Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (1):23-38 (2020)

Moral theories often issue general principles that explain our moral judgments in terms of underlying moral considerations. But it is unclear whether the general principles have an explanatory role beyond the underlying moral considerations. In order to avoid the redundancy of their principles, two-level theories issue principles that appear to generalize beyond the considerations that ground them. In doing so, the principles appear to overgeneralize. The problem is conspicuous in the case of contractualism, which proposes that moral principles are grounded in generic reasons that operate in only a subset of the cases covered by the relevant principle. Arguments that motivate the use of generic reasons on the basis of guidance, institutional necessity, or fairness are unsatisfactory. But the generality of moral principles can be justified in terms of the idea of a generic interest, which is an interest that all occupants of a standpoint have in virtue of what occupants of the standpoint as such typically take an interest in. The notion of a generic interest therefore acknowledges a distinction between having and taking an interest, and its use in moral theory is a way of giving expression to the significance of autonomy. This is reminiscent of the idea of a normative power; but the idea of a generic interest is less expensive and makes better sense of the way in which autonomy features in our moral lives.
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-020-10074-3
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References found in this work BETA

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