Some Critical Comments on Zimmerman’s Ignorance and Moral Obligation

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
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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.

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

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

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  • Krister Bykvist, William MacAskill, Toby Ord, Moral uncertainty, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

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  • Zimmerman Michael , Ignorance and moral obligation, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

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