Axiological Absolutism and Risk

Noûs 53 (1):97-113 (2019)
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Consider the following claim: given the choice between saving a life and preventing any number of people from temporarily experiencing a mild headache, you should always save the life. Many moral theorists accept this claim. In doing so, they commit themselves to some form of ‘moral absolutism’: the view that there are some moral considerations that cannot be outweighed by any number of lesser moral considerations. In contexts of certainty, it is clear what moral absolutism requires of you. However, what does it require of you when deciding under risk? What ought you to do when there is a chance that, say, you will not succeed in saving the life? In recent years, various critics have argued that moral absolutism cannot satisfactorily deal with risk and should, therefore, be abandoned. In this paper, we show that moral absolutism can answer its critics by drawing on—of all things—orthodox expected utility theory.



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Author Profiles

Seth Lazar
Australian National University
Chad Lee-Stronach
Northeastern University

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What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
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Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Philosophy 63 (243):119-122.

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