Beyond the Bottom Line: The Theoretical Goals of Moral Theorizing

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 28 (2):277-296 (2008)
  Copy   BIBTEX

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.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,283

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The Oxford handbook of ethical theory.David Copp (ed.) - 2006 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Ethics Beyond Moral Theory.Timothy Chappell - 2009 - Philosophical Investigations 32 (3):206-243.
Idealizing Morality.Lisa Tessman - 2010 - Hypatia 25 (4):797 - 824.
Moral philosophy and moral psychology in mencius.James A. Ryan - 1998 - Asian Philosophy 8 (1):47 – 64.
Moral Theory and Theorizing in Health Care Ethics.Hugh Upton - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (4):431-443.

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-05-28

Downloads
149 (#127,423)

6 months
14 (#184,862)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Jason Brennan
Georgetown University

Citations of this work

Polluting the Polls: When Citizens Should Not Vote.Jason Brennan - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (4):535-549.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references