University of Kansas, Fall 2002
Philosophy 880: Topics in Ethics

Class notes: reflective equilibrium

The following notes correspond roughly to what we cover, including at least a portion of what I put on the board or the screen, in class. In places they may be more or less comprehensive than what we actually cover in class, and should not be taken as a substitute for your own observations and records of what goes on in class.

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  1. Daniels
    1. the problem: “elementary . . . coherence constraints” may seem to fall far short of adequately justifying a moral theory
    2. section I
      1. p. 258: arguing for moral principles from background theories
      2. p. 259: ensuring that the background theories are not mere reformulations of the moral judgments already matched
      3. pp. 260–261: four levels of resources for principle selection
        1. level I: considered judgments
        2. level II: theoretical device, such as a contract or an impartial spectator
        3. level III: background theories (not necessarily entirely non-moral ones)
        4. level IV: theories about feasibility
    3. section II
      1. p. 264: the “epistemological privilege” of intuitions in intuitionism
      2. p. 266: the possibility of theory-based revisions of intuitions in wide reflective equilibrium
    4. section III
      1. pp. 268–269: the “no credibility” objection
      2. p. 270: first reply—that moral judgments are not like observation reports, and so should not be held to the same standard
      3. p. 271–272: second reply—that the “no credibility” objection only places a burden of proof on moral theories, rather than defeating the method of reflective equilibrium
      4. pp. 272–273: third reply—that wide reflective equilibrium may help to explain why our intuitions are as they are
    5. section IV
      1. p. 275: the worrying possibility of consensus on moral falsehoods—intersubjective agreement must not be taken as constitutive of truth
      2. p. 276: such convergence is some evidence of truth
      3. p. 277: “theory acceptance or justification, not . . . truth”
      4. pp. 278–281: an argument for the evidential relation
  2. DePaul
    1. p. 467: the conservative conception of reflective equilibrium: belief revision only for conflict resolution
    2. p. 469: the radical conception of reflective equilibrium: possibility of not-internally-motivated conversion, or “discontinuous revision of belief”
    3. pp. 478–479: rationality—superiority of the radical conception in regard to how beliefs get formed
    4. pp. 480: justification—avoidance by the radical conception of the “garbage in, garbage out” objection