Professor David Wong (Duke University) will be giving one of the keynote addresses at the Puget Sound Undergraduate Philosophy Conference on Saturday 2/13 at 5:30pm in the Tahoma Room, Commencement Hall. Here below is his abstract for the talk.
“Relativism and Ambivalence between Relationship and Autonomy”
Disagreement over moral values have long been a ground for argument as to whether there is a single true morality. Philosophers have arrived at opposite conclusions based on their analysis of the nature of moral disagreement. With very few exceptions, they have drawn their conclusions about the nature of disagreement in a largely a priori and exceedingly abstract manner. This talk is a plea for more concrete consideration of the way that values are instantiated within moral traditions such as Confucianism. I will examine in particular the implications of a Confucian ethic, as it appears in classical Confucian philosophers, for conflicts between the moral values of relationship and autonomy. I will criticize a certain stereotype of ethics that apparently values relationship and community over individual autonomy, e.g., that the individual is subordinated to the group. I will argue that a more careful consideration of how relationship is valued and the way the individual is conceived in relationship to the group can produced a warranted response of “moral ambivalence:” a weakening of confidence that there is a single correct way to resolve conflicts between all major moral values.