From Non-Usability to Non-Factualism

Analysis 81 (4):747-758 (2022)
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Holly Smith has done more than anyone to explore and defend the importance of usability for moral theories. In Making Morality Work, she develops a moral theory that is almost universally usable. But not quite. In this article, I argue that no moral theory is universally usable, in the sense that is most immediately relevant to action, even by agents who know all the normative facts. There is no moral theory knowledge of which suffices to settle deliberation about what to do. However, this is unsurprising if the question of what to do is not a question of fact. One upshot of the discussion is that the search for a universally usable moral theory is misconceived. Another is that, contra Smith (341), agents who are radically uncertain need not lack autonomy.

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Justin Clarke-Doane
Columbia University


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