Battlepanda thinks there aren't any objective moral facts, and so she's defying Dr. Velleman and calling herself a relativist. This reminds me of one of the big reasons why people think they're relativists -- they're unaware of the broad set of options besides objective realism and relativism. Judging from panda's post, I think she's an error theorist rather than a relativist. Let me go through two anti-objective-realist options other than relativism:
Error theory: Panda likens moral properties to Santa Claus and God, and this makes me think she's an error theorist rather than a relativist. The error theorist usually thinks our concept of a moral property is the concept of something objective. In other words, if there were moral properties, they'd be objective entities. Santa Claus, if he existed, would be an objective entity. If he existed, everyone would be speaking a truth if they said "Santa Claus delivers gifts" in their language. But the error theorist also thinks that the property of being morally right is absent from our world, just as the property of being Santa Claus is absent. This is why it's called error theory -- you hold that everyone who makes positive moral claims is in error. Battlepanda is an error theorist about Santa Claus and God, and maybe she should call herself an error theorist about morality as well.
I think many people who call themselves relativists are actually error theorists. They aren't saying that the truth-conditions of moral judgments depend on the speaker or the agent. They're trying to say that there aren't facts out there which can make moral judgments true. There are several motivations for this view. You might be perplexed about what sort of thing a moral property could be, or you might think the irresolvability of moral disagreement is a sign that we aren't latching onto any real properties in the world.
Non-cognitivism: Most people are cognitivists about morality -- they think that moral judgments express beliefs. Beliefs are truth-evaluable states -- it makes sense to talk about them being true or false. Other mental states of ours, like desires, are non-truth-evaluable. While a desire can be satisfied or unsatisfied, that's a whole different matter from being true or false. The non-cognitivist thinks that moral judgments express non-truth-evaluable mental states. These might be emotions, desires, or norm-acceptances (this last one was invented by Michigan ethics superstar Allan Gibbard). Non-cognitivism often has the benefit of making it easier to explain how our moral judgments motivate us to act. It can also allow you to retain talk of morality without requiring you to say there are any moral properties out there.
So if you're trying to figure out what your metaethical views are, the decision tree goes like this:
-First, decide if you think moral judgments express truth-evaluable mental states. If so, you're a cognitivist. If not, you're a non-cognitivist.
-Second, if you're a cognitivist, decide if you think relativism is part of our moral concepts. If not, you're an objectivist*. If you think moral judgments refer back to the speaker or the agent or their culture in the way Velleman talked about, you're a relativist.
-Third, if you're a cognitivist, figure out if the world includes the stuff that moral judgments are about. If so, you're a realist. If not, you're an error theorist.
Personally, I'm an objective realist. I take error theory more seriously than just about any objective realist that I've met, and I'm sensitive to the arguments in its favor. I just think we have a special way of knowing that pleasure is good and pain is bad, which gets us around problems in moral epistemology that trouble other ethical theories. Were it not for this, I'd be one of the few error theorists in today's philosophy world. As things stand, I'm one of the few Benthamite utilitarians.
*By objectivism I mean the view that our moral concepts are about something objective (non-relative). I don't mean the Ayn Rand junk. Stay away from the Ayn Rand junk.
Update: I've fixed the post so that "objectivist" is consistently used to refer to a view about moral concepts. Error theorists count as objectivists now. This makes the title not so apt, but oh well.
Update2: Attention Battlepanda scholars: I have since recanted the view that Panda is an error theorist. I still don't think she's a relativist in the sense that Velleman and I were talking about. Most likely, her talk of being a relativist shouldn't be read as a commitment to that position.
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