Dissertation, (2019)

Authors
Chad Lee-Stronach
Stanford University
Abstract
Many argue that absolutist moral theories -- those that prohibit particular kinds of actions or trade-offs under all circumstances -- cannot adequately account for the permissibility of risky actions. In this dissertation, I defend various versions of absolutism against this critique, using overlooked resources from formal decision theory. Against the prevailing view, I argue that almost all absolutist moral theories can give systematic and plausible verdicts about what to do in risky cases. In doing so, I show that critics have overlooked: (1) the fact that absolutist theories -- and moral theories, more generally -- underdetermine their formal decision-theoretic representations; (2) that decision theories themselves can be generalised to better accommodate distinctively absolutist commitments. Overall, this dissertation demonstrates that we can navigate a risky world without compromising our moral commitments.
Keywords Moral Absolutism  Ethics of Risk  Decision Theory  Expected Utility Theory  Normative Ethics  Deontology
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