A Better World

Philosophical Studies 168 (3):629-644 (2014)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

A number of moral philosophers have endorsed instances of the following curious argument: it would be better if a certain moral theory were true; therefore, we have reason to believe that the theory is true. In other words, the mere truth of the theory—quite apart from the results of our believing it or acting in accord with it—would make for a better world than the truth of its rivals, and this fact provides evidence of the theory’s truth. This form of argument may seem to be an obvious non-starter. After all, the fact that the truth of some empirical claim, say, the claim that there is an afterlife, would be desirable does not, by itself, give us any reason to believe it. But I argue that, when it is properly understood, this form of argument—which I call the better world argument—is valid in moral philosophy. I develop and defend a version of the argument that rests on the view that the correct moral theory cannot exhibit a certain form of self-defeat—a form that, as far as I know, has not been discussed in the literature. I also identify two promising applications of this form of argument. The first is a defense of permissions to promote one’s own private aims, rather than promote the greater good, and the second, an argument against the possibility of moral dilemmas

Similar books and articles

Consequentialize This.Campbell Brown - 2011 - Ethics 121 (4):749-771.
Essays on Derek Parfit's On what matters.Jussi Suikkanen & John Cottingham (eds.) - 2009 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Trudy Govier and Premise Adequacy.Derek Allen - 2013 - Informal Logic 33 (2):116-142.
Moral Error Theory and the Argument from Epistemic Reasons.Richard Rowland - 2012 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 7 (1):1-24.
Dilemmas and Moral Realism.Nick Zangwill - 1999 - Utilitas 11 (1):71.
Moral dilemmas and comparative conceptions of morality.Peter Vallentyne - 1992 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 30 (1):117-124.
The definition of moral dilemmas: A logical problem. [REVIEW]Jurriaan De Haan - 2001 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 4 (3):267-284.
Relative Truth and the First Person.Friederike Moltmann - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 150 (2):187-220..
Parfit's arguments for the present-aim theory.Brad Hooker - 1992 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70 (1):61 – 75.
Winch on moral dilemmas and moral modality.Craig Taylor - 2006 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 49 (2):148 – 157.

Analytics

Added to PP
2013-06-17

Downloads
1,012 (#12,429)

6 months
91 (#41,702)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Ryan Preston-Roedder
Occidental College

Citations of this work

Civic Trust.Ryan Preston-Roedder - 2017 - Philosophers' Imprint 17.
How to Have Your Quasi-Cake and Quasi-Eat It Too.Sebastian Köhler - 2021 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 51 (3):204-220.
The Self-Effacement Gambit.Jack Woods - 2019 - Res Philosophica 96 (2):113-139.
Embracing Self-Defeat in Normative Theory.Samuel Fullhart - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The methods of ethics.Henry Sidgwick - 1874 - Bristol, U.K.: Thoemmes Press. Edited by Emily Elizabeth Constance Jones.
On What Matters: Volume Three.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press UK.

View all 35 references / Add more references