Praise without Perfection: A Dilemma for Right-Making Reasons

American Philosophical Quarterly 52 (2) (2015)
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When you don’t know what to do, you’d better find out. Sometimes the best way to find out is to ask for advice. And when you don’t know what the right thing to do is, it’s sometimes good to rely on moral advice. This straightforward thought spells serious trouble for a popular and widespread approach to moral worth: on this approach, agents deserve moral praise for a right action only if they are acting on right-making reasons. The first part of this paper argues that cases of moral advice present right-making reasons accounts with a dilemma: depending on how we make the right-making relation precise, we either have to deny that agents who seek out and follow moral advice are morally praiseworthy or we have to credit morally wrong actions by unsavory characters with moral worth. This casts doubt on the claim that acting on right-making reasons can be both necessary or sufficient for moral worth. The second half of the paper explores an alternative proposal: what’s required for moral worth is moral knowledge. This idea has been unpopular in recent literature. My aim is to show that it deserves serious consideration.



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Paulina Sliwa
University of Vienna

Citations of this work

One Desire Too Many.Nathan Robert Howard - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (2):302-317.
Moral Worth and Knowing How to Respond to Reasons.J. J. Cunningham - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 105 (2):385-405.
The Moral Worth of Intentional Actions.Laura Tomlinson - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (3):704-723.

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References found in this work

Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1785 - New Haven: Oxford University Press.
Metaphysical Dependence: Grounding and Reduction.Gideon Rosen - 2010 - In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 109-135.
On what grounds what.Jonathan Schaffer - 2009 - In David Manley, David J. Chalmers & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 347-383.
Unprincipled Virtue: An Inquiry Into Moral Agency.Nomy Arpaly - 2002 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.

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