Moral Worth and Consciousness: In Defense of a Value-Secured Reliability Theory

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What minimal role—if any—must consciousness of morally significant information play in an account of moral worth? According to one popular view, a right action is morally worthy only if the agent is conscious (in some sense) of the facts that make it right. I argue against this consciousness condition and close cousins of it. As I show, consciousness of such facts requires much more sophistication than writers typically suggest—this condition would bar from moral worth most ordinary, intuitively morally worthy agents. Moreover, I show that the attraction to this flavor of consciousness condition rests on mistaken assumptions about what is required for a right act to be non-accidentally right and attributable to the agent. Drawing some lessons from the discussion, I defend a Value-Secured Reliability Theory of Moral Worth and show how a minimal yet indispensable role for consciousness falls out from it. On this independently plausible theory, an action can be morally worthy even when the agent is unaware of the right-making features of her action.
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