Principled Guidance

Sean McKeever and Michael Ridge

in Principled Ethics

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199290659
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603617 | DOI:
 Principled Guidance

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Morality is a practical matter that concerns choice and action, and a sound moral outlook should be capable of motivating someone to act virtuously. Hence, it is reasonable to expect that moral principles might play an important role in guiding action. This final chapter addresses this concern, and explains how moral principles can and should play an important role in guiding action. Moral principles can help us avoid the all too human failings of special pleading and rationalization. They can also help make certain features of situations more salient, and help structure thinking in ways more likely to lead to morally right action. Different philosophical models of principled guidance, contemporary empirical debates about the nature of moral cognition, and indeed of concept deployment more generally, are considered. It is argued that certain findings from cognitive science associated with so-called ‘prototype theory’ and ‘exemplar theory’ do not do much to undermine a robust role for moral principles in guiding the actions of a morally decent agent. Some empirical findings from ‘prospect theory’ about the effects of framing situations in one way rather than another are used to bolster the positive case for principled guidance.

Keywords: guidance; two level theories; prototype theory; exemplar theory; Wittgenstein; rules of thumb; special pleading; rationalization; prospect theory; social intuitionism

Chapter.  13358 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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