Some Critical Comments on Zimmerman’s Ignorance and Moral Obligation

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
View More View Less
  • 1

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


In his recent book, Michael Zimmerman continues to defend the Prospective View, according to which moral obligation depends on evidence about both empirical and evaluative factors. In my commentary, I shall first focus on Zimmerman’s framework in which different moral theories are defined and distinguished. I argue that Zimmerman fails to formulate a clear and coherent distinction between The Prospective View and the Objective View, which he rejects. Then I turn to the so-called constraint #2, a crucial premise in Zimmerman’s master argument against the Objective View. Here I argue that it should be given up so that we can give the right verdict in cases of fundamental moral uncertainty. More specifically, I shall argue that a morally conscientious agent can rationally choose the option that is guaranteed to be morally wrong in a Jackson-case of fundamental moral uncertainty. Finally, I shall argue that the Prospective View, in its most recent guise – according to which moral obligation depends on empirical and evaluative evidence the agent has actually availed herself of – has very troubling substantive implications that go against all traditional moral theories, as well as an earlier version of Zimmerman’s Prospective View.

  • Krister Bykvist, ‘Objective versus Subjective Moral Oughts,’ Uppsala Philosophical Studies 57: 39–55, (2009).

  • Krister Bykvist, ‘How to do wrong knowingly and get away with it,’ Uppsala Philosophical Studies 58, (2011).

  • Krister Bykvist, ‘Evaluative uncertainty and consequentialist environmental ethics,’ in L. Kahn and A. Hillel (eds.), Environmental ethics and consequentialism, (London: Routledge, 2014).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Krister Bykvist, William MacAskill, Toby Ord, Moral uncertainty, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

  • Graham Peter , ‘In Defence of Objectivism about Moral Obligations,’ Ethics 121 (2010), pp. 88115.

  • Rosen Gideon , ‘Review of Michael J. Zimmerman: Ignorance and Moral Obligation,’ in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2015-03-09.

  • Smith Holly , ‘The “Prospective View” of Obligation,’ Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, Discussion Note (2011), pp. 1–8.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zimmerman Michael , Ignorance and moral obligation, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 294 76 1
Full Text Views 88 10 0
PDF Views & Downloads 45 15 0