Wow. This bloggingheads.tv interview between Will Wilkinson and UNC's Geoff Sayre-McCord is incredibly good. Sayre-McCord is a wonderfully clear and careful thinker, and Will asks him excellent, probing questions. (Can you imagine seeing such a philosophically astute discussion on regular TV? It's times like these that I really love the internet!)
One recurring issue concerns the extent to which moral statements are simply redescriptions of natural facts. Does 'Hitler was evil' say anything over and above the fact that he had a callous disregard for others' welfare, etc.? Does the goodness of our social institutions consist in anything more than the descriptive fact that they are conducive to [such-and-such specification of] human flourishing?
The problem with the negative (reductionist) answer is that it risks turning normative disputes into mere semantic disputes. Suppose one were to say: "I grant that Western freedoms are more conducive to personal development, happiness, and all that jazz, but nonetheless they are bad, because it is more important to promote obedience, piety, etc." We don't want to say they've contradicted themselves, as we must if 'good' just means 'conducive to [...]'. Their error is not linguistic. It seems there's a substantive moral question at stake here, viz. how we should organize society, or what is of ultimate value, or some such.
Granted, the tricky thing is to say what this further element of disagreement amounts to. I'm inclined to think it is the question of what moral viewpoint is most reasonable, or what all ideally rational agents would ultimately converge on at the end of inquiry. Depending on our theory of rationality, this might be further reduced to the question of what set of desires/evaluative beliefs is the most internally coherent, unified, and so forth. I think this is some sort of progress. At least it is difficult to re-raise the Open Question Argument at this level: "I grant that X is approved by the maximally coherent evaluative system, and indeed I would endorse it if I were more rational, but nonetheless I think X is wrong!" sounds pretty self-contradictory to me. But in some sense I've just passed the buck from meta-ethics to meta-epistemology, so this picture is still not entirely satisfactory.