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By In Normative Ethics Comments (11)

Is Rule-Consequentialism Too Pervasive?

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.

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By In Normative Ethics Comments (3)

Why Most Moral Theories Are Deficient

I recently wrote a paper entitled “Why Most Moral Theories Are Deficient.” I welcome comments and criticisms. Here’s an abstract:

“In this paper, I present an argument that poses the following dilemma for any moral theory: either reject one or more of our most firmly held moral convictions or accept that non-moral reasons can counterbalance moral reasons and thereby affect the moral permissibility of our actions. Furthermore, I argue that, given this dilemma, we should conclude that most, if not all, of the moral theories currently on offer are deficient in that they either fail to comport with our considered moral judgements or fail to provide us with the requisite account of non-moral reasons and how they affect the permissibility of our actions. I conclude the paper both by suggesting that we take a new approach to normative ethics and by taking the first step in this new direction.”

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By In Normative Ethics Comments (15)

Consequentializing: Part III

This entry is the final installment of a three-part series on consequentializing non-consequentialist moral theories. As noted in Part I, a number of philosophers accept what’s called Dreier’s Conjecture: For any moral theory M, there is some conceivable theory of the good that, when combined with the consequentialist principle “φ-ing is morally permissible iff φ-ing would produce the best available state of affairs,” yields moral verdicts that are, in every instance, identical to those of M. And, as also noted in Part I, philosophers such as Brown, Louise, and Pettit believe that if this conjecture is true, then the consequentialism/non-consequentialism distinction is an empty distinction. In this entry, I argue, to the contrary, that even if Dreier’s Conjecture is true, the consequentialism/non-consequentialism distinction is still an important and meaningful distinction.

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By In Normative Ethics Comments (4)

Consequentializing: Part II

This entry is the second installment of a three-part series on consequentializing non-consequentialist moral theories. As noted in Part I, a number of philosophers accept what’s called Dreier’s Conjecture: For any moral theory M, there is some conceivable theory of the good that, when combined with the consequentialist principle “φ-ing is morally permissible iff φ-ing would produce the best available state of affairs,” yields moral verdicts that are, in every instance, identical to those of M. In her forthcoming article, Jennie Louise concludes from this conjecture that all moral theories are consequentialist (forthcoming, pp. 2 & 33). In this installment, I argue that this can’t be right since analogues of Dreier’s Conjecture are true of most moral theories, including Kantianism, contractualism, virtue ethics, and divine command theory. Thus, if Dreier’s Conjecture establishes that we’re all consequentialists, then these analogues establish that we’re all Kantians, contractualists, virtue ethicists, and divine command theorists as well, and this is just absurd.

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By In Normative Ethics Comments (15)

Consequentializing: Part I

A number of philosophers (e.g., Brown 2004, Dreier 1993, and Louise forthcoming) have hypothesized that most, if not all, non-consequentialist theories can be “consequentialized.” More precisely, the conjecture is this (paraphrasing Brown 2004): For any moral theory M, there is some conceivable theory of the good that, when combined with the consequentialist principle “φ-ing is morally permissible iff φ-ing would produce the best available state of affairs,” yields moral verdicts that are, in every instance, identical to those of M. For example, suppose that M includes an agent-centered constraint against the commission of murder, such that agents are prohibited from committing murder even for the sake of minimizing the number of murders committed overall. To accommodate such a constraint, the consequentialist need only adopt a theory of the good that holds (1) the value of a state of affairs in which a murder has been committed is agent-relative such that its value varies according to whether or not the evaluator is the murderer, and (2) the disvalue in an agent committing murder herself is, from her position (that of the agent), greater than the disvalue in numerous others committing comparable murders. What’s more, if M prohibits an agent from committing murder for the sake of minimizing the number of murders she herself commits, then the consequentialist need only adopt a theory of the good that holds (3) the value of a state of affairs in which a murder has been committed is temporally-relative such that its value varies according to whether or not the murder in question would take place in the present or the future, and (4) the disvalue in an agent committing murder now is, from her present position, greater than the disvalue in her committing numerous other comparable murders in the future. Thus, by incorporating certain agent-relative and temporally-relative values in its theory of the good, the consequentialist can, it would seem, yield moral verdicts identical to those of any other moral theory.

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By In Uncategorized Comments Off on Welcome!

Welcome!

Thanks for visiting PEA Soup, a blog dedicated to philosophy, ethics, and academia (the focus being on ethics). The principals involved are Dan Boisvert (California State University, Bakersfield), Josh Glasgow (Occidental College), Dave Shoemaker (Bowling Green State University), and myself, Doug Portmore (California State University, Northridge). Along with issues in moral philosophy (including metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics), we’ll address ethical issues relating to academia and the philosophical profession. Please check back periodically, as we expect to post new entries on a regular basis.

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