Expressivism and the "deep problem of relativism"
Cureton, Adam Steven
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Many philosophers are persuaded that naturalist projects in meta-ethics must, in the end, be committed to relativism. How should a good naturalist reply to this worry? Some defenders of expressivism have attempted to respond by arguing that expressivism is not committed to relativism after all. I am convinced that these responses trade on an ambiguity in the way relativist objections are posed. In this paper I specify two distinct forms of ethical relativism and examine whether they are consistent with an expressivist account of norms. I argue that expressivist views are unable to provide a fully satisfactory response to anti-relativist worries: Expressivist theories leave open the possibility that some ethical disagreements are irreconcilable. Because of this, some philosophers will remain unpersuaded by expressivist views. But if irreconcilable disagreement really is possible, then this will not constitute an objection to expressivism after all: indeed it may be a virtue of expressivist views that they leave open the possibility of such disagreement.