Difficult Cases and the Epistemic Justification of Moral Belief

Oxford Studies in Metaethics 12 (2017)
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This paper concerns the epistemology of difficult moral cases where the difficulty is not traceable to ignorance about non-moral matters. The paper first argues for a principle concerning the epistemic status of moral beliefs about difficult moral cases. The basic idea behind the principle is that one’s belief about the moral status of a potential action in a difficult moral case is not justified unless one has some appreciation of what the relevant moral considerations are and how they bear on the moral status of the potential action. The paper then argues that this principle has important ramifications for moral epistemology and moral metaphysics. It puts pressure on some views of the justification of moral belief, such as ethical intuitionism and reliabilism. It puts pressure on some antirealist views of moral metaphysics, including simple versions of relativism. It also provides some direct positive support for broadly realist views of morality.

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Joshua Schechter
Brown University


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