A reply to Sterba

Philosophy and Public Affairs 16 (2):193-194 (1987)
Abstract
I did not, as James Sterba writes, claim to have explained "the asymmetry view." I claimed that, since my suggested explanation makes it impossible to solve the Paradox of Future Individuals, "we must abandon" one of its essential premises (my p. i52). Sterba's main claim is that my suggested explanation "does not so much explain or justify the [asymmetry] view as simply restate it." Is this so? My explanation assumed (W) that an act cannot be wrong if it will not be bad for any of the people who ever live.' Sterba asks why we should not appeal instead to one of my Wide Principles, which are concerned with possible effects on people who might have lived. And he suggests that, since "the only ground" for preferring (W) is that it explains the asymmetry view, (W) cannot explain this view. There are other grounds for appealing to (W), such as those provided by certain theories about the nature of moral reasoning. On Scanlon's theory, for example, our fundamental moral motive is "to be able to justify one's actions to others on grounds that they could not reasonably reject.'" We may claim that, on such a theory, an act cannot be wrong unless it will affect someone in a way that cannot be justified unless there will be some complainant whose complaint cannot be answered. Similarly, Brandt suggests that, by the phrase "is morally wrong," we should mean "would be prohibited by any moral code which all fully rational persons would tend to support... for the society of the agent, if they expected to spend a lifetime in that society."> It seems likely that, on the chosen..
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