A Theory of Hedged Moral Principles

In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 4. Oxford University Press 91-132 (2009)
This paper offers a general model of substantive moral principles as a kind of hedged moral principles that can (but don't have to) tolerate exceptions. I argue that the kind of principles I defend provide an account of what would make an exception to them permissible. I also argue that these principles are nonetheless robustly explanatory with respect to a variety of moral facts; that they make sense of error, uncertainty, and disagreement concerning moral principles and their implications; and that one can grasp these principles without having to grasp any particular list of their permissibly exceptional instances. I conclude by pointing out various advantages that this model of principles has over several of its rivals. The bottom line is that we should find nothing peculiarly odd or problematic about the idea of exception-tolerating and yet robustly explanatory moral principles.
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