John-Stewart Gordon (Vytautas Magnus University): Ethics as a Method
The idea that all moral problems can be resolved by only one ethical principle – be that Kant’s Categorical Imperative or the utilitarian principle of maximising utility – is not only fundamentally misguided, but also incapable of doing justice to the complexity of moral reality. Instead, one should use a flexible context-sensitive ethical method that adheres to the concept of practical wisdom (aka moral expertise), which pays more proper attention to human nature and the complexities of the moral universe. The presentation will examine my novel idea of meta-ethical pluralism (MEP) and the role of moral expertise in moral reasoning and decision making. MEP is the view that moral judgments should be distinguished according to their ontological status depending on the particular moral phenomenon that is examined. That means, some moral judgments are universal by nature and may be considered as being substantiated by moral realism; while others, however, are relative by nature and should rather be seen as being justified by moral anti-realism. A third category of moral judgements is a combination of both (the so-called grey area). The suggested ethical method allows one to discuss and resolve moral issues particularly in the grey area. Only a moral expert is capable to (fully) understand the complex relations of the moral reality in an appropriate way and to find a proper solution for every ethical problem. Whereas ethical theories so far have only been approximate evaluations of certain parts of moral reality, the moral expert now appears as a person who takes into view the entirety of moral reality. The complexity of a difficult moral problem can only be appreciated appropriately when we employ a pluralistic ethical method. In the up-shot, I defend the approach against two main objections e.g. the argument from arbitrariness and the argument from ontological simplicity.
Please note the new start time of this seminar.
Conveners: Ed Lamb and Jeremy FixMembers of the audience are invited to join the speaker and the convener for drinks and dinner at a local restaurant following the talk (at their own expense). There will be some limit on the number of people who can attend. Please RSVP to Ed Lamb to reserve a place. Please note that we will no longer be going to dinner afterwards at Somerville College to continue questioning the speaker.