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9 - Moral knowledge

from Part III

Edwin Mares
Affiliation:
Victoria University of Wellington
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Summary

Moral epistemology

This is the first of four chapters on applications of theories of a priori knowledge. Moral knowledge is particularly interesting. There is no consensus among philosophers about whether moral knowledge is possible and what an object of moral knowledge is. There is, however, widespread use of the method of reflective equilibrium. The process of finding a reflective equilibrium consists of taking some putative moral principles and testing them against our moral judgements about particular situations. Those readers who have studied ethics will recognize this method. When a lecturer discusses some moral principle she will often bring up a counter-example and then discuss ways in which the principle can be modified to treat the counter-example. For example, when students are taught in their first ethics course the utilitarian principle that we should strive for the most overall happiness among people, they are almost invariably also taught a counter-example that concerns the hanging of an innocent person to calm a large crowd of people who are upset about a grisly murder. We can modify the utilitarian principle to make allowances for rights or make other changes to it. We can also defend the principle and claim that there is something wrong with the counter-example. In any case, all these moves are part of the attempt to find a point at which we have a cognitively stable moral view, and this stable view is called “reflective equilibrium”.

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A Priori , pp. 138 - 154
Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2011

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  • Moral knowledge
  • Edwin Mares, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Book: A Priori
  • Online publication: 05 February 2013
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/UPO9781844652860.010
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  • Moral knowledge
  • Edwin Mares, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Book: A Priori
  • Online publication: 05 February 2013
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/UPO9781844652860.010
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Moral knowledge
  • Edwin Mares, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Book: A Priori
  • Online publication: 05 February 2013
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/UPO9781844652860.010
Available formats
×