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Cudworth and Normative Explanations

by Mark Schroeder

Moral theories usually aspire to be explanatory – to tell us why something is wrong, why it is good, or why you ought to do it. So it is worth knowing how moral explanations differ, if they do, from explanations of other things. This paper uncovers a common unarticulated theory about how normative explanations must work – that they must follow what I call the Standard Model. Though the Standard Model Theory has many implications, in this paper I focus primarily on only one. It plays a crucial role in an argument originally due to Cudworth that has been widely held to conclusively establish that voluntaristic ethical theories are incoherent. But if Cudworth’s argument works, then so would similar arguments against many other moral theories. All of these theories therefore need a different model for how normative explanations can work. So I also motivate and sketch one such alternative model. The result enables us to make progress in evaluating the prospects for a successful reductive view about the normative.

ISSN 1559-3061
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