Rational learners and metaethics: Universalism, relativism, and evidence from consensus

Alisabeth Ayars, Shaun Nichols

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent work in folk metaethics finds a correlation between perceived consensus about a moral claim and meta-ethical judgments about whether the claim is universally or only relatively true. We argue that consensus can provide evidence for meta-normative claims, such as whether a claim is universally true. We then report several experiments indicating that people use consensus to make inferences about whether a claim is universally true. This suggests that people's beliefs about relativism and universalism are partly guided by evidence-based reasoning. In a final study, we show that the rejection of universalism does not generate a simple subjectivism but is associated with a more moderate relativism on which highly atypical positions are regarded as mistaken.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-89
Number of pages23
JournalMind and Language
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

Keywords

  • consensus
  • metaethics
  • moral learning
  • moral psychology
  • relativism
  • universalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language

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