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By Bas C. Van Fraassen

An introductory, ancient survey of philosophical positions on house and time, in the course of the specific thought of relativity and the causal concept of time.

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For it highlights an explanatory challenge response-dependence theorists face if they are to escape it. And if they cannot cope with it successfully – if, in other words, they cannot come up with a rationale for treating differently conflicts that are due to moral disagreements and those that are due merely to preferences – then at the very least they are at an explanatory disadvantage compared to response-independence theorists. Response-dependence theories, then, are not refuted by my argument.

What the subjectivist needs in order to escape the Reductio Argument is a way of distinguishing in a normatively relevant way between the preferences involved in the tennis-or-movie case (where impartiality applies) and those to which morality is supposedly reduced (impartiality does not apply), and then, in the moral case, between the (preference-reducible) moral views of two disagreeing parties. Perhaps she cannot do so by relying on a response-independent truth. But she can certainly say that some preferences are more important than others, or that some moral views (or, for that matter, some preferences) are better than others, thereby (purportedly) reporting yet more preferences, and rejecting the supposed parity between the preferences to which morality is reducible and preferences for playing tennis or for catching a movie (where presumably she does not think that some preferences are better than others).

But we have to be careful here, as not all versions of response-dependence theories are even prima facie vulnerable to this argument. 25 According to such a metaethical view conjoined with impartiality, what is the appropriate way of proceeding in a situation of a conflict (of the relevant kind) that is due to a moral disagreement? In particular, is an impartial solution called for, or is it morally permissible for the disputing parties (or for some of them) to stand their moral ground? The answer, it seems to me, is “it depends”.

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