Sommers’ Relative Justice reviewed
October 23, 2012
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Ian DeWeese-Boyd (Gordon College) reviews Tamler Sommers‘ (Houston) Relative Justice: Cultural Diversity, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility for Metapsychology.
In his book Relative Justice, Tamler Sommers argues that if such diversity of intuitions regarding the criteria and conditions for the fair assignment of praise and blame is irreducible–not due to irrationality, ignorance, superstition, conceptual ambiguity and the like– and thus ineradicable by argument or analysis, the possibility of establishing any account of moral responsibility as true for everyone everywhere is vanishingly small. Citing just such diversity across cultures in the first part of his book, Sommers argues that “there is no set of conditions for moral responsibility that applies universally, and therefore no theory of moral responsibility that is objectively correct” (5)–a position he terms metaskepticism. Sommers spends the rest of the book laying out a principled method for arriving at somewhat settled beliefs about moral responsibility given the truth of metaskepticism. Though he offers support for the view that there is no moral responsibility, that Luck swallows everything to use Galen Strawson’s phrase, his reflections on his own journey show the path to be a tortured one and the conclusions at best provisional. The arguments here are thought provoking and will challenge the intuitions of most readers, and despite being fairly technical and very closely argued, the book is remarkably accessible.
Thanks to a reader for the link.