An Ethics of Uncertainty

Dissertation, Ucla (2011)
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Moral reasoning is as fallible as reasoning in any other cognitive domain, but we often behave as if it were not. I argue for a form of epistemically-based moral humility, in which we downgrade our moral beliefs in the face of moral disagreement. My argument combines work in metaethics and moral intuitionism with recent developments in epistemology. I argue against any demands for deep self-sufficiency in moral reasoning. Instead, I argue that we need to take into account significant socially sourced information, especially as a check for failures on our own moral intuitions and reasoning. First, I argue for an epistemically plausible version of moral intuitionism, based on recent work in epistemic entitlement and epistemic warrant. Second, I argue that getting clear on the epistemic basis shows the defeasibility of moral judgment. Third, I argue the existence of moral disagreement is a reason to reduce our certainty in moral judgment. Fourth, I argue that this effect is not a violation of norms of autonomy for moral judgment.

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C. Thi Nguyen
University of Utah


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