Relativism of Distance - a Step in the Naturalization of Meta-Ethics Articles uri icon

publication date

  • April 2018

start page

  • 311

end page

  • 327


  • 21

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1572-8447


  • Bernard Williams proposed his relativism of distance based on the recognition "that others are at varying distances from us". Recent work in moral psychology and experimental philosophy highlights the prevalence of folk relativism in relation to spatial and temporal distance. However, Williams' relativism of distance as well as recent empirical findings which seem to support some of Williams' main ideas on this issue have received scant attention. In this article, we would like to focus on the phenomenon of moral relativism regarding spatiotemporal distance as an entry point to the nature of folk moral relativism and the methodology of meta-ethics. To do so, we first introduce Williams' relativism of distance. Then we compare Williams' approach on this matter to recent experimental approaches on folk relativism. On this score the main result is that Williams' proposal is consistent with several well-established insights on the experimental study of folk relativism. Williams' relativism of distance is not only empirically plausible, but it is also of relevance for shaping the methodology of an empirically informed meta-ethics. We close this paper by stressing this methodological contribution.


  • bernard williams; relativism; folk-relativism; meta-ethics