The Moral Skeptic

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22 Scopus citations


This book challenges the traditional picture of the skeptic who asks, "Why be moral?" and demands a demonstration that acting in morally required ways is rationally required. It argues that we defeat the action skeptic, as well as the disposition skeptic, who denies that being morally disposed is rationally required, and the motive skeptic, who believes that merely going through the motions in acting morally is rationally permissible. It argues, against internalism, that we address the amoralist, who is not moved by moral reasons he recognizes. It argues for expanding the skeptic's position from self-interest to privilege, to include morally unjustified behavior typically directed against disenfranchised social groups. It argues for revising the traditional expected utility model of rationality to exclude desires deformed by patriarchy as ones it is not irrational to have. It defends the Interdependency Thesis, which assesses the rationality of moral dispositions and of actions interdependently, and allows us to fine tune the demands of the skeptic by not focusing on acts and dispositions in themselves, but on their interconnection. It defends the view that our rational assessments of agents should reflect the complex connection between the agent's reasons for adopting a moral disposition, and for having and acting from it, whether these cohere with her reasons for acting and for wanting to be a morally good person, and the justification for the moral theory or principles she endorses. Acts come in degrees of rationality, as measured by how they contribute to the agent's consistent life plan.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages264
ISBN (Electronic)9780199871551
StatePublished - May 1 2009

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2009 by Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Action skeptic
  • Amoralist
  • Consistency
  • Disposition skeptic
  • Expected utility
  • Interdependency thesis
  • Internalism
  • Motive skeptic
  • Privilege
  • Self-interest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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