Wolf, Susan. Two levels of pluralism
1992, Ethics 102 (4):785-798.
Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Jojanneke Vanderveen
Abstract: Pluralism in ethics, as I understand it, is the view that there is an irreducible plurality of values or principles that are relevant to moral judgment. While the utilitarian says that all morally significant con- siderations can be reduced to quantities of pleasure and pain, and the Kantian says that all moraljudgment can be reduced to a single principle having to do with respect for rationality and the bearers of rationality, the pluralist insists that morality is not at the fundamental level so simple. Moreover, as many use the term, and as I shall use it in this essay, the pluralist believes that the plurality of morally significant values is not subject to a complete rational ordering. Thus, it is held that no principle or decision procedure exists that can guarantee a unique and determinate answer to every moral question involving a choice among different fundamental moral values or principles. My aim in this article is not to argue for the truth of ethical pluralism but, rather, to explore some implications of its truth, or even of the self-conscious recognition of the possibility of its truth. Specifically, I shall argue that pluralism, or, indeed, even the possibility of pluralism, has implications for the way we understand issues concerning moral objectivity and moral relativism, as well as implications for the positions we take on them. I shall begin by sketching a common pattern of thought about these issues.
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