Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 169–183

Slavery, Carbon, and Moral Progress



My goal in this paper is to shed light on how moral progress actually occurs. I begin by restating a conception of moral progress that I set out in previous work, the “Naïve Conception,” and explain how it comports with various normative and metaethical views. I go on to develop an index of moral progress and show how judgments about moral progress can be made. I then discuss an example of moral progress from the past—the British abolition of the Atlantic slave trade—with a view to what can be learned from this for a contemporary struggle for moral progress: the movement to decarbonize the global economy. I close with some thoughts about how moral progress actually occurs.


Moral progress Slavery Climate change Evolutionary ethics Moral realism 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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