Moral Progress and Grand Narrative Genealogy

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1 (2024)
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In this article, I explore the method of genealogy in moral philosophy, with a focus on evaluating the credibility of moral progress judgments. Despite genealogy becoming a new trend in this field, I critique three types of defective grand narrative genealogies represented by the works of Peter Railton, Michael Huemer, and Nicholas Smyth. I argue that their genealogies fail to be adequate for evaluating moral progress judgments’ credibility. Railton’s genealogy lacks specificity regarding the relatum of the causal story he presents, Huemer’s fails to withstand the scrutiny of historical evidence, and Smyth’s gives no clear verdict on the credibility of the moral progress judgments it explains. These failures, I argue, stem from grand narratives’ neglect of the particularities in each case of moral belief emergence. The disregard for details renders grand narratives generally inadequate for credibility evaluation. Instead, I propose a case study approach that takes into account four types of particulars in each case. I argue that this approach is more methodologically adequate in evaluating the credibility of moral progress judgments since these case-specific details are essential in determining the credibility of a moral belief.



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Jinglin Zhou
Fudan University

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References found in this work

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