Moral principles as generics

Journal of the American Philosophical Association:1-20 (forthcoming)
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I argue that moral principles involve the same sort of generalization as ordinary yet elusive generic generalizations in natural language such as 'Tigers are striped' or 'Peppers are spicy'. A notable advantage of the generic view is that it simultaneously allows for pessimism and optimism about the role and status of moral principles in our lives. It provides a new perspective on the nature of moral principles on which principles are not apt for determining the moral status of particular actions while they may be apt, and even fundamental, to our acquisition of moral knowledge. A natural consequence of the view is variation amongst moral principles, with some regularly warranting exceptions, and some appearing arguably exceptionless. It is also argued that this generic conception of moral principles has significant advantages, as a normative model of moral reasoning, over the view of moral principles as defaults advanced in recent years.

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Ravi Thakral
University of Nevada, Reno

Citations of this work

Moral Particularism and Moral Generalism.Michael Ridge & Sean McKeever - 2016 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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A logic for default reasoning.Ray Reiter - 1980 - Artificial Intelligence 13 (1-2):81-137.
Moral Reasons.Jonathan Dancy - 1993 - Philosophy 69 (267):114-116.
Generics: Cognition and acquisition.Sarah-Jane Leslie - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (1):1-47.
The Radical Account of Bare Plural Generics.Anthony Nguyen - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1303-1331.
Reasons as Defaults.John Horty - 2007 - Philosophers' Imprint 7:1-28.

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