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Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 10$
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Russ Shafer-Landau

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198738695

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198738695.001.0001

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The Irrelevance of Moral Uncertainty

The Irrelevance of Moral Uncertainty

(p.53) 3 The Irrelevance of Moral Uncertainty
Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 10

Elizabeth Harman

Oxford University Press

Suppose you believe you’re morally required to φ‎ but that it’s not a big deal; and yet you think it might be deeply morally wrong to φ‎. You are in a state of moral uncertainty, holding high credence in one moral view of your situation, while having a small credence in a radically opposing moral view. A natural thought is that in such a case you should not φ‎, because φ‎ing would be too morally risky. The author argues that this natural thought is misguided. If φ‎ing is in fact morally required, then you should φ‎, and this is so even taking into account your moral uncertainty. The author argues that if the natural thought were correct, then being caught in the grip of a false moral view would be exculpatory: people who do morally wrong things thinking they are acting morally rightly would be blameless. But being caught in the grip of a false moral view is not exculpatory. So the natural thought is false. The author develops the claim that you should act as morality actually requires as a candidate answer to the question “how should one act in the face of moral uncertainty?” This answer has been dismissed in discussion up to this point. The author argues that not only is this answer a serious contender; it is the correct answer.

Keywords:   moral uncertainty, moral risk, false moral views, moral responsibility, blameworthiness

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