating introduction to and examination of what is arguably the key issue of contemporary moral theory
  • Contains powerful new arguments by two prominent philosophers at the forefront of contemporary ethical debate.
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