From Moral Knowledge to Default Principles

Sean McKeever and Michael Ridge

in Principled Ethics

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199290659
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603617 | DOI:
 From Moral Knowledge to Default Principles

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This chapter argues that the bare possibility of moral knowledge in particular cases is already enough to ensure the availability of a certain sort of ‘hedged’ moral principle called a ‘default principle’. Default principles are consistent with holism about reasons because they claim that a given action has a given moral property only if no further feature of the situation explains why it does not. One obvious worry about this proposal is that default principles are vacuous (trivially true). This worry bears interesting parallels to worries about ceteris paribus laws in science. It is argued that once default principles are properly understood, this worry is easily met. The key point is to distinguish there being an explanation for a moral property’s absence from its absence being explained by some feature of the situation.

Keywords: moral knowledge; default principle; ceteris paribus principle; hedged principle; holism; prima facie duty; reason; vacuity objection; triviality

Chapter.  12923 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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