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Foundations for Moral Relativism

J. David Velleman


Note de l’éditeur

A second, expanded edition of this book has been published:

Texte intégral

1At a conference in the spring of 2012, I had the pleasure of meeting William St Clair, Chairman of the Board of open Book Publishers. When he described the publishing model of OBP, i resolved at once that they must be the publishers of this book. I am grateful to OBP for taking it on, and especially to Alessandra Tosi and Corin Throsby for their work on its design and production. i am also grateful to my copyeditor, Katherine Duke, for her skillful attention to the manuscript and index.

2Chapters III through v were presented as the Carl G. Hempel Lecture series at Princeton university. they were then presented as the Hourani lectures at the state university of New York at Buffalo. i am grateful to the philosophy departments at both institutions for honoring me with their invitations and for their hospitality during my lectureships.

3A version of Chapter II was published under the title “Bodies, Selves” in American Imago 65 (2008): 405-426; before that, its title was “Artificial Agency”. An early sketch was presented at a symposium on “The Psychology of the Self” at the 2007 Pacific Division meetings of the American Philosophical Association. Subsequent versions were presented to a philosophy of mind workshop at The University of Chicago; to a conference on “Ethics, Technology, and identity” at the Centre for Ethics and Technology in Delft, the Netherlands; and to the philosophy departments of union College, syracuse university, the university of vienna, the university of Leeds, and Brown university. Thanks to Linda Brakel, imogen Dickie, Kalynne Pudner, and Kendall Walton for their valuable comments.

4Chapter iii was previously published in Philosophical Explorations on January 14, 2013, available online at​10.1080/13869795.2012.756924. An earlier version was presented at a UCLA conference in honor of Barbara Herman. The commentator on that occasion was Carol Voeller. it was also presented as a ZENO Lecture at the University of Leiden, as the John Dewey Memorial Lecture at the University of Vermont, at a workshop on truth-telling and trusting at The University of Sheffield, and to the philosophy departments of Rice university and the university of Notre Dame. thanks to audiences on all of these occasions, and also to Gabriel Abend, Alexandra Aikhenvald, Paul Boghossian, Frederique de Vignemont, Imogen Dickie, Randall Dipert, Melis Erdur, Joan Manes, Bruce Mannheim, David Owens, Herlinde Pauer-Studer, Gunter Senft, Bambi Schieffelin, Will Starr, Sharon Street, Daniel B. Velleman, and the Mid-Atlantic Reading Group in Ethics (MARGE), especially members Paul Bloomfield and Kyla Ebels-Duggan. Thanks also to my anthropology professor at Amherst College, L. Alan Babb.

5Versions of Chapter IV were presented to the philosophy departments of Colgate university, Rutgers university, Michigan State university, the University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee, the University of Vermont, Yale university, the university of Pennsylvania, Marquette university, and The City University of New York; to the Undergraduate Philosophy Forum at Columbia University; to the Phil/Sci workshop organized at the University of Vienna by Martin Kusch and Velislava Mitova; and to a workshop on normativity and truth at the University of Geneva. For help with this material, I am grateful in particular to K. Anthony Appiah, Paul Boghossian, David Braun, Stephen Darwall, Randall Dipert, Ken Ehrenberg, Don Herzog, Shelly Kagan, Alexander Nehamas, Herlinde Pauer-Studer, Gideon Rosen, and Matthew Noah Smith. Special thanks to the members of the Skype Reading Group in Ethics (SkyRGE) for repeated readings and discussions: David Owens, Nishi Shah, Matty Silverstein, and Sharon Street.

6Chapter V was previously published in Philosophical Explorations on February 11, 2013, available online at​10.1080/13869795.2013.767931. Bits of this chapter were presented at “The Pentagram of Love” at the 2008 Eastern Division Meetings of the American Philosophical Association. I am indebted to Rae Langton for a very helpful conversation about that version of the paper and for a subsequent exchange on this version. Discussions with Sharon Street helped me to abandon the first and begin on the second. Extensive written comments on the present version were provided to me by Ruth Chang, who organized the APA session. It was then presented at a colloquium organized by Nancy Yousef at The City University of New York. The lecture was also presented to the Department of Philosophy at the University of Miami and in a workshop on the ethics of family relationships at the University of Bern.

7Chapter VI benefited from a helpful conversation with Sharon Street.


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