TT24 Week 3 Internal Uehiro Seminar

Radical Moral Pluralism: A Proposal

Title: Radical Moral Pluralism: A Proposal

Abstract: In "A Hostage Situation" (Journal of Philosophy 2019) I set up a realistic thought experiment which, by contrast to the dominant Trolley problem model, yields a radically open and seemingly absurdly pluralistic intuitive result. In this talk I try to explore the possible meta-ethical grounding for such a view of (much of) morality – and also explore its practical applications.  Radical Moral Pluralism (henceforth RMP) is the view that, at least sometimes, opposing conclusions may be reasonably seen as morally acceptable, in the same context. According to RMP, normative ethics is thus much more tolerant of diversity and of contrastive positions than has been thought; and moral goodness and rightness are, as it were, more expansive. I explore two practical issues which show the intuitive appeal of RMP: one concerns the allocation of scarce medical resources, and the other the permissibility of adult sex-work. I conclude by briefly noting a number of (surprisingly mostly positive) implications, if RMP is seen to be correct. RMP clearly adds great philosophical, epistemic and pragmatic complexity, but opens up the possibility for a sophisticated, richer, happier and more adequate picture of morality.

Speaker: Saul Smilansky (D.Phil., Oxford) is a Professor at the Department of Philosophy, University of Haifa, Israel. He works primarily on normative and applied ethics, the free will problem, and meaning in life. Currently he is working on a book on "Crazy Ethics", a view of morality where frequently matters seem to be true (or at least plausible) yet are also absurd. He is the author of Free Will and Illusion (Oxford University Press 2000), 10 Moral Paradoxes (Blackwell 2007), and over one hundred papers in philosophical journals and edited collections.

A hybrid event for Uehiro Centre Members and Associates (booking not required). 

In-person venue: Oxford Uehiro Centre, Suite 1 Seminar Area, Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford OX1 1PT (buzzer 1)
Zoom: Joining link available from the Centre's Internal Google Calendar, or on request from