Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Criteria of Moral Progress

    Hanno Sauer (Utrecht)

Date: 19 January 2022

Time: 15:00

Place: Online


Moral progress occurs when things change for the better, morally speaking. The topic of moral progress has recently experienced a resurgence of interest in several disciplines. However, making judgments of moral progress raises a number of epistemic questions which thus far have not been systematically addressed in the literature. We dub these criterial problems, and argue that addressing them is important if we want to avoid errors in making judgments about moral progress. In this paper we address four important criterial problems for making moral progress judgments. First, questions of what the unit of analysis is for moral progress judgments: what is undergoing morally progressive change? Second, questions of timescale: over what period of time is moral progress occurring, and is this relevant for justifying claims of moral progress? Third, what moral criteria are being used to make moral progress judgments and how are these criteria justified? Fourth, how should we make progress judgments when there has been morally progressive change from the point of view of one moral standard but morally regressive change from the point of view of another? We analyze each of these epistemic problems for making moral progress judgments, assess whether they lead to skepticism about such judgments, and suggest possible solutions to each problem.