Art & Design

Art & Design

Bernard Williams, moral relativism, and the culture wars

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Daniel Callcut in Aeon:

The acclaimed British philosopher Bernard Williams, writing in the 1970s, showed that a common way of arguing for moral relativism is confused and contradictory. Nonetheless, he went on to defend a philosophical worldview that incorporated some of relativism’s underlying ideas. There is much to learn, when we think about the ongoing culture wars over moral values, from the encounters with relativism that recur throughout Williams’s work. First, however, it’s useful to understand why a prevalent feature of the culture wars, arguing over which words to use, itself quickly leads to arguments over relativism.

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Source: Bernard Williams, moral relativism, and the culture wars

Parfit: A Philosopher and His Mission to Save Morality

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Johnny Lyons at The Dublin Review Of Books:

The subtitle of David Edmonds’s biography of the English philosopher Derek Parfit (1942-2017) is liable to raise more than a few eyebrows. Surely a mission to save morality is something only a God-like being could take on. And since God is dead, or rather has ceased to be believable, the prospect of rescuing morality must have vanished too. So is the subtitle to suggest that Parfit really was blessed with superhuman powers? Or are we to read it ironically, perhaps as a satirical comment on one philosopher’s exaggerated view of his own importance?

The book’s first page leaves the reader in no doubt that the protagonist’s own view of what he was doing was seriously intended. Edmonds opens with an episode when Parfit, in his later years, found himself hospitalised following a sudden failure of his lungs. Observing the steady stream of visitors entering the patient’s room, one of the nurses grew curious and asked Parfit what he did for a living to which he replied: ‘I work on what matters.’

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Source: Parfit: A Philosopher and His Mission to Save Morality