Hi all. Thanks to Doug for letting me invite myself to the party. I think I’ll post a substantive comment in the next few days, but maybe I’ll start with a poll. It seems to me that the following set of claims is inconsistent:
1. The moral point of view is impartial (in other words, when acting/deliberating/etc., from the moral point of view, I am to grant no greater weight to myself or my narrow circle than to anyone else).
2. The demands of impartiality can require agents to suffer horrible fates for the sake of others (if I can’t treat myself as more important than anyone else, it would be illegitimate to save myself from some horrible fate if my suffering that fate would yield more important goods for others, including salvation from horrible fates).
3. Moral reasons are rationally overriding (in other words, whenever I have a moral reason to X and a non-moral reason to NOT-X, the moral reason always defeats the non-moral reason, all things considered).
4. Practical rationality does not require agents to subject themselves to horrible fates.
I’ve stated them in a rough-and-ready way, and they may call for some finessing, but as far as I can see it, these four claims are inconsistent. But there are a number of ways one could go in avoiding inconsistency.
Partialists reject (1)–here I’m thinking of David Brink’s recent work on “self-referential altruism,” Samuel Scheffler’s rejection of some features of impartiality, etc. (2) is rejected by, for instance, Garrett Cullity in The Moral Demands of Affluence, Brian Barry in Justice as Impartiality, and others. The overridingness thesis, (3), is rejected by (early) David Brink, Philippa Foot of “Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives,” Roger Crisp in Reasons and the Good, and “The Dualism of Practical Reason” and is suggested by Peter Singer in Singer and His Critics, in his reply to Frances Kamm. (4) is rejected by those who accept (3) and standard versions of utilitarianism, for instance. Catherine Wilson also worries about something like (4) in “On Some Alleged Limits to Moral Endeavor”. Question (if I may): which are you inclined to reject? How come?