A dilemma for rule-consequentialism

Philosophia 36 (1):141-150 (2008)
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Abstract

Rule-consequentialists tend to argue for their normative theory by claiming that their view matches our moral convictions just as well as a pluralist set of Rossian duties. As an additional advantage, rule-consequentialism offers a unifying justification for these duties. I challenge the first part of the ruleconsequentialist argument and show that Rossian duties match our moral convictions better than the rule-consequentialist principles. I ask the rule-consequentialists a simple question. In the case that circumstances change, is the wrongness of acts determined by the ideal principles for the earlier circumstances or by the ideal ones for the new circumstances? I argue that whichever answer the rule-consequentialists give the view leads to normative conclusions that conflict with our moral intuitions. Because some set of Rossian duties can avoid similar problems, rule-consequentialism fails in the reflective equilibrium test advocated by the rule-consequentialists.

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Jussi Suikkanen
University of Birmingham

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References found in this work

Ethics and the limits of philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1985 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
The Right and the Good. Some Problems in Ethics.W. D. Ross - 1930 - Oxford: Clarendon Press. Edited by Philip Stratton-Lake.
Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1986 - Cambridge, Mass.: Routledge.

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