Sapientia Lecture Series

Dartmouth Events

Sapientia Lecture Series

Michael Bukoski (Dartmouth). "Some Ethical Implications of Moral Uncertainty." Free and open to all. Reception follows.

Friday, February 17, 2017
103 Thornton Hall
Intended Audience(s): Public
Categories: Lectures & Seminars

Abstract: Someone is in a situation of moral uncertainty when she is uncertain about what she morally ought to do given the non-moral facts. Some philosophers deny that moral uncertainty makes a difference to what we ought to do. Others believe that it makes a difference, but only in select applied ethics cases such as abortion and vegetarianism. In this paper I contest the latter claim by first presenting three principles for decision-making under moral uncertainty and then drawing out their implications for two substantive issues in moral and political philosophy, on the assumption that the truth about these matters is uncertain. First, I argue that they support sufficiency views of distributive justice (according to which everyone is entitled to some decent minimum of resources or well-being) over views, such as Nozickian libertarianism, that reject redistribution even for this purpose. Second, on the individual level, I argue that they support the claim of consequentialists such as Singer that we are morally required to make significant personal sacrifices in order to prevent the suffering and death of others. If correct, these arguments show that moral uncertainty has substantive implications for some central issues in moral and political philosophy.

Michael Bukoski, who recentlly completed his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Arizona, is lecturer in Philosophy here at Dartmouth for 2016-17. His primary area of research is the relationship between agency and normativity. He's interested in but somewhat skeptical about "constitutivist" attempts to explain reasons or normativity directly in terms of what is constitutive of action or agency. However, he believes that the nature of agency may nevertheless shed light on particular metaethical issues. He also has research interests in metaethics, normative ethics, and political philosophy more generally.

The Sapientia Lecture Series is funded by The Mark J. Byrne 1985 Fund in Philosophy.


For more information, contact:
Marcia Welsh
(603) 646-3738

Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.