How to Be a Moral Fetishist

This is a new-ish paper. The paper continues my defense of the value of trying to act morally rightly. I address the popular complaint that this constitutes an objectionable “moral fetishism”. First, I suggest that many existing depictions of people trying to act rightly are caricatures displaying only the most odd or unnatural versions of this kind of motivation. Second, I argue that there is a kind of motivation by moral rightness that is extremely widespread and not at all odd or unnatural. We can see this by focusing on moral “hard cases” involving conflicts of value, in which it is unclear what the right thing to do is. I argue that, when we face a conflict between moral values and respond by deliberating about the relative importance of these values, this can only be explained by our being motivated to strike the right balance between the different values at stake. I then argue that this motivation – wanting to strike the right balance between the different values at stake – just is a species of wanting to act rightly. That is because moral rightness just is the property that an action has when it appropriately responds to all of the morally significant features of the situation. So being motivated to strike the right balance is one way for moral rightness per se to be the object of one’s motivation. If this kind of motivation constitutes “moral fetishism”, then we are all moral fetishists.

I don't yet have a version of this paper that I'm comfortable putting on the internet. But I am very happy to send copies of the current draft to interested parties! Email me: zoejk (at) umich (dot) edu