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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evidence in moral theory and the grounding of reflective equilbrium Craimer, Avi


This work articulates and defends an evidence based account of moral epistemology called Case Evidentialism. From this account, we can explain and justify the bidirectional revision of moral judgments and moral principles that is advocated by the promising methodological doctrine called Reflective Equilibrium. The thesis begins with a survey of meta-ethics in order to find compelling views to represent the meta-ethical camps of realism, subjectivism, and non-cognitivism. I then argue that these three meta-ethical viewpoints imply a common account of moral evidence called Case Evidentialism. In this account, the contents of our moral judgments are evidentially supported without inference from another claim. In contrast, moral principles are only supported as generalizations inferred from the contents of our moral judgments. Inference from well supported moral generalizations may overrule moral judgments. Therefore, the bidirectional revision of moral principles and moral judgments advocated by Reflective Equilibrium can be grounded in Case Evidentialism. In the third chapter, I address a series of challenges to the use of moral judgments in moral theorizing which originates in the work of R.M. Hare. I argue that Case Evidentialism has a powerful response to each challenge. In Chapter 4, I look at the doctrines associated with moral particularism. Some of these doctrines imply a scepticism about moral principles that is at odds with Reflective Equilibrium and Case Evidentialism. I explain and criticize the particularist's arguments against moral principles, concluding that particularist scepticism about moral principles is unsustainable. I also show that there may nevertheless be moral theoretic insight within the particularisms arguments. Finally, in Chapter 5, I consider whether Case Evidentialism would be acceptable to advocates of Reflective Equilibrium. Although there are some differences between the methodological implications of Case Evidentialism and those of classic Reflective Equilibrium, I argue that Case Evidentialism does a better job explaining most of Reflective Equilibrium's methodological precepts than the standard interpretation. Further, those elements of Reflective Equilibrium which are not captured by Case Evidentialism are epistemologically unattractive.

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