Professor Timothy Williamson of New College, Oxford is widely regarded as the greatest living analytic philosopher in the world. It was thus a great honour for Wotton’s to host him and hear his address entitled ‘Morally Loaded Cases in Philosophy’.
Professor Williamson considered four philosophical positions in his talk: relativism, scepticism, internalism, and externalism. He argued that, for the first three of these positions, ‘morally loaded’ cases present serious challenges. For example, the radical sceptic takes themselves to be sceptical of most of the claims that the rest of us take for granted. Professor Williamson pointed out that whilst the sceptic is generally willing to claim that they are sceptical of, say, the existence of the external world or of epistemic truth claims, they are much less inclined to admit to being sceptical about, say, the existence of the Holocaust or the justification of neo-Nazism (‘morally loaded’ cases). This, he argued, presents a problem for the sceptic.
Professor Williamson considered counter-arguments and concluded that externalism is the only position of the four capable of dealing with morally loaded cases. The meeting was very well attended and the boys enjoyed lively debate in the Q&A.
With thanks to the Provost for hosting us in Election Chamber.