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Bernard Gert argues that, while the moral system contains a procedure for resolving most moral disagreements, it does not allow for such resolution in all cases. For example, it does not allow for the resolution of disputes about whether animals and human fetuses should be included within the scope of those to whom the moral rules apply. I agree with Gert that not all moral debates can be resolved, but I believe that Gert does not use all the argumentative resources available to philosophers to resolve them. I argue that considerations outside the moral system proper can be used to provide argumentative support favoring some positions over their rivals in moral controversies that Gert regards as intractable. I illustrate this with reference to the abortion debate. I also argue that reaching such conclusions about the superiority of one position over rivals need not result in moral arrogance.

Keywords: Bernard Gert; abortion ethics; epistemology of ethics; moral arrogance; moral disagreement

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA, Email:

Publication date: 2007-07-01

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