Against Ordinary Morality

Shelly Kagan

in The Limits of Morality

Published in print April 1991 | ISBN: 9780198239161
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597848 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ethics Series

 Against Ordinary Morality

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This chapter lays out the basic elements of ordinary morality, according to which there is only a limited requirement to promote the overall good. In particular, ‘constraints’ impose restrictions on permissible means of promoting the good, and ‘options’ free us of the obligation to promote the good – even within the limits set by those constraints. We are free to make large sacrifices for others, but typically are not required to do so. This is an intuitively attractive position, but there is more involved in defending a moral view than showing its intuitive appeal. The most natural defence of options appeals to the cost to the agent of promoting the good, but this appeal leads to unacceptable results unless we can first defend constraints as well, and many straightforward attempts to defend constraints are inadequate.

Keywords: constraints; moral intuitions; options; ordinary morality; the good

Chapter.  20535 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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