Volume 18, 1993
Byron L. Haines
A Critique of Harman’s Empiric Relativism
In a paper, “Is there a Single True Morality,” Gilbert Harman presents an argument for moral relativism that some have found persuasive. Relativism is, Harman argues, the view that is most compatible with a scientific view of the world. The present paper argues that Harman’s argument is unsound since it contains at least one false premise. Further, there are considerations to which Harman himself draws attention which count against moral relativism and in favor of moral absolutism i.e., the view that actions have a moral character that is independent of how individuals or groups think or feel about them.
Nor is moral absolutism incompatible with a scientific view of the world, although it is no doubt incompatible with the radical empiricsm that underlies Harman’s argument.