A Reply to Aikin and Talisse



In “Three Challenges to Jamesian Ethics,” Aikin and Talisse develop a critical analysis of the two central features of James’s ethics, pluralism and meliorism. They conclude that James’s ethics cannot accommodate certain basic moral intuitions. Moreover, it is alleged to foster conflict by overlooking demands that call for the suppression of other demands and by its inability to provide a substantive conception of toleration. I will suggest that James’s answers to the psychological and casuistic questions in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life” offer a plausible response to the counter – intuition criticism. Secondly, the opposition of two versions of moral absolutism constitutes a problem for relativism , but not James’s pluralism . As a pluralist, he is not committed to the thesis that every moral belief is as good as any other. Even detached from his pluralism, James’s meliorism should not be understood to endorse religious warfare as part of a conception of improvement. Lastly, if this interpretation is correct there is no reason his pluralistic ethics is obligated to accept the intolerant.

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