, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 71-86

An Internalist Pluralist Solution to the Problem of Religious and Ethical Diversity

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Abstract

In our increasingly multicultural society there is an urgent need for a theory that is capable of making sense of the various philosophical difficulties presented by ethical and religious diversity—difficulties that, at first sight, seem to be remarkably similar. Given this similarity, a theory that successfully accounted for the difficulties raised by one form of plurality might also be of help in addressing those raised by the other, especially as ethical belief systems are often inextricably linked with religious belief systems. This article adumbrates a theory that is suitably sensitive to the challenge posed by cultural diversity, and that is respectful of ethical and religious differences. The theory, called “internalist pluralism,” provides a philosophical account of the widely differing claims made by religious believers resulting from the tremendous diversity of belief systems, while simultaneously yielding a novel perspective on ethical plurality. Internalist pluralism is based on Hilary Putnam’s theory of internal realism. This article is not concerned to defend internal realism against its critics, although such defense is clearly required if the theory is to be adopted. Its more modest aim is to show that internal realism has a distinctive voice to add to the current debate about how best to understand religious and ethical diversity.