Moral Uncertainty and Its Consequences

By Ted Lockhart | Go to book overview

Preface

In this book, I urge reforming our thinking about moral decision-making in three ways. I argue that most ethicists' views about the role our moral beliefs should play in our choices of action are inadequate in several important respects and in need of repair. If adopted, the reforms that I shall offer would greatly alter how we make moral decisions.

Chapter 1 begins by posing the question, "What shall I do when I am uncertain what I morally ought to do?" For urgent, problematic moral decisions, this is the practical quandary that we often face. I show that how we should act under moral uncertainty is not necessarily, and is often not in fact, how we morally ought to act. A surprising corollary is that even if moral considerations have paramount importance, we should not always do what we know is morally right. Whether moral considerations actually have this exalted status is a controversial issue in contemporary ethics, and I consider the possibility that they do not. However, in either event, the problems of decision-making under moral uncertainty that we face are essentially the same, whether or not we view moral considerations as always preempting nonmoral considerations.

It is reasonable to ask why, if decision-making under moral uncertainty is as important and as ubiquitous a problem as I claim, ethicists have paid virtually no attention to it? In chapter 1, I explore several possible explanations of their lack

-vii-

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Moral Uncertainty and Its Consequences
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Contents xv
  • One Decision-Making Under Moral Uncertainty 3
  • Two Principles for Decision-Making Under Moral Uncertainty 22
  • Three Abortion and Moral Uncertainty 50
  • Conclusions 72
  • Four Degrees of Moral Rightness 74
  • Conclusions 96
  • Five Shall I Act Supererogatorily? 98
  • Conclusions 110
  • Six Confidentiality and Moral Uncertainty 111
  • Conclusions 122
  • Seven a Decision-Theoretic Reconstruction of Roe V. Wade 124
  • Conclusions 140
  • Eight Long-Run Morality 143
  • Nine Retrospective 169
  • Appendix: Decisions with Uncertain Probabilities 171
  • Notes 177
  • Index 207
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