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Right Wrong-Makers (forthcoming in PPR)

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My latest paper, 'The Right Wrong-Makers', has been accepted for publication in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research!  I actually think this is the best (and most significant) paper I've written.* The basic setup:Stocker (1976) famously lamented the "moral schizophrenia", or disharmony "between one's motives and one's [normative] reasons," that he associated with modern ethical theories. Our moral theories appear to furnish us with highly abstract fundamental justifications--invoking the likes of aggregate utility, reasonable rejectability, universalizable maxims, or the balance of prima facie duties. Ordinary moral motivation, by contrast, often involves concern for particular, concrete individuals|and rightly so. This divergence between justification and apt motivation is all the more striking because many contemporary moral theorists explicitly endorse principles linking the two. Others (especially consequentialists) have responded by disavowing this link, effectively embracing the charge of schizophrenic disharmony. But I think such disavowals are a mistake. This paper offers a different kind of response to Stocker's charge. We can reject the assumption that our moral theories furnish us with highly abstract fundamental justifications, normative reasons, or moral grounds. Our theories may advert to highly abstract properties in specifying their criteria for right action: that which fills in the blank in statements of the form, "An act is right iff __." But we need not take those canonical criteria to themselves be the theory's fundamental moral grounds. Instead, I propose, we should interpret them as summarizing the full range of moral grounds posited by the theory. Highly abstract summary criteria are compatible with appropriately concrete and personal ground-level concerns. Harmony may thus be restored. The central thesis of this paper is that the moral grounds (fundamental right- and wrong-making features) posited by a theory can be. . .

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