Many believe that traditional consequentialist moral theories are incapable of incorporating the allegedly important phenomenon of supererogation. After surveying the “ties at the top,” “satisficing,” and “egoistic-adjustment” strategies to avoid the supererogation objection, I argue that a recent formulation of utilitarianism incorporating the self-other asymmetry exhibits interesting supererogatory properties. I then incorporate this asymmetry into a version of egoistically-adjusted act utilitarianism, arguing that such a view exhibits very rich supererogatory properties, properties that should assuage the theoretical worries of a vast (...) number of supererogation critics. (shrink)
§13 of Principia Ethica contains G. E. Moore’s most famous open question arguments. Several of Moore’s contemporaries defended various forms of metaethical nonnaturalism—a doctrine Moore himself endorsed—by appeal to OQAs. Some contemporary cognitivists embrace the force of Moore’s OQAs against metaethical naturalism. And those who posit noncognitivist meaning components of ethical terms have traditionally used OQAs to fuel their own emotivist, prescriptivist, and expressivist metaethical programs. Despite this influence, Moore’s OQAs have been ridiculed in recent decades. Their deployment has been (...) labeled “accident prone,” “simple to dismiss,” and just plain invalid. Critics accuse Moore of begging the question. Others argue that his OQAs founder upon the paradox of analysis. And still others argue that Moore’s open question argumentation is incompatible with the Kripke–Putnam causal theory of reference and thus it “simply fails; it is bankrupt”. I aim to show that there is something of continuing value in Moore’s open question efforts. I present and criticize Nicholas Sturgeon’s influential interpretation of Moore’s OQAs as a means to motivate and explicate my own interpretation of Moore’s thoughts in §13 of Principia Ethica. I then articulate the role that OQAs are intended to play in Moore’s overall argumentative strategies to undermine metaethical naturalism and thereby provide some theoretical support for metaethical nonnaturalism. Finally, I attend to the most prominent objections to Moore’s theorizing and attempt to evaluate the extent to which Moore’s efforts are successful. My hope is to display both the promising portions of Moore’s metaethical argumentation in Principia Ethica as well as its limitations. (shrink)
In Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality, Douglas Portmore introduces a novel position regarding the actualist securitism – a position he argues is theoretically superior to the standard views in both the actualist and possibilist camps. After distinguishing the two camps through an examination of the original Procrastinate case, I present Portmore's securitism and its implications regarding his modified Procrastinate case. I level two serious objections against securitism: that it implausibly implies that morality is radically more demanding for the virtuous (...) than it is for the vicious and that it fails to recognize moral vice in a wide range of cases. I close by arguing that a possibilist variant of Portmore's securitist view is impervious to such objections and thus appears theoretically superior to the actualist version Portmore promotes. (shrink)
That all subjunctive conditionals with true antecedents and trueconsequents are themselves also true is implied by every plausibleand popularly endorsed account. But I am wary of endorsing thisimplication. I argue that all presently endorsed accounts fail tocapture the nature of certain subjunctive conditionals in contextsof consequentialist reasoning. I attempt to show that we must allowfor the possibility that some subjunctive conditionals with trueantecedents and true consequents are false, if we are to believethat certain types of straightforward consequentialist reasoningare coherent. I (...) begin by evaluating a pair of morally releventcounterfactuals in a case via David Lewis's account. I then turnto a slight modification of the case, arguing that Lewis'ssemantics fails to generate the correct truth values of thesubjunctive conditionals in the modified case. Finally, I presenta modified version of Lewis's semantics that generates the correctresults in all of the cases. (shrink)
Theorists have consistently maintained that the most plausible forms of objective consequentialism must be probabilistic if and only if indeterminism is true. This standard position, however popular, lacks sufficient motivation. Assume determinism to be true and an attempt will be made to show that attractive forms of objective consequentialism must be probabilistic - and not for reasons related to our epistemic limitations either. -/- Here it is argued that all extant objective formulations of consequentialism fail to deliver the normative implications (...) that the spirit of objective consequentialism requires. My argument rests upon the claim that certain pairs of subjunctive conditionals with identical antecedents and incompatible consequents are such that neither of the pair is true. -/- Upon leveling the objection, the concept of an "objective" subjunctive probability is introduced and utilized in the transformation of a subjective version of expected act utility consequentialism into an objective version, one that is capable of dealing with the difficulties posed by the objection. I end by indicating some ways in which the closest thing to a plausible, objective form of consequentialism might be developed. (shrink)
Recent decades have witnessed a surge in philosophical attention to the moral standing of non-human animals. Kantians, Neo-Kantians, utilitarians, and radical animal rights theorists have staked their claims in the literature. Here Fred Feldman’s desert-adjusted utilitarianism is introduced into the fray. After canvassing the prominent competitors in the dialectic, a conception of an overall moral ranking consonant with desert-adjusted utilitarianism is developed. Then the conception’s implications regarding the particular locations of individual people and animals in such rankings across various scenarios (...) is explored. Ultimately, it is argued that when it comes to evaluating whether or not some benefit morally ought to be bestowed upon some specific person or animal, this new conception of an overall moral ranking is sensitive to a wider range of morally relevant phenomena than its more prominent competitors. (shrink)
James Cain issues forth a two-pronged attack against classical forms of act utilitarianism, elucidating objections from infinite utility streams and distributive justice through his novel examples.1 In his first example, we are to imagine an infinite number of immortals, living on an infinitely long street (Elm Street), bracing to suffer an infinite amount of migraine pain with the onset of this horrific disease. Left untreated, the disease would wreak havoc among our immortals in the following way. Year 1: P1 Year (...) 2: P1, P2, P3 Year 3: P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, P6, P7 Year 4: P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, P6, P7, P8, P9, P10, P11, P12, P13, P14, P15.. (shrink)
Moore's Open Question Arguments are among the most influential arguments in 20th Century metaethical thought. But, surprisingly, there is a fair amount of confusion concerning what the Open Question Arguments actually are, how the Moorean passages should be interpreted, and what they are intended to show. Thus, the early chapters are devoted to clarificatory matters, including the exposing of a variety of contemporary attacks upon Moore's arguments as misguided by indicating where they rest upon faulty interpretations of Moorean passages. Providing (...) what I take to be accurate formulations of Moore's famous arguments, responding to historically important preliminary objections, and, finally, presenting various shortcomings of these arguments constitute the remaining themes of the early chapters. ;Next, I pursue an explanation of what I call the 'Open Question phenomenon': the inclination that many have to endorse Moore's "open question" premises. I survey a variety of popular noncognitivist explanations, arguing that each of them is unsatisfactory. I then present a novel semantic explanation of the phenomenon and use it to construct an augmented Moorean Open Question Argument, one capable of overcoming the shortcomings of Moore's originals. ;The latter chapters are dedicated to an investigation of Moore's preferred normative theory---a version of objective consequentialism. I argue that the standard semantic account of subjunctive conditionals fails to capture the nature of certain subjunctive conditionals relevant to the normative evaluation of alternatives from an objective consequentialist perspective. I then present a modified version of the standard account in an effort to remedy the problem. ;Next, I present a novel objection against all extant versions of objective consequentialism. I then introduce and utilize the concept of an "objective" subjunctive probability in the transformation of a subjective version of consequentialism into an objective version, one capable of dealing with the difficulties posed by the objection. ;I conclude the dissertation with a final chapter in which I defend possibilist versions of consequentialism from a contemporary objection. In doing so, I elucidate a theoretical advantage that possibilist theories have over their subjunctive counterparts. (shrink)
Utilitarianism seems to imply that there cannot be any supererogatory acts, since no act can be above or beyond the call of utilitarian moral duty. Many argue, however, that there can be, indeed are, supererogatory acts, and so utilitarianism is wrong if it really implies that there cannot be any such acts. Vessel aim to respond to this challenge in two ways. First, he argues that even classical hedonistic utilitarianism doesn’t imply the impossibility of supererogation. Second, he discusses and – (...) perhaps – supports some amendments to classical utilitarianism that provides further room for supererogatory actions within a utilitarian frame work. I’ll comment on those two responses to the objection from supererogation, but ﬁrst I’d like to make some remarks on the relation between supererogation and utilitarianism in general. (shrink)
Theorists have consistently maintained that the most plausible forms of objective consequentialism must be probabilistic if and only if indeterminism is true.2 They claim: If indeterminism is true, then objective probabilities used to map such indeterminacies must be utilized by objective consequentialist moral theories; however, if determinism is true, probabilities play no role in objective consequentialist theorizing. I beg to differ. Assume determinism is true and I will show you that attractive forms of objective consequentialism must be probabilistic—and not for (...) reasons related to our epistemic limitations either. In this way, I hope to shed some light upon the nature of objective consequentialism. Here’s my case. Consequentialist normative theories can be classified into two groups: subjective and objective. Subjective consequentialist theories might be characterized as those in which an agent’s beliefs concerning the possible consequences of an alternative play a prominent role in determining that alternative’s normative. (shrink)
I consider metaethics to be a sub-branch of moral philosophy. Some of the most central questions in metaethical inquiry include the following: What are the natures of the meanings of moral terms? If there are such things as moral properties (rightness, wrongness, goodness, badness, etc.), what are their natures?
Coleman suggests three central things in her commentary: (i) SUB is just as well-suited to deal with our case as PROB SUB is; thus, there aren’t any interesting reasons to prefer PROB SUB to SUB; (ii) I may have failed to describe Feldman’s possibilist view accurately; and (iii) an “intentionally accessible” version of possibilism will solve all our problems without appealing to objective subjunctive probabilities. Let me attend to each point.
Theorists who endorse a subjunctive formulation of consequentialism with a “possibilist”-modified similarity relation are not plagued by this problem of incompatible obligations. Without some other interesting theoretical support, the burden is upon the actualists. Here’s a sketch of my favorite objective, weakly-centered, subjunctive brand of consequentialism containing the appropriate possibilist injection.