What are the appropriate criteria for assessing a theory of morality? In this enlightening work, Brad Hooker begins by answering this question. He then argues for a rule-consequentialist theory which, in part, asserts that acts should be assessed morally in terms of impartially justified rules. In the end, he considers the implications of rule-consequentialism for several current controversies in practical ethics, making this clearly written, engaging book the best overall statement of this approach to ethics.
A timely and penetrating investigation, this book seeks to transform moral philosophy. In the face of continuing disagreement about which general moral principles are correct, there has been a resurgence of interest in the idea that correct moral judgements can be only about particular cases. This view--moral particularism --forecasts a revolution in ordinary moral practice that has until now consisted largely of appeals to general moral principles. Moral particularism also opposes the primary aim of most contemporary normative moral theory that (...) attempts to show that either one general principle, or a set of general principles, is superior to all its rivals. (shrink)
This essay contends that the constitutive elements of well-being are plural, partly objective, and separable. The essay argues that these elements are pleasure, friendship, significant achievement, important knowledge, and autonomy, but not either the appreciation of beauty or the living of a morally good life. The essay goes on to attack the view that elements of well-being must be combined in order for well-being to be enhanced. The final section argues against the view that, because anything important to say about (...) well-being could be reduced to assertions about these separable elements, the concept of well-being or personal good is ultimately unimportant. (shrink)
The main body of this paper assesses a leading recent theory of fairness, a theory put forward by John Broome. I discuss Broome's theory partly because of its prominence and partly because I think it points us in the right direction, even if it takes some missteps. In the course of discussing Broome's theory, I aim to cast light on the relation of fairness to consistency, equality, impartiality, desert, rights, and agreements. Indeed, before I start assessing Broome's theory, I discuss (...) two very popular conceptions of fairness that contrast with his. One of these very popular conceptions identifies fairness with the equal and impartial application of rules. The other identifies fairness with all-things-considered moral rightness. (shrink)
The theory of morality we can call full rule - consequentialism selects rules solely in terms of the goodness of their consequences and then claims that these rules determine which kinds of acts are morally wrong. George Berkeley was arguably the first rule -consequentialist. He wrote, “In framing the general laws of nature, it is granted we must be entirely guided by the public good of mankind, but not in the ordinary moral actions of our lives. … The rule is (...) framed with respect to the good of mankind; but our practice must be always shaped immediately by the rule.” Writers often classed as rule -consequentialists include Austin 1832; Harrod 1936; Toulmin 1950; Urmson 1953; Harrison 1953; Mabbott 1953; Singer 1955; 1961; and most prominently Brandt 1959; 1963; 1967; 1979; 1989; 1996; and Harsanyi 1977; 1982; 1993. See also Rawls 1955; Hospers 1972; Haslett 1987; 1994, ch. 1; 2000; Attfield 1987, 103-12; Barrow 1991, ch. 6; Johnson 1991; Riley 1998; 2000; Shaw 1999; and Hooker 2000. Whether J. S. Mill's ethics was rule -consequentialist is controversial. (shrink)
Theories of individual well‐being fall into three main categories: hedonism, the desire‐fulfilment theory, and the list theory (which maintains that there are some things that can benefit a person without increasing the person's pleasure or desire‐fulfilment). The paper briefly explains the answers that hedonism and the desire‐fulfilment theory give to the question of whether being virtuous constitutes a benefit to the agent. Most of the paper is about the list theory's answer.
Fixed-rate versions of rule-consequentialism and rule-utilitarianism evaluate rules in terms of the expected net value of one particular level of social acceptance, but one far enough below 100% social acceptance to make salient the complexities created by partial compliance. Variable-rate versions of rule-consequentialism and rule-utilitarianism instead evaluate rules in terms of their expected net value at all different levels of social acceptance. Brad Hooker has advocated a fixed-rate version. Michael Ridge has argued that the variable-rate version is better. The debate (...) continues here. Of particular interest is the difference between the implications of Hooker's and Ridge's rules about doing good for others. (shrink)
Derek Parfit’s On What Matters endorses Kantian Contractualism, the normative theory that everyone ought to follow the rules that everyone could rationally will that everyone accept. This paper explores Parfit’s argument that Kantian Contractualism converges with Rule Consequentialism. A pivotal concept in Parfit’s argument is the concept of impartiality, which he seems to equate agent-neutrality. This paper argues that equating impartiality and agent-neutrality is insufficient, since some agent-neutral considerations are silly and some are not impartial. Perhaps more importantly, there is (...) little realistic prospect of Kantian Contractualism converging with Rule Consequentialism unless the same impartial reasons drive rule selection in the two theories. (shrink)
Virtue ethics is normally taken to be an alternative to consequentialist and Kantian moral theories. I shall discuss what I think is the most interesting version of virtue ethics – Rosalind Hursthouse's. I shall then argue that her version is inadequate in ways that suggest revision in the direction of a kind of rule-consequentialism.
An international line-up of fourteen distinguished philosophers present new essays on topics relating to well-being and morality, prominent themes in contemporary ethics and particularly in the work of James Griffin, White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford, in whose honour this volume has been produced. Professor Griffin offers a fascinating development of his own thinking on these topics in his replies to the essays.
In his important recent book, *Ethics and the Global Financial Crisis: Why Incompetence is Worse than Greed*, Boudewijn de Bruin argues that a key element of the global financial crisis of 2007-8 was a failure of epistemic virtue. To improve matters, then, de Bruin argues we need to focus on the acquisition and exercise of epistemic virtues, rather than to focus on a more ethical culture for banking per se. While this is an interesting suggestion and it is indeed very (...) plausible that an increased focus on proper knowledge-related behaviour will be part of a solution, we are sceptical both about de Bruin’s overarching theoretical claims and about his practical suggestions for change. Instead we argue that change in this sector is best promoted by reconceiving of the relationship between financial institutions and the societies they serve, and that this is fundamentally not an epistemic but a moral issue. (shrink)
What distinguishes moral judgements from judgements of other kinds? In addressing this question, this paper tries to remain as neutral as possible about which moral judgments are correct. The paper addresses objections to thinking that the defining feature of moral judgements is their other-regarding grounds, or their social function, or their motivational force, or their connection to reactive attitudes such as guilt, indignation, and resentment. The proposal this paper makes is that a judgment is a moral judgment if and only (...) if this judgment is a member of a group of judgments of which some do carry commitment to the appropriateness of such reactive attitudes. (shrink)
This paper employs (and defends where needed) a familiar four-part methodology for assessing moral theories. This methodology makes the most popular kind of moral pluralism--here called Ross-style pluralism--look extremely attractive. The paper contends, however, that, if rule-consequentialism's implications match our considered moral convictions as well as Ross-style pluralism's implications do, the methodology makes rule-consequentialism look even more attractive than Ross-style pluralism. The paper then attacks two arguments recently put forward in defence of Ross-style pluralism. One of these arguments is that (...) no moral theory containing some single normative principle to justify general pro tanto duties can do justice to the ineliminable role of judgment in moral thinking. The other argument is that no such theory is plausible in light of the fact that our moral ideas come from disparate historical sources. (shrink)
Richard Arneson and Alison McIntyre have done me a great honor by reading my book Ideal Code, Real World so carefully.1 In addition, they have done me a great kindness by reading it sympathetically. Nevertheless, they each find the book ultimately unconvincing, though in very different ways. But the cause of their dissatisfaction with the book is not mistaken interpretation. They have interpreted the book accurately, and they have advanced penetrating criticisms of it. One group of their criticisms definitely draw (...) blood. To treat the wound, my formulation of rule-consequentialism will have to be revised. A second group their criticisms seems to me fatal only if certain considerations are ignored. I will highlight the considerations that I think inoculate rule-consequentialism against these criticisms. In reaction to a third group of their criticisms, however, I have to accept that Arneson and McIntyre simply have quite different intuitions from mine, such that the prospects of agreement between the three of us are dim. (shrink)
This paper’s first section invokes a relevant meta-ethical principle about what a moral theory needs in order to be plausible and superior to its rivals. In subsequent sections, I try to pinpoint exactly what the demandingness objection has been taken to be. I try to explain how the demandingness objection developed in reaction to impartial act-consequentialism’s requirement of beneficence toward strangers. In zeroing in on the demandingness objection, I distinguish it from other, more or less closely related, objections. In particular, (...) I discuss arguments put forward by Bernard Williams concerning integrity, Samuel Scheffler on prerogatives, and Liam Murphy on fairness. The final part of the paper acknowledges some ways in which vagueness bedevils my own rule-consequentialism’s rules about doing good and preventing disasters. (shrink)
What are appropriate criteria for assessing a theory of morality? In Ideal Code, Real World, Brad Hooker begins by answering this question, and then argues for a rule-consequentialist theory. According to rule-consequentialism, acts should be assessed morally in terms of impartially justified rules, and rules are impartially justified if and only if the expected overall value of their general internalization is at least as great as for any alternative rules. In the course of developing his rule-consequentialism, Hooker discusses impartiality, well-being, (...) fairness, equality, the question of how the 'general internalization' of rules is to be interpreted by rule-consequentialism, and the main objections to rule-consequentialism. He also discusses the social contract theory of morality, act-consequentialism, and the question of which moral prohibitions and which duties to help others rule-consequentialism endorses. The last part of the book considers the implications of rule-consequentialism for some current controversies in practical ethics. (shrink)
This chapter discusses psychological egoism, ethical egoism, rational egoism, partiality, and impartiality. Partiality involves assigning more importance to the welfare or will of some individuals or groups than to the welfare or will of others. Egoism is an extreme form of partiality in that it gives overriding importance to the welfare of just one individual. While there are different kinds of impartiality, the kind that juxtaposes with egoism and partiality is impartiality towards the welfare or will of each.
What determines whether an action is right or wrong? Morality, Rules, and Consequences: A Critical Reader explores for students and researchers the relationship between consequentialist theory and moral rules. Most of the chapters focus on rule consequentialism or on the distinction between act and rule versions of consequentialism. Contributors, among them the leading philosophers in the discipline, suggest ways of assessing whether rule consequentialism could be a satisfactory moral theory. These essays, all of which are previously unpublished, provide students in (...) moral philosophy with essential material and ask key questions on just what the criteria for an adequate moral theory might be. (shrink)
Some things aren't what their names suggest. This is true of rubber ducks, stool pigeons, clay pigeons, hot dogs, and clothes horses. Frances Howard-Snyder's "Rule Consequentialism is a Rubber Duck" ("APQ", 30 (1993) 271-78) argues that the answer is Yes. Howard-Snyder thinks rule-consequentialism is a form of deontology, not a form of consequentialism. This thought is understandable: many recent definitions of consequentialism are such as to invite it. Thinking rule-consequentialism inferior to act-consequentialism, many philosophers, when discussing consequentialism, have had act-consequentialism (...) in mind. Having just one kind of consequentialism in mind has led them to offer definitions of consequentialism that are really definitions of just act-consequentialism. My paper discusses three different possible definitions of consequentialism and defends one that does justice to rule-consequentialism's family membership. (shrink)
With respect to morality, the term ‘impartiality’ is used to refer to quite different things. My paper will focus on three: 1. Impartial application of good (first-order) moral rules 2. Impartial benevolence as the direct guide to decisions about what to do 3. Impartial assessment of (first-order) moral rules What are the relations among these three? Suppose there was just one good (first-order) moral rule, namely, that one should choose whatever one thinks will maximize aggregate good. If there were just (...) this one moral rule, then impartial application of that one rule might be compatible with impartial benevolence as the direct guide to decisions about what to do. But now suppose there are other good moral rules, such as ones that prohibit certain kinds of act, ones that permit some degree of preferential concern for oneself, and ones that require some degree of preference for one’s friends and family in one’s decisions about how to allocate one’s time, attention, and other resources. If there are these other good rules, then at least sometimes impartially applying and complying with them will conflict with letting impartial benevolence dictate what to do. More importantly, we can reject impartial benevolence as the direct guide to decisions about what to do while endorsing impartial application of good (first-order) moral rules. Likewise, rejecting impartial benevolence as the direct guide to decisions about what to do does not entail rejecting impartial assessment of (first-order) moral rules. Section 1 of this paper argues that impartiality in the application of good moral rules is always appropriate. Section 2 argues that impartial benevolence as a direct guide to decisions about what to do is appropriate only sometimes. Section 3 argues that impartiality in the assessment of rules is or is not appropriate---depending on how plausible the impartially selected rules are. (shrink)
The chapter juxtaposes the fairly quick and automatic thinking and decision making that constitutes everyday moral thought and action with the slower, more complicated, and more reflective thinking that steps beyond everyday moral thought. Various difficulties that can slow down everyday moral thought are catalogued in this paper. The paper explains how dealing with many of these difficulties leads to thinking about moral principles. And, even where there are not such difficulties, everyday moral thought can be challenged by repeated “why?” (...) questions. Pushed far enough, such questions have to be answered by admitting ignorance or by pointing to theses about whatever ultimately makes acts morally required, permissible, or prohibited. Such theses are moral theories. As a point about moral theories, the paper ends by pointing out a respect in which everyday moral thought is more like rule-consequentialism, contractualism, foundational pluralism, and virtue ethics than everyday moral thought is like traditional act-consequentialism. (shrink)
The prevailing theory of self-interest (personal utility or individual welfare) holds that one’s Iife goes well to the extent that one’s desires are fulfilled. In a couple of seminal papers, Overvold raised a devastating objection to this theory---namely that the theory (added to commonsensical beliefs about the nature of action) makes self-sacrifice logically impossible. He then proposed an appealing revision of the prevailing theory, one which provided adequate logical space for self-sacrifice. And he analyzed his revised theory’s implications for the (...) question whether being moral is in one’s self-interest. My paper assesses Overvold’s arguments and proposals, and it shows how they can be modified in certain ways so as to be even more attractive. (shrink)
This paper begins by celebrating Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics. It then discusses Sidgwick's moral epistemology and in particular the coherentist element introduced by his argument from common-sense morality to utilitarianism. The paper moves on to a discussion of how common-sense morality seems more appealing if its principles are formulated as picking out pro tanto considerations rather than all-things-considered demands. Thefinal section of the paper considers the question of which version of utilitarianism follows from Sidgwick's arguments.
Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer’s wonderful book, The Point of View of the Universe: Sidgwick and Contemporary Ethics, contains a wealth of intriguing arguments and compelling ideas. The present paper focuses on areas of continuing dispute. The paper first attacks LazariRadek’s and Singer’s evolutionary debunking arguments against both egoism and parts of common-sense morality. The paper then addresses their discussion of the role of rules in utilitarianism. De Lazari-Radek and Singer concede that rules should constitute our moral decision procedure (...) and our public morality. This paper argues that, if no one should be blamed for complying with the optimal decision procedure and optimal public rules, there are strong reasons to accept that these same rules determine what is morally permissible from what is morally wrong. (shrink)
Most of us believe morality requires us to help the desperately needy. But most of us also believe morality doesn't require us to make enormous sacrifices in order to help people who have no special connection with us. Such self-sacrifice is of course praiseworthy, but it isn't morally mandatory. Rule-consequentialism might seem to offer a plausible grounding for such beliefs. Tim Mulgan has recently argued in _Analysis and _Pacific Philosophical Quarterly that rule-consequentialism cannot do so. This paper replies to Mulgan's (...) arguments. (shrink)
Bernard Williams influentially attacked ethical theory. This paper assesses arguments for the ‘anti-theory’ position in ethics, including mainly arguments put forward by Williams but also arguments put forward by others. The paper begins by discussing what is supposed to be theory in ethics and what ethical intuitions are taken to be by those involved in the theory versus anti-theory debate. Then the paper responds to the objections that ethical theory is mistaken to prize principles, mistaken to prize rationalism, mistaken to (...) presume or prize foundational unity, mistaken to presume morality is deeply impartial, mistaken to presume to tell agents how to deliberate, mistaken to presume or prize ethical codifiability, mistaken to presume value commensurability, and mistaken to eliminate ethical dilemmas. (shrink)
The term ‘moral particularism’ has been used to refer to different doctrines. The main body of this paper begins by identifying the most important doctrines associated with the term, at least as the term is used by Jonathan Dancy, on whose work I will focus. I then discuss whether holism in the theory of reasons supports moral particularism, and I call into question the thesis that particular judgements have epistemological priority over general principles. Dancy’s recent book Ethics without Principles (Dancy (...) 2004) makes much of a distinction between reasons, enablers, disablers, intensi- ers, and attenuators. I will suggest that the distinction is unnecessary, and I will argue that, even if there is such a distinction, it does not entail moral particularism. In the nal two sections, I try to give improved versions of arguments against particularism that I put forward in my paper ‘Moral Particularism: Wrong and Bad’ (Hooker 2000b: 1--22, esp. pp. 7--11, 15--22). (shrink)
This essay explores the reasons for thinking that Scanlon's contractualist principle serves merely as a ?spare wheel?, an element that spins along nicely but bears no real weight, because it presupposes too much of what it should be explaning. The ambitions and scope of Scanlon's contractualism are discussed, as is Scanlon's thesis that contracualism will assess candidate moral principles individually rather than as sets. The final third of the paper critizes Scanlon's account of fairness and his approach to cases where (...) agents can save either one person or many people. (shrink)