Sociology Index

Moral Pluralism

MORAL PLURALISM is also known as ethical pluralism or value pluralism. Moral pluralism is the idea that there are several values which may be equally correct and fundamental, and yet in conflict with each other.

Moral pluralism also postulates that such incompatible values may be incommensurable, in the sense that there is no objective ordering of them in terms of importance. Moral pluralism is an alternative to both moral relativism and moral absolutism. An example of moral pluralism is the idea that the moral life of a nun is incompatible with that of a mother, yet there is no purely rational measure of which is preferable.

Under moral pluralism, moral decisions often require radical preferences with no rational calculus to determine which alternative is to be selected. Pluralism describes a society where individual and group differences are present and are celebrated as enriching the social fabric.

Moral Pluralism and the Origin of Political Conflict, Ferrell, Jason
Abstract: Political institutions have frequently been justified as a response to conflict. Consequently, assumptions about the nature of conflict often shape our conceptions of what is political.

Two of the most prevalent interpretations of conflict perspectives regard it as either a contest of interest or a competition for resources. That is, conflict is often understood as resulting from an exclusive self-regard or from a situation of scarcity. In each instance, conflict is thought to entail a situation of insecurity that can only be overcome through the establishment of political institutions. While such interpretations of conflict are instructive, they nevertheless provide partial accounts of the sources of conflict. As I will argue here, there is another conception of conflict – one tied to the idea of moral pluralism – which offers a different interpretation of this idea, and therefore prompts a reconsideration of how we justify our institutions. To show this I will review arguments concerning the origin of conflict as understood by game theory’s conception of the prisoner’s dilemma (as seen in the work of David Gauthier) and the idea of the “tragedy of the commons.” For from the perspective of pluralism, moral conflict often escapes explanation in terms of self-regard or scarcity.

Moral Pluralism and Liberal Democracy: Isaiah Berlin's Heterodox Liberalism
William A. Galston, The Review of Politics (2009), 71:85-99 Cambridge University Press
Abstract: While Isaiah Berlin considered himself principally as a political theorist in the liberal tradition, his was an unorthodox liberalism in both method and substance, rooted in the confluence of three traditions, British, Russian, and Jewish. Unlike many liberals, he wrestled with the tension between universalism and particularism, and also between individualism and communalities.

Moral Pluralism in Business Ethics Education: It is About Time, Brian K. Burton, Craig P. Dunn, Western Washington University, Michael Goldsby, Ball State University, Journal of Management Education, Vol. 30, No. 1, 90-105 (2006)
The teaching of business ethics is almost inherently pluralistic, but little evidence of explicitly pluralistic approaches exists in teaching materials besides the available decision-making frameworks. In this article, it is argued that the field needs to acknowledge and adopt pluralism as the standard pedagogical approach, whether the individual teacher uses a philosophical approach or a more applied approach, to best serve students and society.

Moral Pluralism and the Environment, Andrew Brennan
Abstract: Cost-benefit analysis makes the assumption that everything from consumer goods to endangered species may in principle be given a value by which its worth can be compared with that of anything else, even though the actual measurement of such value may be difficult in practice. The assumption is shown to fail, even in simple cases, and the analysis to be incapable of taking into account the transformative value of new experiences. Several kinds of value are identified, by no means all commensurable with one another, a situation with which both economics and contemporary ethical theory must come to terms. A radical moral pluralism is recommended as in no way incompatible with the requirements of rationality, which allows that the business of living decently involves many kinds of principles and various sorts of responsibilities. In environmental ethics, pluralism offers the hope of reconciling various rival theories, even if none of them is universally applicable.

Lawyers, Justice and the Challenge of Moral Pluralism, Katherine R. Kruse, William S. Boyd School of Law, UNLV, Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 90, No. 2, Forthcoming
Abstract: The debate over whether it serves or undermines the interests of justice for lawyers to temper the zeal of their advocacy based on considerations of morality or justice has largely been polarized between two camps: traditionalists and moralists. Traditionalists defend the amoral role of lawyers, arguing that lawyers should remain moral neutral in their representation of clients.
Instead of inquiring what a lawyer should do when asked to assist an immoral client, it asks what a lawyer should do when asked to assist a client with whom the lawyer fundamentally morally disagrees. This article focuses attention on a subject that has been largely missing from the debate among lawyering theorists: the challenge of moral pluralism.

Moral pluralism has been widely discussed in political and moral philosophy, but its implications for lawyering theory have been less fully explored. This article explores those implications by surveying what political and moral theorists say about the sources of moral pluralism, and demonstrating how those explanations lead to the creation of an internal moral perspective. The article then uses this analysis to examine the shortcomings of both the traditional model of morally neutral lawyering, and the alternative social justice lawyering models, in the face of moral pluralism. The existence of moral pluralism also alleviates the concern that lawyers will act in moral concert, thus eliminating the logical aspects of the last lawyer in town problem, and leaving only logistical concerns with the provision of legal counsel.

Moral pluralism in abortion, Gardell MA, In: Abortion and the status of the fetus, edited by William B. Bondeson, H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Stuart F. Spicker and Daniel H. Winship. Dordrecht, Netherlands, D. Reidel Publishing, 1984. (Philosophy and Medicine Volume 13)
Abstract: This discussion argues that the state of moral pluralism characterizing the abortion debate reflects an acceptance of both the implications of human reason and the obligation to reflect the autonomy of competent individuals. Considering the precedence of centuries of the imposition of moral orthodoxies by force, this acceptance is no small accomplishment.

Reproductive tourism as moral pluralism in motion, Dr G Pennings, Department of Philosophy, Free University Brussels, Pleinlaan 2, lokaal 5 C 442, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium, Journal of Medical Ethics 2002;28:337-341.
Reproductive tourism is the travelling by candidate service recipients from one institution, jurisdiction, or country where treatment is not available to another institution, jurisdiction, or country where they can obtain the kind of medically assisted reproduction they desire. Reproductive tourism comes under the broader term medical tourism.
Three possible solutions are discussed: internal moral pluralism, coerced conformity, and international harmonisation. Reproductive tourism is moral pluralism realised by moving across legal borders.