Moral theory and its role in everyday moral thought and action

In Aaron Zimmerman, Karen Jones & Mark Timmons (eds.), Routledge Handbook on Moral Epistemology. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 387-400 (2018)
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The chapter juxtaposes the fairly quick and automatic thinking and decision making that constitutes everyday moral thought and action with the slower, more complicated, and more reflective thinking that steps beyond everyday moral thought. Various difficulties that can slow down everyday moral thought are catalogued in this paper. The paper explains how dealing with many of these difficulties leads to thinking about moral principles. And, even where there are not such difficulties, everyday moral thought can be challenged by repeated “why?” questions. Pushed far enough, such questions have to be answered by admitting ignorance or by pointing to theses about whatever ultimately makes acts morally required, permissible, or prohibited. Such theses are moral theories. As a point about moral theories, the paper ends by pointing out a respect in which everyday moral thought is more like rule-consequentialism, contractualism, foundational pluralism, and virtue ethics than everyday moral thought is like traditional act-consequentialism.

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Brad Hooker
University of Reading


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