Governing morality : a theory of moral laws




Haderlie, Derek Christian

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This dissertation develops a theory of moral laws and consists of four papers. Each paper revolves around questions of moral explanation, or what I am calling moral grounding. The first paper, "The Explanatory Ambitions of Moral Laws'', takes up the question of what role if any moral laws play in moral grounding. First, I identify a plausible deficiency in explanations that laws are supposed to remedy in grounding explanations. Namely, that without moral laws, moral explanations are quiet about how the grounds ground the grounded. I claim that laws can only remedy this deficiency is moral explanations are tripartite in structure: grounds, laws, grounded. The second paper, "Moral Laws: What They Are and What They Do'', articulates and develops a theory of the ontology, form, and role of laws. In sum, the second paper provides an account of both what moral laws are and what they do. In it, I claim that moral laws are relations which link the grounds to the grounded. I further claim that what makes laws distinctive from other sorts of relations is that they govern, or impose structure on the world. The third paper, "How To Be A Grounding Monist'', takes up a recent debate in metaphysics between the so-called pluralists and monists about grounding. The pluralist claims that there are more than one distinct kind of grounding, while the monists deny this. In this paper I argue that we should be monists, and apply the theory of laws developed in chapter two to provide an account of how we might accomodate the pluralists considerations while remaining monists. Finally, in chapter four, "The Problem of Particularism'', I present an argument for particularism, the view that there are no moral laws. The leading argument for particularism has been the argument from holism. Holism is the view that what counts as a reason in what context may not count as a reason in another context, or may even switch valence in another context. Many have come to believe that holism in no way entails particularism. Using the theory of grounding, I give an interpretation of holism, and provide a formal demonstration that holism does indeed entail particularism, with some modest assumptions. I then show how those who believe there are laws might respond to this argument.



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