Hooker on the Cost of Internalizing a Moral Code

Josh, Doug, Dave, Richard Rodewald, and I were discussing the last two chapters of Brad Hooker’s Ideal Code, Real World, in which Hooker goes to great lengths to discuss the importance of taking into account the costs associated with having each member of an overwhelming majority of each new generation accept a particular moral code. This raises the question of just what costs are supposed to be counted in the calculation that determines the ideal moral code. Both Josh and Dave suggested that, when we get to the details of what these costs are, it looks like Hooker is either inconsistent about what such costs include, or he vastly underestimates some of these costs to the point that it looks like the ideal moral code would be so conservative as to fly in the face of some of our considered moral beliefs–and thus his Rule-Consequentialism would violate to a significant extent one of the criteria of adequacy that he endorses for a correct moral theory. This post will lay out what costs are supposed to be counted in the calculation that determines the ideal moral code, and, in the next post, I’ll get to the dilemma.

Hooker holds that every conceivable moral code has associated with it certain costs of time, energy, finances, psychological conflict, and so on. The intended return on these costs is a code’s initial and continual acceptance by an overwhelming majority of individuals of each new generation. These costs are incurred by each member of an overwhelming majority of each new generation and each of these individual’s “family, teachers, and . . . broader culture” (p. 79). Let’s use ‘total cost’ to refer to the sum of all costs associated with internalizing a particular moral code. Total cost, then, look to be a sum of internalization, transition, and maintenance costs:

total cost = internalization cost + transition cost + maintenance cost

internalization cost = the sum of the time, energy, financial, psychological, and other costs for each individual member of an overwhelming majority of a new generation to accept the code

transition cost = the sum of the time, energy, financial, psychological, and other costs for each member’s family, teachers, and broader culture to successfully inculcate the code in that member, i.e., in getting each member of the overwhelming majority to accept the code

maintenance cost: the sum of the time, energy, financial, psychological, and other costs for each member and his or her family, teachers, and broader culture to continue to accept the code. (More precisely, I suppose, it would be the costs for some sufficient number of members and their families, teachers, and broader culture to continue to accept the code, where the sufficient number is the difference between the number of members that constitute, at time t, an overwhelming majority and the number of new, successfully inculcated individuals at t + 1)

Now the question that arises is whether the ideal code would, because of extremely high transition costs, contain rules that would permit actions that, after careful consideration, are obviously wrong, or forbid actions that, after careful consideration, are not obviously wrong and possibly obviously permissible; and this would violate a criterion of adequacy that Hooker endorses for a correct moral theory. We’ll get to this question in the next post.

One Reply to “Hooker on the Cost of Internalizing a Moral Code”

  1. moral codes have a religious connotation to them whereas ethics are strictly humanistic in nature.
    Lets drop the word moral because the word can be interpreted most any way as see in the Torah, Q’uran or Bible.
    One should adapt an ethical standard in life for one very good reason: ethical people are far happier than unethical people. Ethical people are ethical for selfish reasons: to make themselves feel better. No mystery here.

Comments are closed.