Why one basic principle?

Utilitas 19 (2):220-242 (2007)
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Principle monists believe that our moral duties, such as fidelity and non-maleficence, can be justified in terms of one basic moral principle. Principle pluralists disagree, some suggesting that only an excessive taste for simplicity or a desire to mimic natural science could lead one to endorse monism. In Ideal Code, Real World (Oxford, 2000), Brad Hooker defends a monist theory, employing the method of reflective equilibrium to unify the moral duties under a version of rule consequentialism. Hooker's arguments have drawn powerful criticisms from pluralists such as Alan Thomas, Phillip Montague and Philip Stratton-Lake. Against these critics, I argue that Hooker's monism enjoys certain practical advantages associated with the simplicity of a single basic principle. These advantages are often overlooked because they appear primarily in cases of second-order deliberation, in which one must decide whether our basic moral duties support a certain derivative duty. I argue that these advantages of monism over pluralism are analogous to the advantages that generalists claim over moral particularism. Because pluralists are generalists, I conclude that they are in an awkward dialectical position to dismiss Hooker's monism for the reasons they usually offer



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Jeffrey Brand
George Washington University

Citations of this work

Another Particularism: Reasons, Status and Defaults.Alan Thomas - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (2):151-167.

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References found in this work

Well-being, agency and freedom: The Dewey lectures 1984.Amartya Sen - 1985 - Journal of Philosophy 82 (4):169-221.
An unconnected Heap of duties?David McNaughton - 1996 - Philosophical Quarterly 46 (185):433-447.
Two levels of pluralism.Susan Wolf - 1992 - Ethics 102 (4):785-798.
Moral rules.Russ Shafer-Landau - 1997 - Ethics 107 (4):584-611.

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