Moral Blackmail

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Terrance C. McConnell, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: As moral agents we must deal with the fact that many of our ethical decisions are made under imperfect conditions, and these imperfections may alter our actual obligations. If a person has done something wrong, he may incur a duty of reparation or a contrary-to-duty imperative; if an agent knows that he is weak-willed and will fail to do the morally ideal thing, his actual obligation may be altered so that he is only required to do the best that he can; and if, because of nonculpable ignorance, an agent cannot know that a certain act would be the morally ideal one, he may have no obligation to perform that act.1 In each of these cases, the imperfection that alters the agent's obligation is his own -the fact that he has done a wrong act, the fact that he is weak willed and will not be able to avoid temptation, and the fact of his own ignorance. It would seem, though, that the imperfections of others might also alter one's obligations. Surely others' moral weakness affects one's own obligations; for example, one has an obligation not to leave confidential material lying on one's desk lest others be overcome by incontinence and look at it. Similarly, it would seem that the ignorance of others may affect one's obligations. At the very least, one might have an obligation to eliminate the ignorance by informing others.

Additional Information

McConnell, Terrance. “Moral Blackmail,” Ethics 91(4) (July 1981), pp. 544-567.
Language: English
Date: 1981
Moral decisions, Limited information, Coercion

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