Ethical Emergentism and Moral Causation

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
Author: Ryan Stringer1
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  • 1 Department of Philosophy, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, ca, United States,
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This paper focuses on a recently articulated, emergentist conception of ethical naturalism and its commitment to causal efficacy, or the idea that moral properties have causal powers, along with its supporting commitment to moral causation. After I reconstruct the theory, I explain how it offers some interesting theoretical benefits to moral realists in virtue of its commitment to causal efficacy. Then, after locating some examples of moral causation in support of this commitment, I present and respond to five objections to such causation, which all threaten to undermine this support. Lastly, I consider a very serious problem that the theory faces in virtue of positing emergent moral properties as responsible for moral causation – namely, the problem of downward moral causation. I describe this problem in detail and argue that, as it stands, it does not spell doom for the theory.

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