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The ‘publicity requirement on moral rules’ refers to the idea that moral rules must be suitable for public acknowledgement and acceptance. The idea is that moral rules must be suitable for being ‘widely known and explicitly recognized’, suitable for teaching as part of moral education, suitable for guiding behaviour and reactions to behaviour, and thus suitable for justifying one’s behaviour to others. The publicity requirement is now most often associated with John Rawls, who traces it back through Kurt Baier to Kant.1 Ideal Code, Real World, my book defending rule-consequentialism, accepted the publicity requirement.2 In this issue of Ratio, Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer attack the publicity requirement.3 Here is my reply. Is moral rightness is a matter of the application of principles or rules that must be suitable for public acceptance? No, answered Henry Sidgwick, holding that perhaps the principles that determine moral right and wrong should be kept secret, because publicizing these principles would not maximize utility.4 Since I think that forms of consequentialism that are not purely utilitarian may be more plausible than forms that are purely utilitarian, let me make the point in terms of consequentialism instead of utilitarianism. The standard form of act-consequentialism is maximizing and ‘global’, i.e., direct about everything.5 This act-consequentialism includes, among the acts to be evaluated by their consequences, instances of espousing principles, teaching morality, blaming, feeling indignation, feeling guilt, and punishing. According to this form of act-consequentialism, an act that maximizes good consequences might be one that others should blame and even punish, since blaming and punishing the agent of the good-maximizing act might also for some reason maximize good consequences. Likewise, on this standard form of actconsequentialism, it may be right to do what it would be right neither to advocate openly nor even to recommend privately..
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Iain Law (1999). Rule-Consequentialism's Dilemma. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2 (3):263-276.
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