Tamler Sommers. Relative Justice: Cultural Diversity, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility

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Conference Paper in Published Proceedings



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Some philosophers and social scientists have become increasingly worried that selecting research subjects solely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies affects the validity of research that aims to understand general truths about human nature. That worry comes to philosophy via the concern that common intuitions about philosophical thought experiments might be similarly WEIRD. In his engaging and thought-provoking book, Relative Justice, Tamler Sommers argues that intuitions about moral responsibility are subject to this bias; he uses this claim to defend a position on the free will debate he terms metaskepticism.

Metaskepticism about moral responsibility is the view that no theory of moral responsibility is objectively correct. It is thus importantly different from realist views about responsibility that supply conditions for moral responsibility that are sometimes satisfied, from first-order skeptical views that hold that no one is ever morally responsible for what they do, as well as from relativist views which hold that different standards for responsibility are correct when suitably culturally specific. (It should be noted that Sommers is not a metaskeptic about morality in general, only moral responsibility.) The book is organized into two natural parts: in the introduction and the first four chapters, Sommers argues in favor of metaskepticism. In the last three chapters, he discusses the ramifications of metaskepticism for our thinking about moral responsibility