Rational Moral Ignorance

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (3):645-664 (2021)
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What should a person do when, through no fault of her own, she ends up believing a false moral theory? Some suggest that she should act against what the false theory recommends; others argue that she should follow her rationally held moral beliefs. While the former view better accords with intuitions about cases, the latter one seems to enjoy a critical advantage: It seems better able to render moral requirements ‘followable’ or ‘action-guiding.’ But this tempting thought proves difficult to justify. Indeed, whether it can be justified turns out to depend importantly on the rational status of epistemic akrasia. Furthermore, it can be argued, from premises all parties to the moral ignorance debate should accept, that rational epistemic akrasia is possible. If the argument proves successful, it follows that a person should sometimes act against her rationally held moral convictions.

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Zach Barnett
University of Notre Dame


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