Moral and Metaethical Pluralism: Unity in Variation


  • Ragnar Francén Olinder


The most basic argument for moral relativism is that different people are (fundamentally) disposed to apply moral terms, such as ‘morally right’ and ‘morally wrong’, and the corresponding concepts, to different (types of) acts. In this paper, I argue that the standard forms of moral relativism fail to account for certain instances of fundamental variation, namely, variation in metaethical intuitions, and I develop a form of relativism—pluralism—that does account for them. I identify two challenges that pluralism faces. To answer the challenges, I first argue that, due to fundamental conceptual variations in ordinary descriptive (nonmoral) discourse, a form of pluralism holds there as well and that this pluralism can answer the corresponding challenges. I then argue that the answers transfer to moral discourse, since the phenomenon of moral variation is structurally identical to that of descriptive variation.