March 16, 2010
In this paper I discuss the contemporary philosophical attack against moral theory with Martha Nussbaum's article ‘Why Practice needs Ethical Theory’ (Oxford University Press, 2000) as a point of departure. The attack which Nussbaum discusses is related to an overly restrictive idea of moral theory, according to which the task of moral theory is to produce decision procedures for moral questions. Although the critique against decision procedures in ethics is motivated, there is a risk of loosing valuable insights if a generally anti-theoretical approach is adopted. If moral theory is understood as partial, pluralist and preliminary theoretical thinking and writing about ethical questions, there will be no need to abandon theory. I discuss two defenses of moral theory; first Nussbaum's idea of moral theory as a tool for driving out prejudice, and second, an idea of moral theory as a way of systematically exploring our disparate moral intuitions. Both of these build on a pluralist conception of ethical theory.