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Moral Context, Moral Complicity And Ethical Theory

Daniel F. Hartner
From the journal SATS

Abstract

One of the dominant traditions in normative ethics is characterised by the attempt to develop a comprehensive moral theory that can distinguish right from wrong in a range of cases by drawing on a philosophical account of the good. Familiar versions of consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics have emerged from this tradition. Yet such theories often seem to lack the resources needed to evaluate the broader contexts in which moral dilemmas arise, which may cause them to encourage moral complicity. Context-insensitive complicity of this sort receives surprisingly little direct philosophical attention, despite its being a ubiquitous concern for ordinary moral agents and despite the threat it poses to this form of ethical theorising. The present paper sketches the problem more formally and canvasses some leading responses before locating its source in the implicit distinction between moral and non-moral domains at the root of much traditional normative theorising.


Corresponding author: Daniel F. Hartner, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, 5500 Wabash Avenue, Terre Haute, IN 47803, USA, E-mail:

Acknowledgement

Thank you to an anonymous reviewer and to the editors of this volume — Cecilie Eriksen and Anne-Marie Søndergaard Christensen – for their helpful criticisms of this paper.

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Published Online: 2020-11-30
Published in Print: 2020-11-25

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