Instead of the usual format wherein I draw that month’s guest out about a particular topic, Toby Buckle and I have a freeform conversation about why we do podcasts, the universality of fundamental moral principles, and the nature of political disagreement.
On the moral principles question, I take the position that there’s a lot less fundamental moral disagreement than we typically like to think there is. There’s plenty of superficial moral disagreement, of course. But it’s a lot harder to find crisp examples of fundamental moral disagreement, or at least so I claim.
What is superficial moral disagreement? Something like: disagreement over a specific case that doesn’t ramify very far beyond that specific case. If you and I are both vegans, and you think it’s okay to eat eggs as long as they were laid by free range chickens on a small farm who lived a happy life, but I think it isn’t, you and I can probably still get by just fine. It’s not like one of us has no way of even beginning to understand where the other is coming from. We agree about the issue we both take to be deeply important–that one should avoid consuming animal products, and we have a small quibble about exactly how that deeply important belief applies to a limited number of cases. We shouldn’t have any difficulty departing from a place of broad agreement, then trying to sort through the quibble.
I think that most of the canonical examples of (alleged) radical moral disagreement are more like the quibble between the two vegans than we typically want to admit. That is, the two parties agree about the issues they care the most about, but they differ about how those issues apply to a select number of specific cases, or perhaps about what practical measures are most likely to lead to the outcomes they both want.
What’s that? You disagree? Don’t worry–you’re in good company. Maybe we can talk about it over a coffee some time. In the meanwhile, if you’re curious to hear some of my reasons for taking this position, you can listen to this episode!