Beyond the Bottom Line: The Theoretical Goals of Moral Theorizing

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 28 (2):277-296 (2008)
Abstract
Moral theory is no substitute for virtue, but virtue is no substitute for moral theory. Many critics of moral theory, with Richard Posner being one prominent recent example, complain that moral theory is too abstract, that it cannot generally be used to derive particular rights and wrongs, and that it does not improve people's characters. Posner complains that it is thus of no use to legal theorists. This article defends moral theory, and to some degree, philosophical inquiry in general, against such pragmatic complaints. I argue that the primary goal of moral theorizing is not pragmatic, but theoretical. Moral theory aims at explanation, at answering certain kinds of questions about morality. Moral theory is meant to deepen our insight into morality but, to count as deepening our insight, it need not provide a formula for calculating what to do in a particular circumstance, nor must it make us more virtuous. I provide an account of the scope and nature of explanation provided by moral theory as well as an account of why such explanations can be worth having, even if they were to have few pragmatic consequences.
Keywords practicality of moral theory  metaphilosophy  anti-theory in normative ethics
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 10,788
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA
Jason Brennan (2009). Polluting the Polls: When Citizens Should Not Vote. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (4):535-549.
Similar books and articles
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-05-28

Total downloads

67 ( #21,168 of 1,099,028 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

9 ( #22,488 of 1,099,028 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.