Knowledge & Moral Motivation: Getting Closer

What should our work be, here and now, as producers of knowledge? Can intellectual or academic conversations really help us figure out how to make a better world, how to be better people? Can ethics? Political theory? Can science? What does it mean to engage in the activity of knowledge production with integrity? And can philosophy itself help us answer these questions?

Most traditional philosophical views assume the relationship between knowledge and responsibility to be straightforward. When we know of a clear causal connection between our choices and harm to others, there is a direct, self-evident duty to alleviate that harm and to refrain from causing further harm. Utilitarians, deontologists, and virtue theorists agree: rationality demands that, if we want to do the right thing, and there is not much of significance competing for our attention, the right action will be obvious and attractive. In the ideal case, when we want to do the right thing, facts alone provide moral motivation. When facts show that something we value is harmed, and that our actions are contributing to that harm, knowledge is supposedly sufficient to motivate us to act so as to stop causing harm, to do the right thing.

This is Member-Only Content

To access all member-only content, choose a subscription plan.