Discursive Strata

  • John R. WelchEmail author
Part of the Theory and Decision Library A: book series (TDLA, volume 49)


Chapter 1 introduces the strata that structure this work: phenomenal, instrumental, and teleological moral discourse. After an overview of the approach to moral strata presented in this volume, the chapter offers a quick reprise of the method of reflective equilibrium as elaborated by Goodman, Rawls, and Daniels. It then considers five objections to this method in its canonical formulations. Objections couched in terms of moral conservatism, moral diversity, and the moral weight of considered judgments are judged unsuccessful, while objections based on the nature of considered judgments and the relation to intuitionism are found to be more problematic. In order to meet these last two objections, the chapter reworks the received view of reflective equilibrium by defining an alternative notion of wide reflective equilibrium. This alternative is presented as a cognitive ideal: coherence among phenomenal, instrumental, and teleological discursive strata in addition to background theories. How moral discourse might achieve coherence of this sort is the subject of successive chapters.


Decision Theory Moral Theory Moral Belief Inductive Logic Background Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Amit, Ron. 2006. Rawls as a critical theorist: Reflective equilibrium after the ‘deliberative turn’. Philosophy and Social Criticism 32:173–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aristotle. 1984. Nicomachean Ethics. In The complete works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes, vol. 2, 1729–1867. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Aristotle. 1984. The complete works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bates, Jared. 2004. Reflective equilibrium and underdetermination in epistemology. Acta Analytica 19:45–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brand-Ballard, Jeffrey. 2003. Consistency, common morality, and reflective equilibrium. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 13:231–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brandt, Richard B. 1954. Hopi ethics: A theoretical analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  7. Brandt, Richard B. 1979. A theory of the good and the right. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brandt, Richard B. 1990. The science of man and wide reflective equilibrium. Ethics 100:259–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Daniels, Norman. 1979. Wide reflective equilibrium and theory acceptance in ethics. The Journal of Philosophy 76:256–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Daniels, Norman. 1996. Justice and justification: Reflective equilibrium in theory and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DePaul, Michael R. 1986. Reflective equilibrium and foundationalism. American Philosophical Quarterly 23:59–69.Google Scholar
  12. Dewey, John. 1922. Human nature and conduct: An introduction to social psychology. In The middle works, 1899–1924, ed. Jo Ann Boydston and Patricia Baysinger. vol. 14. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983.Google Scholar
  13. Dreier, James. 2006. Contemporary debates in moral theory. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  14. Elgin, Catherine Z. 1989. The relativity of fact and the objectivity of value. In Relativism: Interpretation and confrontation, ed. Michael Krausz, 86–98. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  15. Elgin, Catherine Z. 1996. Considered judgment. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gauthier, David. 1986. Morals by agreement. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  17. Goodman, Nelson. 1979. Fact, fiction, and forecast. 3rd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  18. Hare, R. M. 1973. Rawls’ theory of justice. The Philosophical Quarterly 23:144–155, 241–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harman, Gilbert. 1977. The nature of morality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Harman, Gilbert. 2003. Three trends in moral and political philosophy. The Journal of Value Inquiry 37:415–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Knight, Carl. 2006. The method of reflective equilibrium: Wide, radical, fallible, plausible. Philosophical Papers 35:205–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Laudan, Larry. 1984. Science and values: The aims of science and their role in scientific debate. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Lazari-Radek, Katarzyna de and Peter Singer. 2012. The objectivity of ethics and the unity of practical reason. Ethics 123:9–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mackie, J. L. 1977. Ethics: Inventing right and wrong. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  25. McGee, Vann. 1985. A counterexample to modus ponens. The Journal of Philosophy 82:462–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Passell, Dan. 1995. Natural fact, moral reason. Journal of Philosophical Research 20:463–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Peirce, Charles S. 1878. How to make our ideas clear. In The writings of C. S. Peirce vol. 3, 257–276. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.Google Scholar
  28. Prinz, Jesse. 2007. The emotional construction of morals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Putnam, Hilary. 1983. Realism and reason. Philosophical papers, vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rachels, James. 1986. The elements of moral philosophy. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  31. Rawls, John. 1971. A theory of justice. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Rawls, John. 1975. The independence of moral theory. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 48:5–22.Google Scholar
  33. Richardson, Henry S. 1994. Practical reasoning about final ends. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ross, Stephen. 1991. The nature of moral facts. The Philosophical Forum 91:243–269.Google Scholar
  35. Russell, Bertrand, and Alfred North Whitehead. 1927. Principia mathematica. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Sidgwick, Henry. 1907. The methods of ethics. 7th ed. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  37. Singer, Peter. 1974. Sidgwick and reflective equilibrium. The Monist 58:490–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Singer, Peter. 2005. Ethics and intuitions. The Journal of Ethics 9:331–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. 2006. Moral skepticisms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Smith, Barry. 2001. The Chinese rune argument. Philosophical Explorations 4:70–77.Google Scholar
  41. Stich, Stephen. 1990. The fragmentation of reason: Preface to a pragmatic theory of cognitive evaluation. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  42. Tersman, Folke. 2008. The reliability of moral intuitions: A challenge from neuroscience. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86:389–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Timmons, Mark. 1991. Putnam’s moral objectivism. Erkenntnis 34:371–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Varner, Gary E. 2012. Personhood, ethics, and animal cognition: Situating animals in Hare’s two-level utilitarianism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Welch, John R. 1994. Science and ethics: Toward a theory of ethical value. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 25:279–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wood, Allen W. 2008. Kantian ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Saint Louis University – Madrid CampusMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations