Moral Commitment and Moral Theory

Journal of Philosophical Research 26:381-398 (2001)
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This paper examines the nature of what I call moral commitment: that is, a standing commitment to live up to moral demands. I first consider what kind of psychological state moral commitment might be, arguing that moral commitment is a species of commitment to a counterfactual condition. I explore the general structural features of attitudes of this type in order to shed light on how moral commitment might function in an agent’s motivational economy. I then use this understanding of moral commitment to respond to charges raised by prominent critics of moral theory; I argue that the counterfactual-condition account of moral commitment can successfully defuse the worries they express about the effects of moral commitment on one’s other attachments. In the final section, I suggest that these attractive general results may not be available to the consequentialist, which, if true, is a count against consequentialism.



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Sarah Stroud
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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