David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophical Investigations 32 (3):206-243 (2009)
I develop an anti-theory view of ethics. Moral theory (Kantian, utilitarian, virtue ethical, etc.) is the dominant approach to ethics among academic philosophers. But moral theory's hunt for a single Master Factor (utility, universalisability, virtue . . .) is implausibly systematising and reductionist. Perhaps scientism drives the approach? But good science always insists on respect for the data, even messy data: I criticise Singer's remarks on infanticide as a clear instance of moral theory failing to respect the data of moral perceptions and moral intuitions. Moral theory also fails to provide a coherent basis for real-world motivation, justification, explanation, and prediction of good and bad, right and wrong. Consider for instance the marginal place of love in moral theory, compared with its central place in people's actual ethical outlooks and decision making. Hence, moral theory typically fails to ground any adequate ethical outlook. I propose that it is the notion of an ethical outlook that philosophical ethicists should pursue, not the unfruitful and distorting notion of a moral theory.
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References found in this work BETA
Peter Singer (1993). Practical Ethics. Cambridge University Press.
W. D. Ross (2002). The Right and the Good. Clarendon Press.
Bernard Arthur Owen Williams (1985). Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Harvard University Press.
Bernard Arthur Owen Williams (1981). Moral Luck: Philosophical Papers, 1973-1980. Cambridge University Press.
Harry G. Frankfurt (1988). The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays. Cambridge University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Alan Cribb (2011). Beyond the Classroom Wall: Theorist-Practitioner Relationships and Extra-Mural Ethics. [REVIEW] Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (4):383-396.
Timothy Chappell (2012). Reflections on How We Live, by Annette Baier. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, Ix + 275 Pp. ISBN 978-0-19-957036-2 Hb £26.00. [REVIEW] European Journal of Philosophy 20 (3):502-507.
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