Moral Principles Are Not Moral Laws

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 2 (3):1-22 (2007)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

What are moral principles? The assumption underlying much of the generalism–particularism debate in ethics is that they are (or would be) moral laws: generalizations or some special class thereof, such as explanatory or counterfactual-supporting generalizations. I argue that this law conception of moral principles is mistaken. For moral principles do at least three things that moral laws cannot do, at least not in their own right: explain certain phenomena, provide particular kinds of support for counterfactuals, and ground moral necessities, “necessary connections” between obligating reasons and obligations. Moreover, neither a best-systems theory of moral principles nor any of the competing theories of moral principles proposed by Sean McKeever and Michael Ridge, Pekka Väyrynen, and Mark Lance and Margaret Little could vindicate the law conception of moral principles. I conclude with some brief remarks about what moral principles might be if they are not moral laws.

Similar books and articles

Moral Principles As Moral Dispositions.Luke Robinson - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 156 (2):289-309.
Usable moral principles.Pekka Väyrynen - 2008 - In Vojko Strahovnik, Matjaz Potrc & Mark Norris Lance (eds.), Challenging Moral Particularism. Routledge. pp. 75-106.
Moral particularism.Brad Hooker & Margaret Olivia Little (eds.) - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Moral Particularism.Pekka Väyrynen - 2011 - In Christian Miller (ed.), Continuum Companion to Ethics. Continuum. pp. 247-260.

Analytics

Added to PP
2010-07-02

Downloads
511 (#37,158)

6 months
25 (#116,053)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Luke Robinson
Southern Methodist University

Citations of this work

Reasons and Moral Principles.Pekka Väyrynen - 2018 - In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press. pp. 839-61.
Moral Particularism and Moral Generalism.Michael Ridge & Sean McKeever - 2016 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Moral principles as generics.Ravi Thakral - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association:1-20.
Another Particularism: Reasons, Status and Defaults.Alan Thomas - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (2):151-167.
Moral Principles As Moral Dispositions.Luke Robinson - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 156 (2):289-309.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Nature's capacities and their measurement.Nancy Cartwright - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Right and the Good. Some Problems in Ethics.W. D. Ross - 1930 - Oxford: Clarendon Press. Edited by Philip Stratton-Lake.
The Methods of Ethics.Henry Sidgwick - 1874 - Bristol, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Emily Elizabeth Constance Jones.
Laws of nature.Fred I. Dretske - 1977 - Philosophy of Science 44 (2):248-268.
The Right and the Good.Some Problems in Ethics.W. D. Ross & H. W. B. Joseph - 1933 - Journal of Philosophy 30 (19):517-527.

View all 32 references / Add more references