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.. (shrink)
The term ‘moral particularism’ has been used to refer to different doctrines. The main body of this paper begins by identifying the most important doctrines associated with the term, at least as the term is used by Jonathan Dancy, on whose work I will focus. I then discuss whether holism in the theory of reasons supports moral particularism, and I call into question the thesis that particular judgements have epistemological priority over general principles. Dancy’s recent book Ethics without Principles (Dancy (...) 2004) makes much of a distinction between reasons, enablers, disablers, intensi- ﬁers, and attenuators. I will suggest that the distinction is unnecessary, and I will argue that, even if there is such a distinction, it does not entail moral particularism. In the ﬁnal two sections, I try to give improved versions of arguments against particularism that I put forward in my paper ‘Moral Particularism: Wrong and Bad’ (Hooker 2000b: 1–22, esp. pp. 7–11, 15–22). (shrink)
One central moral idea is that your doing some act is morally permissible only if others’ doing that act would also be morally permissible. There are a number of different ways of developing this idea. One is the suggestion that, before deciding to do some act, you should ask yourself ‘What if everyone did that?’ Another central moral idea is that it is immoral to ‘use’ people.
The duty to keep promises has many aspects associated with deontological moral theories. The duty to keep promises is non-welfarist, in that the obligation to keep a promise need not be conditional on there being a net benefit from keeping the promise—indeed need not be conditional on there being at least someone who would benefit from its being kept. The duty to keep promises is more closely connected to autonomy than directly to welfare: agents have moral powers to give themselves (...) certain obligations to others. And these moral powers, which enable promisors to create agent- relative obligations to promisees, correlate with rights the promisees acquire in the process, such as rights to waive the duty or insist on its performance. As a result of promises, promisees acquire (not only rights but also) a special status: the promisees are the ones wronged when promises to them that they have not waived are not kept. One more aspect of the duty to keep promises that is associated with deontological moral theories is that what actions the duty requires is at least partly backward-looking: what actions the duty requires depends on facts about the past, namely facts about what promises were made and then waived or not. This paper surveys these aspects of the duty to keep promises and then explores whether rule-consequentialism can be reconciled with them. (shrink)
Consider the idea that moral rules must be suitable for public acknowledgement and acceptance, i.e., 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. This idea is now most often associated with John Rawls, who traces it back through Kurt Baier to Kant. My book developing ruleconsequentialism, Ideal Code, Real World, accepted (...) the ‘publicity requirement’ on moral rules. Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer attack my moral theory on precisely this matter. Here I reply to their attack. The question under discussion is whether 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. Since I think not-purely utilitarian forms of consequentialism may be more plausible than purely utilitarian forms, 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. 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. On 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 act-consequentialism, it may be right to do what it would be right neither to advocate openly nor even to recommend privately. All these ideas are entailed by the kind of act-consequentialism that evaluates, by their consequences, all ‘acts’—in a very broad sense of the term that takes in not only acts of doing or allowing but also acts of blaming, punishing, and recommending. De Lazari-Radek and Singer accept that there are strong consequentialist considerations in support of ‘board support for transparency in ethics’ and avoiding esoteric morality in most circumstances.. (shrink)
This paper’s first section invokes a relevant meta-ethical principle about what a moral theory needs in order to be plausible and superior to its rivals. In subsequent sections, I try to pinpoint exactly what the demandingness objection has been taken to be. I try to explain how the demandingness objection developed in reaction to impartial act-consequentialism’s requirement of beneficence toward strangers. In zeroing in on the demandingness objection, I distinguish it from other, more or less closely related, objections. In particular, (...) I discuss arguments put forward by Bernard Williams concerning integrity, Samuel Scheffler on prerogatives, and Liam Murphy on fairness. The final part of the paper acknowledges some ways in which vagueness bedevils my own rule-consequentialism’s rules about doing good and preventing disasters. (shrink)
With respect to morality, the term ‘impartiality’ is used to refer to quite different things. My paper will focus on three: 1. Impartial application of good (first-order) moral rules 2. Impartial benevolence as the direct guide to decisions about what to do 3. Impartial assessment of (first-order) moral rules What are the relations among these three? Suppose there was just one good (first-order) moral rule, namely, that one should choose whatever one thinks will maximize aggregate good. If there were just (...) this one moral rule, then impartial application of that one rule might be compatible with impartial benevolence as the direct guide to decisions about what to do. But now suppose there are other good moral rules, such as ones that prohibit certain kinds of act, ones that permit some degree of preferential concern for oneself, and ones that require some degree of preference for one’s friends and family in one’s decisions about how to allocate one’s time, attention, and other resources. If there are these other good rules, then at least sometimes impartially applying and complying with them will conflict with letting impartial benevolence dictate what to do. More importantly, we can reject impartial benevolence as the direct guide to decisions about what to do while endorsing impartial application of good (first-order) moral rules. Likewise, rejecting impartial benevolence as the direct guide to decisions about what to do does not entail rejecting impartial assessment of (first-order) moral rules. Section 1 of this paper argues that impartiality in the application of good moral rules is always appropriate. Section 2 argues that impartial benevolence as a direct guide to decisions about what to do is appropriate only sometimes. Section 3 argues that impartiality in the assessment of rules is or is not appropriate—depending on how plausible the impartially selected rules are. (shrink)
The contributions to this book expand the boundaries of thought relating to deontology. Together, they provide a major addition to the field of moral philosophy for advanced undergraduates, postgraduates and academics.
Bernard Williams influentially attacked ethical theory. This paper assesses arguments for the ‘anti-theory’ position in ethics, including mainly arguments put forward by Williams but also arguments put forward by others. The paper begins by discussing what is supposed to be theory in ethics and what ethical intuitions are taken to be by those involved in the theory versus anti-theory debate. Then the paper responds to the objections that ethical theory is mistaken to prize principles, mistaken to prize rationalism, mistaken to (...) presume or prize foundational unity, mistaken to presume morality is deeply impartial, mistaken to presume to tell agents how to deliberate, mistaken to presume or prize ethical codifiability, mistaken to presume value commensurability, and mistaken to eliminate ethical dilemmas. (shrink)
Being moral sometimes handicaps decent people in their pursuit of worthwhile goals. This is especially likely to happen when those with power in society have badly mistaken ideas about what morality requires. A good person might not last long in a bad society.
Fixed-rate versions of rule-consequentialism and rule-utilitarianism evaluate rules in terms of the expected net value of one particular level of social acceptance, but one far enough below 100% social acceptance to make salient the complexities created by partial compliance. Variable-rate versions of rule-consequentialism and rule-utilitarianism instead evaluate rules in terms of their expected net value at all different levels of social acceptance. Brad Hooker has advocated a fixed-rate version. Michael Ridge has argued that the variable-rate version is better. The debate (...) continues here. Of particular interest is the difference between the implications of Hooker's and Ridge's rules about doing good for others. (shrink)
The main body of this paper assesses a leading recent theory of fairness, a theory put forward by John Broome. I discuss Broome's theory partly because of its prominence and partly because I think it points us in the right direction, even if it takes some missteps. In the course of discussing Broome's theory, I aim to cast light on the relation of fairness to consistency, equality, impartiality, desert, rights, and agreements. Indeed, before I start assessing Broome's theory, I discuss (...) two very popular conceptions of fairness that contrast with his. One of these very popular conceptions identifies fairness with the equal and impartial application of rules. The other identifies fairness with all-things-considered moral rightness. (shrink)
Richard Arneson and Alison McIntyre have done me a great honor by reading my book Ideal Code, Real World so carefully.1 In addition, they have done me a great kindness by reading it sympathetically. Nevertheless, they each find the book ultimately unconvincing, though in very different ways. But the cause of their dissatisfaction with the book is not mistaken interpretation. They have interpreted the book accurately, and they have advanced penetrating criticisms of it. One group of their criticisms definitely draw (...) blood. To treat the wound, my formulation of rule-consequentialism will have to be revised. A second group their criticisms seems to me fatal only if certain considerations are ignored. I will highlight the considerations that I think inoculate rule-consequentialism against these criticisms. In reaction to a third group of their criticisms, however, I have to accept that Arneson and McIntyre simply have quite different intuitions from mine, such that the prospects of agreement between the three of us are dim. (shrink)
This paper starts by considering Sterba’s argument from non-question-beggingness to morality. The paper goes on to discuss his use of the “ought” implies “can” principle and the place, within moral theorizing, of intuitions about reasonableness.
This essay explores the reasons for thinking that Scanlon's contractualist principle serves merely as a ?spare wheel?, an element that spins along nicely but bears no real weight, because it presupposes too much of what it should be explaning. The ambitions and scope of Scanlon's contractualism are discussed, as is Scanlon's thesis that contracualism will assess candidate moral principles individually rather than as sets. The final third of the paper critizes Scanlon's account of fairness and his approach to cases where (...) agents can save either one person or many people. (shrink)
Does human well-being consist in pleasure, the satisfaction of desires, or some set of goods such as knowledge, friendship, and accomplishment? Does being moral contribute to well-being, and is there a conflict between people's self-interest and the moral demands on them? Are the values of well-being and of morality measurable? Are such values objective? What is the relation between such values and the natural world? And how much can philosophical theory help us in our answers to these and similar questions? (...) Issues such as these provide the focus for much of the work of James Griffin, White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford, in whose honour Well-Being and Morality has been prepared. They are also among the main topics of these fourteen new essays by an international array of leading philosophers. Professor Griffin himself provides a further discussion of central themes in his thought, specially written in response to contributions to this volume. (shrink)
An international line-up of fourteen distinguished philosophers presents new essays in honor of James Griffin, White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford University. The essays take up topics relating to well-being and morality, prominent themes in contemporary ethics and particularly in Griffin's work. Griffin himself provides replies to these essays, offering a fascinating development of his own thinking on these topics.
What are the appropriate criteria for assessing a theory of morality? In this enlightening work, Brad Hooker begins by answering this question. He then argues for a rule-consequentialist theory which, in part, asserts that acts should be assessed morally in terms of impartially justified rules. In the end, he considers the implications of rule-consequentialism for several current controversies in practical ethics, making this clearly written, engaging book the best overall statement of this approach to ethics.
A timely and penetrating investigation, this book seeks to transform moral philosophy. In the face of continuing disagreement about which general moral principles are correct, there has been a resurgence of interest in the idea that correct moral judgements can be only about particular cases. This view--moral particularism--forecasts a revolution in ordinary moral practice that has until now consisted largely of appeals to general moral principles. Moral particularism also opposes the primary aim of most contemporary normative moral theory that attempts (...) to show that either one general principle, or a set of general principles, is superior to all its rivals. (shrink)
This paper has been about the question of what there is most reason to doin situations in which either there are no moral considerations to be takeninto account or the moral considerations to be taken into account are equally balanced. I have assessed all Parfit's arguments for concluding that the Present-aim Theory is right and the Self-interest Theory wrong aboutthis question. In § III, I showed how Parfit's argument from personal identity leads not to the abandonment of the Self-interest Theory, (...) but merely to a revision of it. In § IV, I argued that a premiss relied on by Parfit's argument from incomplete relativity - the premiss that theoretical and practical reason are relevantly similar - is too weak to support the conclusion that knowingly doing what is against one's long- term self-interest is rational (when no moral considerations are in play). In § V, I addressed Parfit's argument that we must reject the Self-interest Theory because we believe that it is rational to care more about certain things (such as achievement) than about one's overall welfare. I suggested that he misdescribed what we believe: for what we really believe is that it is not irrational to care more about these things than about either having the most pleasant life possible or having the life with the strongest desires fulfilled. This thought is consistent with Objective List versions of the Self- interest Theory. In § VI, I suggested Parfit's argument from our bias towards the future might be answered by making a second revision to the Self-interest Theory. Therefore, for all Parfit has argued, a version of the Self-interest Theory might be the most plausible theory of what we have most reason to do when moral considerations do not decide the issue.21. (shrink)
The prevailing theory of self-interest (personal utility or individual welfare) holds that one’s Iife goes well to the extent that one’s desires are fulfilled. In a couple of seminal papers, Overvold raised a devastating objection to this theory---namely that the theory (added to commonsensical beliefs about the nature of action) makes self-sacrifice logically impossible. He then proposed an appealing revision of the prevailing theory, one which provided adequate logical space for self-sacrifice. And he analyzed his revised theory’s implications for the (...) question whether being moral is in one’s self-interest. My paper assesses Overvold’s arguments and proposals, and it shows how they can be modified in certain ways so as to be even more attractive. (shrink)
The theory of morality we can call full rule-consequentialism selects rules solely in terms of the goodness of their consequences and then claims that these rules determine which kinds of acts are morally wrong. George Berkeley was arguably the first rule-consequentialist. He wrote, “In framing the general laws of nature, it is granted we must be entirely guided by the public good of mankind, but not in the ordinary moral actions of our lives. … The rule is framed with respect (...) to the good of mankind; but our practice must be always shaped immediately by the rule.” (Berkeley 1712, section 31) Writers often classed as rule-consequentialists include Austin 1832; Harrod 1936; Toulmin 1950; Urmson 1953; Harrison 1953; Mabbott 1953; Singer 1955; 1961; and most prominently Brandt 1959; 1963; 1967; 1979; 1989; 1996; and Harsanyi 1977; 1982; 1993. See also Rawls 1955; Hospers 1972; Haslett 1987; 1994, ch. 1; 2000; Attfield 1987, 103-12; Barrow 1991, ch. 6; Johnson 1991; Riley 1998; 2000; Shaw 1999; and Hooker 2000. Whether J. S. Mill's ethics was rule-consequentialist is controversial (Urmson 1953; Crisp 1997, 102-33). (shrink)
Abstract In the preceding paper Callan (1985) argues that liberalism is rejectable by reasonable people and that inculcating liberal beliefs in the minds of children is therefore inconsistent with liberalism. Callan attacks in particular R.M. Hare's defence of teaching liberal morality as being consistent with liberal morality itself. In this reply the author argues that making distinctions between different senses of ?reasonable? and of ?liberalism? helps undermine some of Callan's main arguments.