Episodes

  • This episode turns to Christine Korsgaard's Tanner lectures, "The Sources of Normativity," to explore how morality might be rationally vindicated from within the nature of practical rationality. Korsgaard's project is an iteration of the Enlightenment's attempt to ground morality in human nature. Korsgaard suggests that the correct moral theory will not merely provide an explanation of our moral natures, but also be justified in the light of our status as reflective animals. Her constructivist account of normativity will conceive of obligations as integral to our sense of identity, which in turn depends on our status as deliberative agents who must act upon some principle. Is the source of normativity a product of the correct application of moral concepts to the sphere of action? Are values the product of our self-legislating will? Can we understand unconditional obligations as derived from our shared identity as human beings?

  • This episode examines Alasdair MacIntyre's attempt to explain the existence of interminable moral and political disagreement as a symptom of the disarray of our inherited moral concepts. MacIntyre contends that the best way to unify our disparate and competing concepts of right, obligation, and virtue is to understand them as emerging from determinate social conditions. What modernity lacks or has forgotten in its instrumental use of moral concepts is that normative questions like "what ought we to do?" and "what does justice require ?" are only intelligible against a background of shared communal goals. In the absence of any shared conceptions of human nature and our ultimate ends, morality is unmoored. MacIntyre proposes that a reinvigorated account of the virtues embedded in the narrative unity of a human life is our best bet for breaking the apparent incommensurability and confusions of contemporary moral debates.

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  • In this episode, Devin and Charles climb down from the heights of Nietzsche's critique of conventional morality in order to take a brief detour into the domain of twentieth-century analytic metaethics. Together they explore the historical context, motivating forces and access the viability of moral realism—the view that our moral claims have objective validity. The discussion focuses on the social conditions driving analytic philosophy's turn to logical and semantic analysis and how this leads to divergent views on the meaning/use of moral statements and the ontological status of moral claims. A version of moral realism known as intuitionism is explored through an overview of W.D. Ross's seminal work, The Right and the Good. Intuitionism claims that we come to learn moral truths as self-evident in analogous fashion to truths of mathematics and logic. Does this prima facie implausible view hold water? What does Ross's analysis of right action tells us about our obligations to our self and others? What virtues does his account of a plurality of duties and intrinsic value have over alternative theories like utilitarianism?

  • In the inaugural episode of Moral Minority, Devin and Charles make the case for Nietzsche's continual relevance to contemporary politics by examining the problem of moral foundations and how we make sense of our normative commitments in the absence of transcendental warrant. This episode centers around a discussion of Nietzsche's under-discussed 1881 work, Dawn. What does it mean to undermine traditional morality? How do we avoid the temptation of nihilistic despair? What positive resources for adjudicating moral disagreements does Nietzsche's genealogical method enable? How might we begin to think and feel differently about our value systems? How does Nietzsche demonstrate the possibility of moral progress?