Moral Principles: Their Justification
MORAL PRINCIPLES: THEIR JUSTIFICATION
The problem of how, if at all, we could set about justifying assertions about what we ought to do in various practical situations is one that has been the major concern of moral philosophers. Such basic questions are indeed endemic in most branches of philosophy. We ask not only if we can ever know what we ought to do but whether we can justify our claims to knowledge of an external world, how we can know the truth of statements about the past, or whether we can ever be sure of the existence of minds other than our own. But in ethics the problem seems more recalcitrant and, indeed, to many nonphilosophers at least, more real. For while skepticism about the existence of an external world or of other minds may seem difficult to refute, to most it is impossible to embrace, whereas skepticism about the possibility of claiming knowledge of any objective truths about what we ought to do is not so rare, either among men in general or those who would wish to characterize themselves as philosophers.
It is not, of course, surprising that this should be so. Ethical attitudes vary much more, from society to society and even between individuals, than do our beliefs about the external world or other people's feelings. The patent fact of ethical disagreement forces us to reexamine the bases of our moral beliefs. Furthermore, the disagreements we encounter concerning moral issues often seem to involve deep matters of principle that leave no common ground between the disputants. This is sometimes referred to as the problem of disagreement about ultimate moral principles. It is this problem—whether ultimate moral principles are susceptible of rational justification—that will be examined in this article.
Most philosophers would agree that the particular way in which a philosophical problem is formulated will make a great deal of difference to what solution is possible to it or, indeed, whether any solution is possible. It will be necessary therefore to set out in detail what is meant by a disagreement about ultimate moral principles and to defend this way of expressing the issue against certain objections before a possible solution is set out.
A "man of principle" is sometimes thought of, with distaste, as a man who acts in accordance with a fixed set of rules, ignoring the complexities of the situation and failing to adapt his behavior to changing circumstances. The morality of principles and rules is sometimes contrasted with the morality of sensibility, which emphasizes such virtues as sympathy and integrity as against a rigid code of behavior. In either kind of morality, however, particular judgments will have to be made, based on a view of the situation in which the agent acts, and some factors in the situation will have to be regarded as reasons for acting in one way rather than another. There is, therefore, a more general sense of "moral principle," which can be regarded as common to both views, in which a moral principle indicates some factor that is generally relevant to what ought to be done.
Moral principles can then be regarded as statements picking out those factors of situations that can be appealed to as moral reasons. "Lying is wrong" suggests that the fact that a statement is known to be false is a reason for not making it to someone. "Adultery is wrong" suggests that the fact that someone is married is a reason for his refraining from sexual intercourse with any person who is not his spouse. And, again, "One ought to be kind" suggests that there are reasons for performing kind actions rather than unkind ones. Asserting a moral principle of this kind and denying the suggestion about reasons results in paradox. Thus, for example, if somebody says "Lying is wrong, but the fact that a statement constitutes a lie is no reason whatsoever for not making it," he seems to have taken back in the second half of his sentence what he asserted in the first.
If saying that someone ought to do something commits one to claiming that there is some fact in the situation that is a reason for doing the thing in question, then this reason must be subject to the requirement that reasons in general must satisfy: that anything that is a reason in any one case must be a reason in every case unless there are other special reasons for ignoring it. This applies to reasons generally, not just to moral reasons. For example, if the fact that it is raining is a reason for saying Smith will get wet, it is a reason for saying anyone else will unless there are some relevant differences in their cases, such as being indoors or carrying an umbrella. It is this that leads to the claim that moral principles must be universal, at least to the degree that they pick out factors that are universally relevant to what we ought to do, although not necessarily universally determining what we ought to do in every particular case. Thus it would seem that the correctness of the universal moral principle involved—or, in other words, that what is appealed to as a reason should indeed be a reason—is a necessary although not a sufficient condition of the correctness of the particular judgment about what ought to be done.
justification of moral judgments
If the correctness of universal moral principles is a condition of the correctness of particular moral judgments, then obviously the first question we must ask in investigating how our particular moral judgments can be justified is, How can we justify claiming that certain moral principles are correct? There are, however, some objections to this way of treating the problem that must be considered.
It may be pointed out that value judgments in other areas do not seem to require justification by reference to some universally relevant factors. And if we are willing to allow that in other realms of value there are judgments that do not require to be backed by universal principles, why not in morals? For example, there are very considerable difficulties in representing judgments about the value of a work of art as being backed by or dependent on principles at all. It may be impossible, when we say some work of art is good, to indicate any feature the possession of which is bound to make any other work of art good. (One might be tempted to say that beauty is such a feature. But this is unconvincing because one is using the term either narrowly, in which case there are plenty of good works of art that one would never describe as beautiful, or so widely that it means only "good in the way that a work of art is good.") Surely, however, it must be agreed that the goodness of anything, including a work of art, depends on what qualities it has, however difficult it may be to say in a given case precisely what qualities it has that make it good. And in order to begin to justify the judgment that something is good, one must refer to its qualities; one cannot draw anyone's attention to the goodness itself. If it is proper to refer to these qualities to back one's claim that the object is good, then it is at least to the point to ask why something else, which has the same qualities, is not good. If such a question is to the point, it shows that we accept that the possession of certain qualities is being put forward as a general reason for saying that the object is good.
Even if this is correct, however, it is clear that the features by virtue of which any given work of art is judged to be good tend to be many, complicated, and organically related. Although any feature pointed to in support of a judgment that a work of art is good must also be relevant to the criticism of other works of art, there may be in every other case many other relevant factors that alter the situation completely. The same thing might be claimed for moral cases. It may be said that every human situation is infinitely complicated, so that however many relevant features one may pick out in a particular case, there will always be a host of others that can be set against them. Such considerations would lead not so much to a denial of the universality of morally relevant features as to doubt about the utility of stating the problem in terms of principles. To this there are two answers.
First, it would be against common sense to claim, for example, that the wanton murder of children is not wrong. Even where other features that are regarded as morally relevant are also present—such as that one had promised one's old mother on her deathbed to try to exterminate the Jews—few would regard them as justifying child murder. So anyone who persists in claiming that it is always possible that such actions as child murder may be justified because of the complex character of every particular human situation is, at best, someone who has an unusual moral outlook, and this means that his very claim that every situation is so complicated that no general principles can be admitted is dependent on his having a different set of moral principles from most people's. So even to consider whether this objection is correct, we still have to ask which general principles are justifiable.
Second, we have already remarked that moral principles will be a necessary but not a sufficient condition of the correctness of our particular moral judgments. Although on their own they may never be sufficient to solving all moral problems, they will certainly be necessary to our having any moral problems at all. This may be illustrated in terms of a case mentioned by Jean-Paul Sartre. A young man has a dilemma. Should he join the French Resistance, or should he stay at home and look after his aging mother? Sartre points out that no rehearsal of general principles would ever serve to solve such a problem. This is no doubt true, but it does not show that the correctness of such principles is not relevant. For why is the young man worried about only those two possibilities? There are plenty of other things he could do. He could learn tightrope walking or set up as an ice-cream vendor or enlarge his earlobes with brass rings. But these are obviously of no importance, whereas looking after the old mother and joining the resistance are important. Why is Sartre's case serious and dramatic and the other suggestions frivolous and silly? Why does it matter what the young man does, to himself or to anyone? There can surely be no problem at all unless such things as joining the resistance (defending one's country) or looking after the old mother (kindness to a dependent) are morally relevant features of the situation—unless they are things that it is reasonable to consider in deciding what to do. And if there are morally relevant features in the situation, there are corresponding moral principles. If these principles are not correct (and, indeed, there are those who would question patriotic principles), then there is no problem, or at least not the same problem.
A different kind of objection can be disposed of very briefly. It is that as a matter of experience, we do not think in terms of principles. Rather, on particular occasions we simply know instinctively what is right. Now this may very well be true or perhaps true for a number of people. However, the question at issue is not a psychological one about the kind of process that goes on before a moral judgment is made; it is a philosophical one about how we may justify making the moral judgments we do make, by whatever psychological process we make them. Whatever goes on in the heads of mathematicians, it is still Euclid's proofs alone that can justify Euclid's theorems.
Ultimate Moral Principles
Moral principles in the sense adumbrated above will be of varying degrees of generality, and some will be held to be more fundamental than others. For example, the principle that one ought not to commit adultery may be defended on the ground that adultery is inimical to the stability of the family. In terms of reasons for acting, this can be put as follows. The fact that someone is married is held to be a reason for his refraining from sexual intercourse with anyone other than his spouse. But why is this a reason? Because, it might be said, in fact sexual infidelity is apt to break up the unity of the family. Such an argument would, of course, presuppose that the fact that something is apt to disrupt the family is a reason for avoiding it or, in other words, that one ought not to disrupt the family. Thus the principle "One ought not to commit adultery" would be regarded as less fundamental than the principle "One ought not to disrupt the unity of the family." In the process of trying to justify particular moral judgments, we will usually find ourselves trying to show that certain necessary conditions of their correctness, our moral principles, have further necessary conditions in terms of more fundamental moral principles. The process will usually be much more complicated than I have represented it; in justifying a less fundamental moral principle, we will usually find a variety of more fundamental moral principles coming into play. But however complicated such a process may be, it is obvious that we cannot suppose it to go on forever. At some point we should reach some principles that we regard as the most fundamental. For example, we might want to say that we do not claim that one ought to be kind because this follows from some further principle; we ought to be kind because we ought, and that is an end to the matter. These we may call ultimate moral principles, and their correctness is a necessary condition of the correctness of all other moral judgments. Unless some such ultimate moral principles can be shown to be justifiable, no other moral judgments can be shown to be justifiable.
Some philosophers hold that this representation of the matter is utterly mistaken and, indeed, that it is precisely because of this "justificationist" view that so many philosophers despair of finding an answer and become ethical skeptics. If, it is argued, moral principles are regarded not as first premises from which a moral system is deduced but as conjectures that can be altered and amended by subsequent moral experience, we at least have a method of correcting our moral attitudes that will justify us in claiming that they are more or less rationally defensible. It will not be possible to do this view justice in a small space. It can only be said here that the major difficulty with this view is that the test of the moral principle is taken to be the particular judgments we are inclined to make, particular judgments that conflict with the supposed principle and thus refute it. But what is now the test of the correctness of the particular judgment? The suggested method would seem to be a way of finding out, by examining someone's particular judgments, what his moral principles are rather than a way of finding out which moral principles are correct. Furthermore, it has not been claimed in this article that moral principles are first premises from which whole moral systems can be deduced but only that moral principles are statements of relevant moral factors. Their correctness is a necessary, not a sufficient, condition of the correctness of moral judgments.
Nevertheless, the charge is certainly well founded that this way of setting out the problem is a most plausible invitation to ethical skepticism. For it would on the face of it appear that the very statement of the problem precludes its solution. If we look on more and more general moral principles as representing a regress of necessary conditions of the correctness of moral judgments, then either this regress is viciously infinite or there is a point at which it must stop. But any attempt to justify some principle as a stopping point would appear to start the whole process off again. To acquiesce in some stopping point would be to accept an ultimate principle and, it would seem, to accept that nothing further could be said in its justification. It looks then as if this way of putting the problem makes inevitable the conclusion that ultimate principles are unjustifiable.
Autonomy and Objectivity of Moral Principles
One way to put the problem is to regard it as a conflict between the autonomy and the objectivity of moral principles. The demand that ethics be regarded as autonomous originated with Immanuel Kant, in the view that an action is not moral unless it is determined by the agent's rational will rather than by something external to that will, such as a desire, or the will of another (a king, a friend, the state, God). Here the concern is with the determination of action, not directly with the determination or, rather, justification of moral judgment. The autonomy of moral principles, with which we are concerned, is not, however, entirely unconnected with Kant's sense of autonomy. It is the idea that a moral judgment can never depend for its correctness entirely on factors that are nonmoral; that is, that in the justification of any moral judgment one must have recourse to a moral principle, which must in turn be justified in terms of some more general moral principle and so on. In other words, a moral judgment or principle is never deducible from any set of premises that contain no moral judgment or principle.
The demand that morality be regarded as objective was also emphasized by Kant. A moral act for Kant was one that could be willed by an autonomous, rational will; its character as a moral act depended not on the particular nature or desires of the willing agent but on the nature of a rational will as such. For Kant a maxim is objective when it is valid for any rational being. Again, Kant's concern was with the determination of action rather than the justification of judgment. But once again our sense of objectivity is not unconnected with Kant's. When someone's judgment is stigmatized as subjective rather than objective, this means that some idiosyncratic factors such as the hopes and fears or special interests of the speaker have affected his judgment; an objective judgment, however, is one not affected by such idiosyncratic factors but one that any reasonable and unbiased person would form in the circumstances. Obviously, we can speak of objective matters only in respect of matters that are publicly determinable, where we can talk of what would be judged by any reasonable and careful observer rather than what appears to be the case to some individual because of some peculiarities of his own. Thus, we might say with Kant that objectively true judgments are those that are "valid for all rational beings" rather than what merely seems to be so to certain individuals. The demand of objectivity in ethics may then be put at its most minimal as the demand that the truth of any moral judgment shall not depend on the peculiarities of the person making it but, rather, that it shall be determinable by any rational observer who is apprised of the facts. Its truth will not depend on the fact that it is judged so by some one person rather than another but on objective considerations.
The conflict between the demands of objectivity and autonomy is now not difficult to see. For how can ultimate principles, which cannot be based on any further considerations, be based on objective considerations? How can we claim that they are matters that are publicly determinable when it would seem that, if they were autonomous, no considerations beyond themselves would make their truth determinable at all?
Henry Sidgwick, impressed by the utilitarian moral system but despairing of the kinds of argument put forward by earlier utilitarians such as Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill to justify their ultimate principle, substituted instead the doctrine of intuition, a doctrine that was accepted by many other philosophers who were very far from being utilitarians. It was thought that the problem of justification in ethics was parallel to similar problems in other fields of knowledge and that in each case one would find oneself with incorrigible starting points, truths known directly, without inference or the necessity or possibility of further justification. Thus, in our knowledge of the world we might be thought to begin with direct awareness of our experience; in mathematics, with the direct perception of mathematical relationships. In ethics we begin simply with the perception of universal ethical relationships, between what is right or fitting and certain states of affairs. Whatever the difficulties in this general epistemological theory, in ethics there is the additional difficulty that the commonsense roots of the problem of justification—the inescapable fact of disagreement on fundamental ethical matters—are untouched by the doctrine of intuitionism. The appeal to intuition in the face of this disagreement leaves no way of rationally resolving it.
It is possible, however, that an account of the justification of ultimate principles can be given that avoids both an infinite regress of justifying principles and any arbitrary stopping point. Kant's demands for autonomy and objectivity amount to the requirement that a morally good action be rationally chosen in accord with a law that is valid for all rational beings universally and that is determined by nothing beyond itself. The difficulties in making the demands of autonomy and objectivity compatible, so that this requirement becomes a feasible one, seem capable of only one kind of solution, which was the one adopted by Kant. If moral principles cannot be justified by considerations outside themselves yet must be regarded as objectively justifiable, then it seems that certain moral principles must somehow be demanded by the formal character of morality itself; certain rules must be required by any morality that is to satisfy the two demands.
Kant's particular solution has not seemed very satisfactory, but if a solution is to be found at all, it must be in the same direction. To put the point in more contemporary language, the only kind of solution that seems possible is one that shows that certain moral principles must be regarded as correct if moral discourse is to be possible at all, at least as an autonomous and objective form of practical discourse. An argument to this effect may be called a transcendental argument. If such arguments can be constructed, it should be easy to see how they solve the problem we have been considering. For a principle can be shown to be objectively true, without appealing to factors outside itself, if it can be shown that the form of discourse of which the principle is an example is impossible without presupposing the principle. That is, by showing that no one can claim to be using a form of autonomous, practical, and objective discourse unless he at the same time accepts the principle in question.
Three arguments of this kind can be advanced to establish three ultimate principles, which we may call the principles of impartiality, rational benevolence, and liberty. It is important that throughout it should be borne in mind that these arguments are intended to establish ultimate principles—that is, factors of the most general moral relevance, which will be necessary, but by no means sufficient, to establishing any correct moral theories, rules, or particular judgments. Even given that these arguments establish the ultimate principles of impartiality, rational benevolence, and liberty, there will still remain the difficult problem of their application in practice.
As far as we are concerned with a form of discourse in which we objectively judge actions right or wrong, so that a correct practical judgment is one that could in principle be reached by anybody, such judgments must be made in terms of features that the actions or the situations in which they are done possess and not on any other factors arbitrarily introduced by the person making the judgment. Thus, any feature picked out as relevant must be one that is always relevant unless there is some special explanation, for a feature that is relevant in one case and not in another, where there is no further difference, is one that is not relevant at all in any ordinary sense and forms no guide to action. It follows that any action that it is right or wrong for one person to do is right or wrong for every person to do unless there are some special factors present in the other cases. And from this demand of universality it follows, insofar as morality is practical, that one ought to act in accordance with it: What anyone ought to do in any given set of circumstances is what anyone else ought to do, as long as his case is not relevantly different, and anything one ought to do on any given occasion is what one ought to do on every occasion unless again there are factors present that are relevantly different. That one ought to treat similar cases similarly is obviously a general case of the particular requirement of justice toward men, that any form of treatment that is thought to be right for one man must be right for all others, unless the others are significantly different.
The principle of rational benevolence is that stated by Sidgwick, that one ought in action to consider the interests of all beings in the universe. That this is a most impractical injunction is important, but not fatal, for how in practical situations we may apply any ultimate principle is another, though admittedly difficult, question.
The principle may be justified as follows. The demand of objectivity is that what is right or wrong should be determinable at least in principle by all rational beings. This requires that moral discourse should be a form of public discourse, in which the relevance and force of any consideration is dependent on its content and not on the will or status of whoever puts it forward. That is, the remark of any rational being may be relevant to the question whether some action is right or wrong. The ideal of this form of discourse therefore requires that it should be possible for any rational being to participate in it as an interlocutor; if any is excluded arbitrarily then all may be, and the form of discourse as a public institution would be impossible. This does not mean that other forms of discourse may not be constructed in which certain possible interlocutors are excluded by fiat, but this would not then be the fully rational, autonomous, and objective form of discourse we require. A parallel may be found in scientific discourse. As far as it is objective, considerations must be dealt with on their merits and not in terms of the will or status of whoever puts them forward. If any arbitrary exclusion of possible interlocutors is made, then we do not have public objective scientific discourse but a sort of game in which arbitrarily selected players alone are entitled to make certain moves and in which what is determined in the outcome is who has won rather than what is true.
If moral discourse is to be public and objective, then it must allow for the participation of any possible rational interlocutor. Now let us define an interest as that which any rational being should seek for himself insofar as he considers the effects of his actions on himself and not on others except insofar as what affects others also affects him (for example, if it is rational for anyone to avoid pain, then it is in my interest to seek those actions that avoid pain to myself but not necessarily those that avoid pain to others except insofar as the pain of others causes pain to me or prevents my achieving some other end that it would be rational for me to choose for myself). Now it is by definition necessary that every rational being should seek his own interests as far as possible. It would be irrational for any being to participate in a form of discourse the practical effect of which would be to deny his interests; hence, it would be irrational for anyone to adopt moral discourse without further justification if from the beginning his interests were to be ruled out. But this means that anyone who wishes to adopt moral discourse must allow that any possible interlocutor must not have his interests ruled out of consideration from the beginning, and any rational being is in principle a possible interlocutor. It follows that as far as public objective moral discourse is to be possible, it is presupposed that what is determined by such means will not neglect the interests of any rational being—that is, that in deciding what I ought to do, or what anyone ought to do, the interests of all rational beings whatsoever must be taken into account.
The principle of liberty is that one ought not to interfere, without special justification, in the chosen course of any rational being or impose on any rational being conditions that will prevent him from pursuing his chosen courses of action. Moral discourse is a form of discourse in which we try to guide action rationally. We try to determine action on the basis of a rational consideration of the nature of the action and its context, not by some other means such as violence. Any interference with the chosen course of a rational being is a determination of his action by force or at least a limit imposed by force on the extent to which his actions may be rationally determined. Such interference must then be presupposed as absent in public objective practical discourse in which action is determined by reason, and hence in using such discourse, in participating in it as an institution, one is presupposing that one ought not to interfere by force, but only by rational persuasion, in the chosen course of any rational being.
The arguments given for these three principles are very much oversimplified, and it could not be claimed that they have the force of demonstrations. But enough has been said to show that the type of argument they represent is at least a possible one and hence that the apparent conflict between autonomy and objectivity is not a real one and that the problem of the justification of ultimate principles may not be insoluble.
completeness and application of principles
Two important problems remain. The first we may deal with briefly. It is one that was very important to Kant, with regard to both theoretical and practical principles. How can we be sure that we have achieved completeness in any list of principles? If ultimate principles can be established only by transcendental arguments, we have at least some clue to the answer to this problem; for the rest it might be argued that the problem is not so urgent as some have thought.
A transcendental argument is one that depends on an account of what is necessary to a given form of discourse; in ethics we are concerned with what is necessary to a form of discourse that is practical, universal, objective, and autonomous. We are, that is, dependent on a consideration of the formal characteristics of the form of discourse. This gives at least some negative criterion for deciding what principles may be justified as ultimate. Thus, it would be most implausible to suggest, for example, that "One ought not to drink alcoholic liquor on Sundays" could be justified as an ultimate moral principle. For it is reasonably obvious that no direct connection could be established between the purely formal characteristics of any form of discourse and such particular matters as are picked out by the concepts of the principle in question. Such a principle would have to be, if justifiable at all, one that would depend on matters beyond the purely formal characteristics of practical reason. It is always possible, however, though in this case surely a fantastic suggestion, that someone with sufficient ingenuity might show that some apparently low-level principle is in fact justifiable as an ultimate one by a transcendental argument. And this may disturb us, for how can we be sure that we are not failing to take account of such principles all the time? We should not, however, be much disturbed, for two reasons. First, if a principle is a necessary condition of the possibility of moral discourse, one would expect to find it as a pervasive explicit or implicit principle of most moral codes (allowing for the resources of human confusion), and this is true for the three principles—justice, benevolence, and liberty—we have mentioned. Second, when it is suggested that there is a reason for acting in one way rather than another, the suggestion requires justification, in the absence of which the suggestion may be reasonably ignored. The onus of proof is on anyone who suggests that a certain principle is correct; until such proof is at least suggested, the fear that there may be quite unknown principles, which are not generally accepted but which could, with sufficient ingenuity, be justified transcendentally, is an idle one.
The second difficulty that we face at this point is of the utmost importance; indeed, one might fairly say that out of it all the really important and difficult questions of substance in ethics arise. It is the problem of the application of these principles to particular situations, both in themselves and in relation to one another. Unless it is possible to show that these principles can be rationally applied, then no amount of rational demonstration of the ultimate principles will enable us to show that the particular moral judgments we make can be rationally justified.
In this article it has been argued that any account of how particular judgments about what ought to be done can be justified will need to examine principles that are necessary but not sufficient to justify particular judgments. These principles will pick out factors of general moral relevance, and the principles in turn will require justification. This may then require reference to more general principles, but some principles that are incapable of further justification will be reached in this way, and these we have called ultimate principles. It would seem that ultimate principles could never be justified objectively, but it is suggested that arguments that show them to be necessary if objective practical discourse is to be possible would justify them and that such arguments are possible. It is, however, emphasized that since ultimate principles are necessary but not sufficient to the justification of particular judgments, we have not by this suggestion solved the whole problem of how ethical disagreement can be rationally resolved. We have only removed one ground for saying that they can never be rationally resolved.
See also Bentham, Jeremy; Ethical Objectivism; Impartiality; Intuition; Kant, Immanuel; Liberty; Mill, John Stuart; Moral Rules and Principles; Moral Sense; Rationality; Sartre, Jean-Paul; Sidgwick, Henry; Value and Valuation.
For an account of objectivity and autonomy, and an attempt to justify certain factors as ethically relevant from a consideration of the formal character of practical reason, see Immanuel Kant, The Moral Law: Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, translated by H. J. Paton (London, 1964).
Attempts to justify ultimate principles are to be found in Jeremy Bentham's Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation in A Fragment on Government, and an Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, edited by W. Harrison (Oxford, 1948); J. S. Mill's Utilitarianism in Utilitarianism, Liberty, and Representative Government, No. 482A in Everyman's Library; Henry Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics (London, 1907; reprinted 1962).
More recent attempts to justify some factors as of ultimate ethical relevance are to be found in Kurt Baier's The Moral Point of View: A Rational Basis for Ethics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1958), especially Chs. 7–8, and Baier's two articles in Philosophical Studies, 4 (1953)—"Good Reasons," 1–15, and "Proving a Moral Judgment," 33–44; J. N. Findlay's Values and Intentions (London: Allen and Unwin, 1961), his "Morality by Convention," in Mind, n.s., 53 (1944): 142–169, and his "Justification of Attitudes," in Mind, n.s., 63 (1954): 145–161; Philippa Foot's "Moral Arguments," in Mind, n.s., 67 (1958): 502–513, and her "Moral Beliefs," in PAS, n.s., 59 (1958–1959): 85–104; A. P. Griffiths's "Justifying Moral Principles," in PAS, n.s., 58 (1957–1958): 103–124; D. L. Pole's The Conditions of Rational Inquiry (London: University of London, Athlone Press, 1961), especially Ch. V; M. G. Singer's Generalisation in Ethics (London, 1963); S. E. Toulmin, An Examination of the Place of Reason in Ethics (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1950; reprinted 1958).
A. Phillips Griffiths (1967)
"Moral Principles: Their Justification." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/moral-principles-their-justification
"Moral Principles: Their Justification." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . Retrieved February 20, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/moral-principles-their-justification
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.