Just Following the Rules: Collapse / Incoherence Problems in Ethics, Epistemology, and Argumentation Theory

In J. Anthony Blair & Christopher W. Tindale (eds.), Rigour and Reason: Essays in Honour of Hans Vilhelm Hansen. University of Windsor. pp. 172-202 (2020)
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This essay addresses the collapse/incoherence problem for normative frameworks that contain both fundamental values and rules for promoting those values. The problem is that in some cases, we would bring about more of the fundamental value by violating the framework’s rules than by following them. In such cases, if the framework requires us to follow the rules anyway, then it appears to be incoherent; but if it allows us to make exceptions to the rules, then the framework “collapses” into one that doesn’t make use of rules in the first place. The chapter begins with an examination of happiness and truth as fundamental values in Mill’s work, which lead into parallel versions of the collapse/incoherence problem in ethics and epistemology. It then sets out the collapse problem for rule-consequentialist approaches in ethics, truth-directed accounts of justification in epistemology, and epistemological approaches to argument cogency. The chapter closes with discussion of two potential solutions to the problem.



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Patrick Bondy
Wichita State University

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Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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