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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractMy dissertation focuses on issues of indeterminacy in ethics and the philosophy of law. My aim is to establish the existence of moral indeterminacy and to show how we can allow some degree of indeterminacy in both ethics and the law without necessarily abandoning objectivist positions that may withstand noncognitivist or legal realist criticisms. The dissertation is divided into two parts. In the first, I devote a chapter to each of three sources of moral indeterminacy. The first chapter focuses on the open texture of moral concepts. The second concentrates on value incommensurability, understood as incomparability among morally laden options. The third is devoted to what I call descriptive indeterminacy--situations where morally relevant features can be described in different, equally appropriate ways, and the moral verdict we reach will differ depending upon which description is selected. The second part of the dissertation is devoted to exploring the implications of indeterminacy for ethics and jurisprudence. Chapter Four is given over to metaethics, and is devoted to defending the compatibility of objectivism and indeterminacy. Chapter Five considers a miscellany of challenges to my conclusions in Chapter Four, and further develops the case for the compatibility of objectivism and indeterminacy. Chapter Six examines the structure of moral theories and argues that indeterminacy can be retained in either a rule-based ethic or one less sympathetic to the existence of generally-relevant moral properties. The last chapter is devoted to establishing the existence of ineliminable indeterminacy in any developed system of law.