Counterfactual Situations and Moral Worth

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
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What is the relevance to praiseworthiness and blameworthiness of what one would have done in other, counterfactual circumstances? I defend a moderate form of actualism: what one would have done is important, but less so than what one actually does.

  • 2

     See Thomas KeneallySchindler’s List (New York: Simon and Schuster1982) pp. 127–33 260; David Crowe Oskar Schindler (Boulder CO: Westview Press 2004) pp. 194–95. I thank Bob Adams for a discussion about Schindler that led me to ask the questions in this paper. For valuable comments I also thank Shelly Kagan Allen Wood Roger Florka Stewart Goetz Apryl Martin the anonymous referees and various audiences who heard an earlier draft of this paper. Distinguishing between morally trivial and morally non-trivial differences may be difficult in some cases. I will not distinguish the two in any precise way; I trust that our sense of the difference is reliable enough in most cases for the claims I want to make in this paper.

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  • 17

    KantReligion within the Bounds of Reason Alone 6:47. (I will cite Kant’s works by volume and page of the German Academy edition which are indicated in the margins of most current translations.)

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  • 23

    Keneally pp. 173 370; Crowe p. 626.

  • 26

    Keneally pp. 49–55; Crowe pp. 89–91.

  • 27

    Keneally p. 48; Crowe pp. 99–102.

  • 28

    Keneally pp. 126–33; Crowe pp. 192–95. Crowe believes Schindler’s moral transformation was somewhat more gradual (Crowe pp. 128–32 177 194–95 624–25).

  • 32

    KantGroundwork 4:394.

  • 34

     See William Hasker“A Refutation of Middle Knowledge,” Nous 20:4 (December 1986) pp. 545–57. See also Robert M. Adams “Middle Knowledge and the Problem of Evil” American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (1977) pp. 109–17.

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  • 40

    John Doris“Persons, Situations, and Virtue Ethics,” Noûs 32:4 (1998) pp. 504–30; Lack of Character (New York: Cambridge University Press 2002); Gilbert Harman “Moral Philosophy Meets Social Psychology: Virtue Ethics and the Fundamental Attribution Error” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 99 (1999) pp. 315–31; “The Nonexistence of Character Traits” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 100 (2000) pp. 223–26. Doris’s position is more subtle and careful than Harman’s; for instance Doris concedes that there is significant cross-situational consistency among people with respect to “beliefs goals values and attitudes” (Lack of Character p. 87).

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  • 42

    Kelly Sorensen“The Paradox of Moral Worth,” The Journal of Philosophy 101:9 (September 2004) pp. 465–483; “Effort and Moral Worth” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13:1 (2010) pp. 89–109. See also Robert M. Adams A Theory of Virtue (New York: Oxford University Press 2006).

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  • 43

     See for instance Harman“Moral Philosophy Meets Social Psychology” p. 316 and Doris “Persons Situations and Virtue Ethics” p. 506.

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