The Right Wrong‐Makers

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (2):426-440 (2020)
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Right- and wrong-making features ("moral grounds") are widely believed to play important normative roles, e.g. in morally apt or virtuous motivation. This paper argues that moral grounds have been systematically misidentified. Canonical statements of our moral theories tend to summarize, rather than directly state, the full range of moral grounds posited by the theory. Further work is required to "unpack" a theory's criterion of rightness and identify the features that are of ground-level moral significance. As a result, it is not actually true that maximizing value is the relevant right-making feature even for maximizing consequentialists. Focusing on the simple example of utilitarianism, I show how careful attention to the ground level can drastically influence how we think about our moral theories.

Author's Profile

Richard Y. Chappell
University of Miami


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