That's Just, Like, Your Opinion Man


Via Yglesias, I see that philosopher David Velleman has a nice, thorough post up about one of my pet peeves: The inapt (and inept) use of the term "moral relativism" to tar decidedly non-relativist moral positions with which one disagrees. As an anthropological addendum, I'll assume that the prevalence of this mistake is partly just the result of some people's desire to broadcast the fact that they took one ethics class (inattentively) back in college, but also in part a response to the colloquial use of phrases like: "Well, whatever's right for that person" to express a tolerant view toward different sexual practices, literary preferences, parenting styles, or what have you. I assume that people who use the phrase don't intend to commit themselves to (as Velleman notes) an extremely unpopular proposition about the agent-relative status of moral statements, but rather a familar liberal proposition—of universal scope—to the effect that behaviors of a certain class are morally unobjectionable provided the persons involved undertake them voluntarily.