The Best Moral Theory Ever: The Merits and Methodology of Moral Theorizing

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/195168
Title:
The Best Moral Theory Ever: The Merits and Methodology of Moral Theorizing
Author:
Brennan, Jason
Issue Date:
2007
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract:
Anti-theorists claim that moral theories do not deliver all the goods we want and that consequently such theorizing is not a philosophically worthy pursuit. We suffer from certain misconceptions about the point and purpose of such theorizing and the theories it produces. In this essay, I treat moral theorizing as a genuinely theoretical enterprise that produces abstract knowledge about the general structure of morality.Moral theories should be understood as tools--intellectual and practical tools with importantly different uses. Just as with hand tools where it is useful to have hammers for one sort of job and screwdrivers for another, it can be rational to accept multiple moral theories at the same time. The idea here is that all good theories illuminate some truths about morality, but are also misleading at times. A theory that is good at solving one moral problem may be bad at solving another; a theory that is illuminating in one place may be distorting in another.Chapter one outlines the differences between moral theory, metaethics, moral metatheory, and morality itself. It argues that disagreement about moral theory need not reflect moral disagreement, and vice versa. Chapter two argues that even if moral theory turned out to be practically useless, it would still accomplish certain theoretical tasks. Chapters three and four explain how and why one might adopt different incompatible moral theories at the same time. Chapter five defends moral principles from various particularists and shows how the imperfections of moral principles mirror the imperfections of laws in other fields. Chapter six explains why philosophical inquiry is worthwhile despite the overwhelming disagreement displayed by philosophers. Chapter seven shows that moral intuitions serve as a check on philosophical methodology just as much as methodology helps us verify our intuitions. It explains why a certain sort of psychology-based argument against deontological intuitions will not work. Finally, chapter eight explores the various ways in which moral theory is and is not practical. It concludes that the practical usefulness of theory is a matter of empirical contingency that philosophers have done little to investigate.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
ethics; metaethics; moral metatheory; metaphilosophy; philosophical methodology; multiplism
Degree Name:
PhD
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
Philosophy; Graduate College
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Schmidtz, David
Committee Chair:
Schmidtz, David

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoENen_US
dc.titleThe Best Moral Theory Ever: The Merits and Methodology of Moral Theorizingen_US
dc.creatorBrennan, Jasonen_US
dc.contributor.authorBrennan, Jasonen_US
dc.date.issued2007en_US
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.abstractAnti-theorists claim that moral theories do not deliver all the goods we want and that consequently such theorizing is not a philosophically worthy pursuit. We suffer from certain misconceptions about the point and purpose of such theorizing and the theories it produces. In this essay, I treat moral theorizing as a genuinely theoretical enterprise that produces abstract knowledge about the general structure of morality.Moral theories should be understood as tools--intellectual and practical tools with importantly different uses. Just as with hand tools where it is useful to have hammers for one sort of job and screwdrivers for another, it can be rational to accept multiple moral theories at the same time. The idea here is that all good theories illuminate some truths about morality, but are also misleading at times. A theory that is good at solving one moral problem may be bad at solving another; a theory that is illuminating in one place may be distorting in another.Chapter one outlines the differences between moral theory, metaethics, moral metatheory, and morality itself. It argues that disagreement about moral theory need not reflect moral disagreement, and vice versa. Chapter two argues that even if moral theory turned out to be practically useless, it would still accomplish certain theoretical tasks. Chapters three and four explain how and why one might adopt different incompatible moral theories at the same time. Chapter five defends moral principles from various particularists and shows how the imperfections of moral principles mirror the imperfections of laws in other fields. Chapter six explains why philosophical inquiry is worthwhile despite the overwhelming disagreement displayed by philosophers. Chapter seven shows that moral intuitions serve as a check on philosophical methodology just as much as methodology helps us verify our intuitions. It explains why a certain sort of psychology-based argument against deontological intuitions will not work. Finally, chapter eight explores the various ways in which moral theory is and is not practical. It concludes that the practical usefulness of theory is a matter of empirical contingency that philosophers have done little to investigate.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen_US
dc.subjectethicsen_US
dc.subjectmetaethicsen_US
dc.subjectmoral metatheoryen_US
dc.subjectmetaphilosophyen_US
dc.subjectphilosophical methodologyen_US
dc.subjectmultiplismen_US
thesis.degree.namePhDen_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplinePhilosophyen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorSchmidtz, Daviden_US
dc.contributor.chairSchmidtz, Daviden_US
dc.contributor.committeememberSchmidtz, Daviden_US
dc.contributor.committeememberTimmons, Marken_US
dc.contributor.committeememberGill, Michaelen_US
dc.identifier.proquest1997en_US
dc.identifier.oclc659746590en_US
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