Moral individualism and relationalism: A narrative-style philosophical challenge

Journal article

Coghlan, Simon. (2016) Moral individualism and relationalism: A narrative-style philosophical challenge. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. 19(5), pp. 1241 - 1257.
AuthorsCoghlan, Simon

Morally unequal treatment of different nonhuman species, like pigs and dogs, can seem troublingly inconsistent. A position Todd May calls moral individualism and relationalism appears to justify the moral discomfit attending such species-differentiated treatment. Yet some of its basic assumptions are challenged by a philosophical style Roger Scruton called narrative philosophy. Expanding upon Christopher Cordner’s discussion of narrative philosophy, this paper develops a narrative-style philosophical critique of Todd May’s moral individualism and relationalism, especially its reductionist understanding of moral reasons, consistency, and relevance. Such criticism opens up the possibility that the unequal treatment of nonhuman species like pigs and dogs is perfectly consistent and even justified. However, the paper then presents a narrative-style argument that such species-differentiated treatment may be morally inconsistent and unjustified after all.

KeywordsNarrative philosophy; Moral individualism; Relationalism; Nonhuman animals; Moral consistency; Moral relevance; Todd May; Raimond Gaita; Cora Diamond
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Journal citation19 (5), pp. 1241 - 1257
PublisherKluwer Academic Publishers
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Scopus EID2-s2.0-84968648394
Page range1241 - 1257
Research GroupSchool of Philosophy
Place of publicationNetherlands
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