Causation and Ethics

Carolina Sartorio

in The Oxford Handbook of Causation

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199279739
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191577246 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Causation and Ethics

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  • Metaphysics
  • Moral Philosophy


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This article examines potential applications of the concept of cause to some central ethical concepts, views, and problems. In particular, it discusses the role of causation in the family of views known as consequentialism, the distinction between killing and letting die, the doctrine of double effect, and the concept of moral responsibility. The article aims to examine the extent to which an appeal to the concept of cause contributes to elucidating moral notions or to increasing the plausibility of moral views. Something that makes this task interestingly complex is the fact that the notion of causation itself is controversial and difficult to pin down. As a result, in some cases the success of its use in moral theory hinges on how certain debates about causation are resolved.

Keywords: concept of cause; consequentialism; ethics; moral responsibility; moral views; moral theories

Article.  8451 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy

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