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Abstract: Despite all the attention given to Kants universalizability tests, one crucial aspect of Kants thought is often overlooked. Attention to this issue, I will argue, helps us resolve two serious problems for Kants ethics. Put briefly, the first problem is this: Kant, despite his stated intent to the contrary, doesnt seem to use universalization in arguing for duties to oneself, and, anyway, it is not at all clear why duties to oneself should be grounded on a procedure that envisions a world in which everyone wills the contrary of those duties. The second, more global problem is that if we follow Barbara Herman in holding that Kantian ethics can provide a structure for moral deliberation, we need an interpretation of the universalization procedure that unproblematically allows it to generate something like prima facie duties to guide that deliberation; but it is not at all clear that we have such an interpretation. I argue here that if we expand our limited way of thinking about universalization, we can solve the first problem and work towards a solution to the second. We can begin by recalling that Kants Law of Nature formulation (FLN) of the Categorical Imperative obligates us to act as if the maxim of your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature (G, 421)
Abstract: Let the Guidance Constraint be the following norm for evaluating ethical theories: Other things being at least roughly equal, ethical theories are better to the extent that they provide adequate moral guidance. I offer an account of why ethical theories are subject to the Guidance Constraint, if indeed they are. We can explain central facts about adequate moral guidance, and their relevance to ethical theory, by appealing to certain forms of autonomy and fairness. This explanation is better than explanations that feature versions of the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. In closing, I address the objection that my account is questionable because it makes ethical theories subject not merely to purely theoretical but also to morally substantive norms. (Published Online August 21 2006)
Abstract: One prominent strand in contemporary moral particularism concerns the claim of "principle abstinence" that we ought not to rely on moral principles in moral judgment because they fail to provide adequate moral guidance. I argue that moral generalists can vindicate this traditional and important action-guiding role for moral principles. My strategy is to argue, first, that, for any conscientious and morally committed agent, the agent's acceptance of (true) moral principles shapes their responsiveness to (right) moral reasons and, second, that if so, then those principles can contribute non-trivially to some reliable strategy for acting well that is available for use in the agent's practical thinking. My defense of these two claims appeals to an account of moral principles as a kind of hedged principles which I defend elsewhere, but my general line of argument should be acceptable to many other forms of generalism as well. I defend the epistemic significance of hedged principles in moral deliberation, and argue that the need for sensitivity to particulars in moral judgment doesn't supplant principles in moral guidance. I finish by arguing that the generalist model of moral guidance developed here isn't undermined by evidence from cognitive science about how we make moral judgments in actual practice, and that it compares favorably to particularism with respect to its capacity to offer adequate moral guidance