Professor of Philosophy, University of San Diego,
Director, Institute for Law and Philosophy University of San Diego School of Law
Location: Dante Building Room 5
This talk explores the adequacy of Sidgwick’s contrast between the egocentrism of ancient ethics and the impartiality of modern ethics by evaluating the resources of eudaimonists, especially Aristotle and the Stoics, to defend a cosmopolitan conception of the common good. The adequacy of various eudaimonist defenses of the common good may depend on our conception of the common good. Adapting Broad’s comparison of egoism, utilitarianism, and self-referential altruism, we might distinguish between the scope and weight of ethical concern. We might then distinguish ethical conceptions that are parochial with respect to both scope and weight, conceptions that are cosmopolitan with respect to both scope and weight, and mixed conceptions that combine universal scope and variable weight. Aristotle’s eudaimonist justification of the common good appears doubly parochial. By contrast, the Stoics offer a eudaimonist defense of the common good that is purely cosmopolitan. But the Stoics have trouble providing a eudaimonist defense of a cosmopolitan conception of the common good. However, Aristotelian eudaimonism has resources to justify a mixed cosmopolitan conception of the common good that combines universal scope and variable weight. If Broad’s reservations about Sidgwick’s utilitarianism are correct, mixed cosmopolitanism may be cosmopolitanism enough.
It has recently been suggested that metaethical debate must be fundamentally re-framed. Instead of carving out metaethical differences in representational terms, appealing to notions such as truth, belief and representation, Matthew Chrisman in particular has argued that metaethics should be given an inferentialist footing. In this talk, I will cast doubt on Chrisman’s proposal by confronting metaethical inferentialists with the following dilemma: Either, they stay true to inferentialism but cannot save the metaethical differences. Or they succeed in putting metaethical demarcation lines back into place, but now end up merely rehashing orthodox metaethical debates, rather than providing a novel approach to metaethics. I will conclude by considering what we can learn from this dilemma about the dialectic behind the development of inferentialist metaethics.