chapter  9
20 Pages

The irrelativism of distance

WithGeraldine Ng

A significant bar to the irrelativist view is that it falls short of Bernard Williams’ sceptical position with regard to the objectivity of moral values. It might be objected that irrelativism misses out much of what Williams wants to do by his relativist thesis in that direction. Irrelativism, by contrast, focuses on the appraiser’s particular relation to that outlook and says little about outlooks themselves. Williams defends scepticism about moral objectivity against the idea that it straightforwardly implies relativism. Williams assumes that when researchers commonly deploy the vocabulary of appraisal to the system of beliefs of other societies or cultures, they mean to say something substantive. The uncommon definition of the ‘real option’ condition better reflects their intuitions and better captures the social nature that Williams emphasises. The real-notional distinction, to be clear, applies to cases of social or cultural condemnation as well as social admiration, as in Ghost Dog’s case.