Practical Reasoning and Normative Relevance: A Reply to McKeever and Ridge

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
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Abstract

A putative problem for the moral particularist is that he or she fails to capture the normative relevance of certain considerations that they carry on their face, or the intuitive irrelevance of other considerations. It is argued in response that mastery of certain topic-specific truisms about a subject matter is what it is for a reasonable interlocutor to be engaged in a moral discussion, but the relevance of these truisms has nothing to do with the particularist/generalist dispute. Given that practical reasoning is plausibly a form of abductive reasoning, and is therefore non-monotonic, any arbitrary addition of information can change the degree of support evidence offers for a conclusion. Given this arbitrariness, it is no objection to the particularist if he or she represents the ‘normative landscape as flat’ in a way that does not display the ‘obvious’ relevance of certain considerations. The normative landscape is flat and our best account of practical reasoning represents it precisely as such. Appealing to a distinction between practical reasoning and moral reasoning does not help to resurrect this pseudoproblem for particularism.

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