The open-ended normativity of the ethical

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3 Scopus citations


In The Ethical, Project, Kitcher has three main aim: (1) to provide a naturalistic explanation of the rise of morality and of its subsequent development, (2) to supply an account of moral progress that explains progressive developments that have occurred so far and shows how further progress is possible, and (3) to propose a further progressive development-the emergence of a cosmopolitan morality-and make the case that it is a natural extension of the ethical project. I argue that Kitcher does not succeed in achieving any of these aims and that he cannot do so given the meager resources of his explanatory model. The chief difficulty is that Kitcher equivocates in his characterization of the original (and still supposedly primary) function of ethics. Although he begins by characterizing it as (a) remedying altruism failures in, order to avoid their social costs, he sometimes characterizes it instead as (b) remedying altruism failures simpliciter. Kitcher does not explain how a practice whose original function was (a) developed into one whose function is (b). Further, it appears that he cannot do so without significantly enriching his explanatory model to include a more robust account of how humans came to have the capacity to reflect on and revise norms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-94
Number of pages14
JournalAnalyse und Kritik
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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