The Incoherence Objection in Moral Theory

Acta Analytica 25 (3):279-284 (2010)
J.J.C. Smart famously complained that rule utilitarianism is incoherent, and that rule utilitarians are guilty of rule worship . Much has been said about whether Smart’s complaint is justified, but I will assume for the sake of argument that Smart was on to something. Instead, I have three other goals. First, I want to show that Smart’s complaint is a specific instance of a more general objection to a moral theory—what I will call the Incoherence Objection. Second, I want to illustrate how the Incoherence Objection can apply both to consequentialist and, surprisingly, some nonconsequentialist theories. Finally, I want to demonstrate at least one way nonconsequentialist theories that make use of rules, principles, and the like can dodge the Incoherence Objection
Keywords Utilitarianism  Deontology  Consequentialism  Rules  Moral theory
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DOI 10.1007/s12136-010-0098-5
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