A unificationist vindication of moral explanation

Philosophical Forum 42 (2):131-146 (2011)
Abstract
There are two putative disanalogies between moral explanations and other sorts of higher-order explanations. First, moral properties epistemically depend on their non-normative base properties. Some might thus argue that the explanatory role of moral properties entirely derive from the role of non-normative base properties. Second, moral explanations seem to be characteristically mediated by our moral beliefs, attitudes, and sensibilities, etc., in a way in which most higher-order explanations are not. It could thus be argued that alleged moral explanations are just an elliptical form of psychological explanation. These arguments against moral explanation don’t seem to challenge many other kinds of higher-order explanations. In my paper, I attempt to show that the two putative disanalogies do not in the end raise serious challenges to the explanatory efficacy of the moral. In doing so, I appeal to a unificationist account of explanation to vindicate the explanatory efficacy of moral properties. I argue that moral facts or properties can have explanatory power due to their distinctive unifying role (even if they are irreducible to non-normative properties).
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