Debunking Objective Consequentialism: The Challenge of Knowledge-Centric Anti-Luck Epistemology

In Michael Klenk (ed.), Higher Order Evidence and Moral Epistemology. Routledge (2020)
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I explain why, from the perspective of knowledge-centric anti-luck epistemology, objective act consequentialist theories of ethics imply skepticism about the moral status of our prospective actions and also tend to be self-defeating, undermining the justification of consequentialist theories themselves. For according to knowledge-centric anti-luck epistemology there are modal anti-luck demands on both knowledge and justification, and it turns out that our beliefs about the moral status of our prospective actions are almost never able to satisfy these demands if objective act consequentialism is true. This kind of applied moral skepticism introduces problematic limits on our ability to use objective act consequentialism’s explanatory power as evidence for its truth. This is, in part, a product of higher-order defeat as I explain in the final section. There is, however, a silver lining for objective act consequentialists. For there is at least one type of objective act consequentialism, prior existence consequentialism, that is poised to avoid at least some of the epistemic problems discussed in this paper.

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Paul Silva Jr.
University of Cologne


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