According to Hooker’s version of rule-consequentialism (RC), the criterion of rightness is as follows: “An act is wrong if and only if it is forbidden by the code of rules whose internalization by the overwhelming majority of everyone everywhere in each new generation has maximum expected value in terms of well-being (with some priority for the worst off).”
Now Hooker believes that one criterion by which we should assess moral theories is how well the implications of a given moral theory cohere with our considered moral convictions. In his book Ideal Code, Real World, he seems to suggest that RC does pretty well on this criterion, but perhaps he has overlooked the fact that RC will be too pervasive. A moral theory is too pervasive if it pervades every aspect of our lives, such that every voluntary human action, including those that have no effect on others, is potentially morally wrong.
Act-utilitarianism is too pervasive, for if I’m faced with the choice of going to the dentist today or a week from now, I’m morally required to do what will maximize aggregate welfare even if my choice won’t affect anyone else’s welfare. Thus if I need a tooth extracted and I’ll suffer more pain if I wait a week, then it’s morally wrong for me to wait a week even if my decision won’t make a difference to anyone else’s welfare. Yet this is contrary to our considered moral convictions. It may seem stupid and imprudent for me to wait a week, but not morally wrong.
It seems that RC will likewise be too pervasive, for surely a code that includes some rule about acting prudently will, if internalized by everyone everywhere, produce more expected value than one that doesn’t, other things being equal. Thus waiting a week to have a painful tooth extracted would, contrary to our moral convictions, be morally wrong on RC.
By the way, does anyone know why the criterion of rightness stated on p. 32 of the hardback version of his book differs from that of the paperback version? In the hardback edition, the criterion is expressed in terms of a biconditional, whereas in the paperback edition the criterion is expressed in terms of a one-way conditional (“if” but not “only if”).