Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Adrienne Martin

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© 2015 Matthew A. Crawford


This paper examines the popular philosophical theory of moral relativism. Traditionally, the theory argues that communities have their own conceptual frameworks of morality that are inaccessible to those outside of the community. Thus, one community cannot give another community a moral reason to change a practice. In this paper, I will examine David Velleman’s version of the theory presented in his book Foundations for Moral Relativism. This version posits that the drive towards mutual interpretability is a universal drive among human communities. From this drive stem all the practices and moral values of communities. However, Velleman does not believe that this implies that communities can understand each others’ conceptual frameworks. In this way, his account remains a normal version of moral relativism. I will argue that there are some cases in which a person can understand a different community’s conceptual framework enough to provide a reason for that community to change a practice. Importantly, my argument will not say that the reasons for change are moral reasons. They will be practical reasons based on the normative fact that human communities should strive towards mutual interpretability. Thus, my account will also maintain the crucial tenets of moral relativism. If accomplished, this argument will add a great power to the theory.