Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 703–716 | Cite as

Direct Moral Grounding and the Legal Model of Moral Normativity



Whereas most moral philosophers believe that the facts as to what we’re morally required to do are grounded by the facts about our moral reasons, which in turn are grounded by non-normative facts, I propose that moral requirements are directly grounded by non-normative facts. This isn’t, however, to say that there is no place in the picture for moral reasons. Moral reasons exist, and they’re grounded by moral requirements. Arguing for this picture of the moral sphere requires playing both offense and defense; this article provides the defense. I defend this view against the objections (1) that it must deny that one is generally blameworthy for having violated a moral requirement, (2) that it implies the existence of genuine moral dilemmas, (3) that it runs counter to an obviously true view of how moral deliberation should work, and (4) that it cannot explain why it feels as though figuring about what one is morally required to do often takes the form of thinking about what one’s moral reasons are.


Moral reasons Moral requirements Grounding Blameworthiness Moral deliberation Reasons-first 



Previous versions of this paper were presented at the University of Sheffield, University of Glasgow, and the British Society for Ethical Theory annual conference. Thanks to Douglas Portmore, John Broome, Russ Shafer-Landau, Brian McElwee, Toni Ronnow-Rasmussen and Justin Snedegar for reading a previous draft of the paper. And for helpful conversation on the topic I’m also grateful to Hallie Liberto, Pekka Väyrynen, Martin Rendall, Ulrike Heuer, Anna Burkard, Jonathan Way, Benedict Rumbold, Tristram McPherson, Daniel Viehoff, and Miranda Fricker.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of St AndrewsSt Andrews FifeUK

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