Dismissive Replies to "Why Should I Be Moral?"

Social Theory and Practice 35 (3):341-368 (2009)
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The question "Why should I be moral?," taken as a request for reasons to be moral, strikes many philosophers as silly, confused, or otherwise out of line. Hence we find many attempts to dismiss it as spurious. This paper addresses four such attempts and shows that they fail. It does so partly by discussing various errors about reasons for action, errors that lie at the root of the view that "Why should I be moral?" is ill-conceived. Such errors include the mistake of confusing different uses of "moral reason for A to ΓΈ" and the mistake of treating as axiomatic, as in need of no argument, the view that moral considerations furnish every agent with practical reasons. Among the philosophers discussed are John Hospers, Philippa Foot, Stephen Toulmin, H. A. Prichard, and William Frankena.

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John J. Tilley
Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis


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