Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance Seminar

Overcoming Fundamental Moral Disagreement

Tue 20 June 2017Speaker: Dr Richard Rowland, Australian Catholic UniversityVenue: The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


Fundamental moral disagreements are moral disagreements that do not derive from disagreements about empirical or non-moral facts. For instance, some hold that torture is always in every instance morally wrong even if the consequences of torturing are better than the consequences of not torturing; others hold that sometimes, when the expected consequences of torturing are good enough (and the expected consequences of not-torturing are bad enough), it can be morally permissible to torture. This disagreement about the morality of torture is a fundamental moral disagreement. Firstly, I will briefly explain how if fundamental moral disagreement persisted in idealized conditions this would have both first-order ethical implications and implications for the nature of morality. Secondly, I will explain how all the research in the literature that purports to give us reasons to believe that there would or would not be fundamental moral disagreement in idealized conditions in fact gives us no reason to believe anything about fundamental moral disagreement in idealized conditions. Thirdly, I will sketch how a deliberative poll and Q-study that I will be conducting with Selen Ercan, David Killoren, and Lucy Parry may shed light on the extant of fundamental moral disagreement that would persist in idealized conditions and whether fundamental moral disagreements differ from other moral and political disagreements. 


Richard Rowland is a permanent research fellow in moral philosophy at the Australian Catholic University. He works on ethics and metaethics, specifically on the nature of normativity and value, and on moral disagreement. He has published work in journals including Ethics, Noûs, Philosophical Studies, and Philosophical Quarterly.

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