A Defense of the Common Morality

Phenomena of moral conflict and disagreement have led writers in ethics to two antithetical conclusions: Either valid moral distinctions hold universally or they hold relative to a particular and contingent moral framework, and so cannot be applied with universal validly. Responding to three articles in this issue of the Journal that criticize his previously published views on the common morality, the author maintains that one can consistently deny universality to some justified moral norms and claim universality for others. Universality is located in the common morality and nonuniversality in other parts of the moral life, called "particular moralities." The existence of universal moral standards is defended in terms of: (1) a theory of the objectives of morality, (2) an account of the norms that achieve those objectives, and (3) an account of normative justification (both pragmatic and coherentist).