What's Wrong with Esoteric Morality

Michael Cholbi
University of Edinburgh
A moral theory T is esoteric if and only if T is true but there are some individuals who, by the lights of T itself, ought not embrace T, where to embrace T is to believe T and rely upon it in practical deliberation. Some philosophers hold that esotericism is a strong, perhaps even decisive, reason, to reject a moral theory. However, proponents of this objection have often supposed its force is obvious and have said little to articulate it. I defend a version of this objection, namely, that, in light of the strongly first-personal epistemology of benefit and burden, esoteric theories fail to justify the allocation of benefits and burdens to which moral agents would be subject under their theories. Because of the holistic nature of moral theory justification, this conclusion in turn implies that the entirety of a moral theory must be open to public scrutiny in order for the theory to be justified. I conclude by answering several objections to my account of the esotericism objection.
Keywords Ethics of belief  Esotericism  Burdens of morality
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