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Moral Attributes Are Inaccessible


‘no plausible theory will make moral wrongness accessibleSinnott-Armstrong et al. (2010, p. 257).

An attribute is inaccessible in a context just if it is difficult or impossible, in that context, to discern substantive truths about that attribute. For example, in ordinary life and for most people the attribute being further from Kilmery (in Wales) than Steve’s brother Matt is would be inaccessible.
See {{ 'kahneman:2005_model' | citet('271') }}: ‘We adopt the term accessibility to refer to the ease (or effort) with which particular mental contents come to mind.’
Paradigm example of inaccessible attribute is the risk of dying from a particular kind of cancer (most people simply do not have the information they would need to compute it.).
Our concern with whether moral wrongness is inaccessible is this: its inaccessiblity implies it is unlikely to be computed.
So what are these theories? ...

What could moral wrongness be?

Candidate 1: having bad consequences

‘nobody has the information or capacity required to calculate’ conseqeuences (p. 256)

I think this is fair. Consequences are at least comparable to the probability of dying from a type of cancer insofar as most people simply do not have the information they would need to compute them.

Candidate 2: being *expected* to have bad consequences

‘it is also often hard to tell whether a real agent reasonably believes that an act will maximize the good’ (p. 256).

I would not accept this level of argument in your essay. I would expect more.
Are you relying on the principle that anything which is ‘hard to tell’ is inaccessible?

Candidate 3: corresponding to an universalisable maxim

‘it is hard to tell what the maxim of an act is, what it means for an act to be universalizable or not, and whether a given maxim is universalizable’ (p. 256).

This will be important later; for now, just note that they are relying on a principle that could be questioned: If it is hard to articulate some rules or how they apply to a situation, then any attribute characterised by those rules must be inaccessible.
They consider further

What could moral wrongness be?

Candidate 4: violating a rule that all impartial, rational people would accept

Candidate 5: violating a social convention


‘no plausible theory will make moral wrongness accessible’ Sinnott-Armstrong et al. (2010, p. 257).