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Pluralism/Metaethics


A Bibliographical Survey of Metaethics Hinman, Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory

Biliographical essays are drawn from Lawrence M. Hinman, Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory, 3rd Edition [Wadsworth, 2002] 2002

Moral Nihilism

Nietzsche offers some of the most insightful comments on the issue of moral nihilism in his work. See Friedrich Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, translated, with commentary, by Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1966), and the remarks in The Will to Power, translated by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Random House, 1967). For a discussion of Nietzsche's ethics as a whole, see especially Tracy B. Strong, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration, revised edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988); Alexander Nehamas, Nietzsche, Life as Literature (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985); and .Lester H. Hunt, Nietzsche and the Origin of Virtue (London and New York: Routledge, 1991).

For more recent discussions of nihilism, see Michael Novak, The Experience of Nothingness (New York: Harper and Row) and Stanley Rosen, Nihilism. A Philosophical Essay (New Haven: Yale University Press). Chapter Three of Richard W. Miller's Moral Differences: Truth, Justice and Conscience in a World of Conflict (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) contains an insightful and sympathetic discussion of nihilism.

Moral Skepticism

The sense of moral skepticism discussed here begins among the Greek skeptekoi. One of the most interesting and forceful contemporary representatives is Philip Hallie. See his work on compassion, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There (New York: Harper Colophon, 1979) and his Cruelty (Middleton, CN: Wesleyan University Press, 1982). Also see his articles, "From Cruelty to Goodness," reprinted in Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, edited by Christina Hoff Sommers and Fred Sommers (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1989), pp. 9-24 and "Skepticism, Narrative, and Holocaust Ethics," Philosophical Forum, Vol. XVI, Nos. 1-2 (Fall-Winter, 1984-85 ), pp. 33-49.

The classic texts for emotivism are A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic (New York: Dover, 1947) and Charles L. Stevenson, Ethics and Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944). For a perceptive analysis of values which criticizes the unidimensionality of the emotivist understanding of value, see Frithjof Bergmann, "The Experience of Values," Inquiry, Vol. 16 (1973), pp. 247-79.

Diversity and Pluralism

For a subtle account of the ways in which philosophical theories are connected to certain contexts of questions, see Virginia Held, Rights and Goods: Justifying Social Action (New York: The Free Press, 1984). For a variant of the spotlight metaphor, see Dorothy Emmet, The Moral Prism (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979). On the checks and balances metaphor, see Amelie Rorty's essay, "Two Faces of Courage," in her Mind in Action (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988) where this metaphor is used to a different purpose. Her essay, "The Advantages of Moral Diversity," Social Philosophy & Policy, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Summer, 1992), pp. 38-62 appeared after the draft of this chapter was finished and pursues, with more subtlety than I have achieved, some of the same ends.

For a number of perceptive essays on moral pluralism, see the Symposium on Pluralism and Ethical Theory in Ethics, Vol. 102, No. 4 (July, 1992), especially Susan Wolf's "Two Levels of Pluralism," pp. 785-98 and Dennis Wong's "Coping with Moral Conflict and Ambiguity," pp. 763-84. I am indebted to Wolf's essay for the reference to Gert and his "best hitter" analogy. Also see John Kekes, "Pluralism and Conflict in Morality," Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 26 (1992), pp. 37-50 for an insightful discussion of this issue. Michael Walzer's Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality (New York: Basic Books, 1983) develops a pluralistic approach to distributive justice. Neil Cooper's The Diversity of Moral Thinking (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981) presents a justification of the rationality of altruism within the context of a theory of diversity in moral judgments. Michael Stocker's Plural and Conflicting Values (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990) presents a subtle account of the relationship between pluralism and conflict in morality and a perceptive analysis of the reasons why contemporary moral philosophers find such conflict so disturbing.





Summaries of Recent Literature on Metaethics