How Morality Can Be Absent from Moral Arguments

Argumentation 30 (4):443-463 (2015)
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What is a moral argument? A straightforward answer is that a moral argument is an argument dealing with moral issues, such as the permissibility of killing in certain circumstances. I call this the thin sense of ‘moral argument’. Arguments that we find in normative and applied ethics are almost invariably moral in this sense. However, they often fail to be moral in other respects. In this article, I discuss four ways in which morality can be absent from moral arguments in the thin sense. If these arguments suffer from an absence of morality in at least one of these ways, they are not moral arguments in what I will call the thick sense of ‘moral argument’. Because only moral arguments in the thick sense could possibly qualify as proper responses to moral problems, the absence of morality in thin arguments means that these arguments will fail to give us a reason to do whatever they claim that we ought to do, even if we see no independent reason to question the truth of the premises or the logical validity of the argument.
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