In On What Matters, Derek Parfit defends a new metaethical theory, which he calls non-realist cognitivism. It claims that normative judgments are beliefs; that some normative beliefs are true; that the normative concepts that are a part of the propositions that are the contents of normative beliefs are irreducible, unanalysable and of their own unique kind; and that neither the natural features of the reality nor any additional normative features of the reality make the relevant normative beliefs true. The aim (...) of this article is to argue that Parfit’s theory is problematic because its defenders have no resources to make sense of the nature of normative truth, which is an essential element of their view. I do this by showing how the traditional theories of truth are not available for the non-realist cognitivists. (shrink)
According to contractualist theories in ethics, whether an action is wrong is determined by whether it could be justified to others on grounds no one could reasonably reject. Contractualists then think that reasonable rejectability of principles depends on the strength of the personal objections individuals can make to them. There is, however, a deep disagreement between contractualists concerning from which temporal perspective the relevant objections to different principles are to be made. Are they to be made on the basis of (...) the prospects the principles give to different individuals ex ante or on the basis of the outcomes of the principles ex post? Both answers have been found to be problematic. The ex ante views make irrelevant information about personal identity morally significant and lead to objectionable ex ante rules, whereas ex post views lead to counterintuitive results in the so-called different harm and social risk imposition cases. The aim of this article is to provide a new synthesis of these views that can avoid the problems of the previous alternatives. I call the proposal ‘risk-acknowledging’ ex post contractualism. The crux of the view is to take into account in the comparisons of different objections both the realized harms and the risks under which individuals have to live. (shrink)
Brad Hooker’s rule-consequentialism and T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism have been some of the most debated ethical theories in normative ethics during the last twenty years or so. This article suggests that these theories can be compared at two levels. Firstly, what are the deep, structural differences between the rule-consequentialist and contractualist frameworks in which Hooker and Scanlon formulate their views? Secondly, what are the more superficial differences between Hooker’s and Scanlon’s formulations of these theories? Based on exploring these questions and several (...) purported differences between Hooker’s and Scanlon’s views, this article argues that, at the structural level, the two theories are more similar than previous recognised. It suggests that there is only one candidate for a deeper difference and even it may not be that significant. This insight sheds new light on both contractualism and rule-consequentialism, and it will also help us to formulate better versions of the views. (shrink)
This paper explores the so-called buck-passing accounts of value. These views attempt to use normative notions, such as reasons and ought to explain evaluative notions, such as goodness and value . Thus, according to Scanlon's well-known view, the property of being good is the formal, higher-order property of having some more basic properties that provide reasons to have certain kind of valuing attitudes towards the objects. I begin by tracing some of the long history of such accounts. I then describe (...) the arguments which are typically used to motivate these views. The rest of this article investigates how some of the central details of the buck-passing accounts should be specified, and what kind of problems these views face. (shrink)
The aim of the consequentializing project is to show that, for every plausible ethical theory, there is a version of consequentialism that is extensionally equivalent to it. One challenge this project faces is that there are common-sense ethical theories that posit moral dilemmas. There has been some speculation about how the consequentializers should react to these theories, but so far there has not been a systematic treatment of the topic. In this article, I show that there are at least five (...) ways in which we can construct versions of consequentialism that are extensionally equivalent to the ethical theories that contain moral dilemmas. I argue that all these consequentializing strategies face a dilemma: either they must posit moral dilemmas in unintuitive cases or they must rely on unsupported assumptions about value, permissions, requirements, or options. I also consider this result's consequences for the consequentializing project. (shrink)
Metaethical realists disagree about the nature of normative properties. Naturalists think that they are ordinary natural properties: causally efficacious, a posteriori knowable, and usable in the best explanations of natural and social sciences. Non-naturalist realists, in contrast, argue that they are sui generis: causally inert, a priori knowable and not a part of the subject matter of sciences. It has been assumed so far that naturalists can explain causally how the normative predicates manage to refer to normative properties, whereas non-naturalists (...) are unable to provide equally satisfactory metasemantic explanations. This article first describes how the previous non-naturalist accounts of reference fail to tell us how the normative predicates could have come to refer to the non-natural properties rather than to the natural ones. I will then use the so-called qua-problem to show how the causal theories of reference of naturalists also fail to fix the reference of normative predicates to unique natural properties. Finally, I will suggest that, just as naturalists need to rely on the non-causal mechanism of reference magnetism to solve the previous problem, non-naturalists, too, can rely on the very same idea to respond to the pressing metasemantic challenges that they face concerning reference. (shrink)
According to contextualist theories in metaethics, when you use a moral term in a context, the context plays an ineliminable part in determining what natural property will be the semantic value of the term. Furthermore, on subjectivist and relativist versions of these views, it is either the speaker's own moral code or her moral community's moral code that constitutes the reference-fixing context. One standard objection to views of this type is that they fail to enable us to disagree in ordinary (...) conversations. In this chapter, I develop a new response to this objection on the basis of Kai von Fintel and Anthony Gillies' notion of proposition clouds. I argue that, because we live in a multicultural society, the conversational contexts we face will fail to disambiguate between all the things we could mean. This is why we can at best put into play proposition clouds when we make moral utterances. All the propositions in such clouds are then available for rejection and acceptance on the behalf of our audiences. The norms of conversation then guide us to make informative contributions to the conversation - accept and reject propositions in a way that leads to co-ordination of action and choice. (shrink)
In this article, I will defend the so-called buck-passing theory of value. According to this theory, claims about the value of an object refer to the reason-providing properties of the object. The concept of value can thus be analyzed in terms of reasons and the properties of objects that provide them for us. Reasons in this context are considerations that count in favour of certain attitudes. There are four other possibilities of how the connection between reasons and value might be (...) formulated. For example, we can claim that value is a property that provides us with reasons to choose an option that has this property. I argue that none of these four other options can ultimately be defended, and therefore the buck-passing account is the one we ought to accept as the correct one. The case for the buck-passing account becomes even stronger, when we examine the weak points of the most pressing criticism against this account thus far. (shrink)
Moral error theories claim that (i) moral utterances express moral beliefs, that (ii) moral beliefs ascribe moral properties, and that (iii) moral properties are not instantiated. Thus, according to these views, there seems to be conclusive evidence against the truth of our ordinary moral beliefs. Furthermore, many error theorists claim that, even if we accepted moral error theory, we could still in principle keep our first-order moral beliefs. This chapter argues that this last claim makes many popular versions of the (...) moral error theory incompatible with the standard philosophical accounts of beliefs. Functionalism, normative theories of beliefs, representationalism, and interpretationalism all entail that being sensitive to thoughts about evidence is a constitutive feature of beliefs. Given that many moral error theorists deny that moral beliefs have this quality, their views are in a direct conflict with the most popular views about the nature of beliefs. (shrink)
Frank Jackson has famously argued that there is no logical space for the view which understands moral properties as non-natural properties of their own unique kind. His argument is based on two steps: firstly, given supervenience and truth-aptness of moral claims, it is always possible to find a natural property which is necessarily co-instantiated with a given moral property, and secondly that there are no distinct necessarily co-instantiated properties. I argue that this second step of the argument must rely on (...) a controversial nominalist view of properties. In contrast, if we accept universals or tropes, there is logical space also for non-natural moral properties even if they are necessarily co-instantiated with natural properties. (shrink)
According to the popular Whole Life Satisfaction theories of happiness, an agent is happy when she judges that her life fulfils her ideal life-plan. Fred Feldman has recently argued that such views cannot accommodate the happiness of spontaneous or pre-occupied agents who do not consider how well their lives are going. In this paper, I formulate a new Whole Life Satisfaction theory which can deal with this problem. My proposal is inspired by Michael Smith’s advice-model of desirability. According to it, (...) an agent is happy when a more informed and rational hypothetical version of her would judge that the agent’s actual life matches the best life-plan for her. This view turns out to be a flexible model which can avoid many problems of the previous theories of happiness. (shrink)
This chapter presents a new argument for thinking of traditional ethical theories as methods that can be used in first-order ethics - as a kind of deliberation procedures rather than as criteria of right and wrong. It begins from outlining how ethical theories, such as consequentialism and contractualism, are flexible frameworks in which different versions of these theories can be formulated to correspond to different first-order ethical views. The chapter then argues that, as a result, the traditional ethical theories cannot (...) be evaluated in terms of their truth or correctness. Instead, I will suggest that these theories should be understood as providing different kind of ways of thinking about difficult moral problems. I then recommend a certain form of pragmatic pluralism - it may well be that different moral problems are better approached through different ethical theories. (shrink)
This essay begins by describing T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism according to which an action is right when it is authorised by the moral principles no one could reasonably reject. This view has argued to have implausible consequences with regards to how different-sized groups, non-human animals, and cognitively limited human beings should be treated. It has also been accused of being theoretically redundant and unable to vindicate the so-called deontic distinctions. I then distinguish between the general contractualist framework and Scanlon’s version of (...) contractualism. I explain how the general framework enables us to formulate many other versions of contractualism some of which can already be found in the literature. Understanding contractualism in this new way enables us both to understand the structural similarities and differences between different versions of contractualism and also to see the different objections to contractualism as internal debates about which version of contractualism is correct. (shrink)
This chapter begins by explaining two widespread attitudes towards the methods of moral philosophy. The first common attitude is that the appropriate method for doing ethics was described by John Rawls when he formulated the reflective equilibrium method. Another common attitude is that moral philosophy has no method – anything goes in ethical theorising as long as the results are significant enough. The chapter then motivates the volume by arguing that these attitudes are not helpful. The reflective equilibrium method has (...) its limits and yet not all ways of proceeding in ethics are equally good. For this reason, I argue that we need to be more aware of the argumentative strategies we employ in ethics. This requires being methodologically reflective and transparent and taking part in the debates about the merits and problems of different methodologies exactly in the way done in the chapters of this volume. The second half of the chapter then provides an outline of the other chapters. Here I focus on clarifying exactly how these chapters contribute to the new discussions about the methods of ethics. (shrink)
Recently, it has been a part of the so-called consequentializing project to attempt to construct versions of consequentialism that can support agent-relative moral constraints. Mark Schroeder has argued that such views are bound to fail because they cannot make sense of the agent relative value on which they need to rely. In this paper, I provide a fitting-attitude account of both agent-relative and agent-neutral values that can together be used to consequentialize agent-relative constraints.
Contractualism.Jussi Suikkanen - forthcoming - In Michael Hemmingsen (ed.), Ethical Theory in Global Perspective. New York, NY, USA: SUNY Press. pp. 221-235..details
This is a chapter on contractualism for Ethical Theory in Global Perspective, edited by Michael Hemmingsen (SUNY Press). The chapter (i) outlines contractualism as an ethical theory, (ii) explains how it differs from classical utilitarianism, (iii) explores the differences between ex post and ex ante contractualism, and (iv) finally looks at two traditional objections to the view.
Most contractualist ethical theories have a subjunctivist structure. This means that they attempt to make sense of right and wrong in terms of a set of principles which would be accepted in some idealized, non-actual circumstances. This makes these views vulnerable to the so-called conditional fallacy objection. The moral principles that are appropriate for the idealized circumstances fail to give a correct account of what is right and wrong in the ordinary situations. This chapter uses two versions of contractualism to (...) illustrate this problem: Nicholas Southwood’s and a standard contractualist theory inspired by T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism. It then develops a version of Scanlon’s view that can avoid the problem. This solution is based on the idea that we also need to compare different inculcation elements of moral codes in the contractualist framework. This idea also provides a new solution to the problem of at what level of social acceptance should principles be compared. (shrink)
This chapter offers an introduction to naturalist views in contemporary metaethics. Such views attempt to find a place for normative properties (such as goodness and rightness) in the concrete physical world as it is understood by both science and common sense. The chapter begins by introducing simple naturalist conceptual analyses of normative terms. It then explains how these analyses were rejected in the beginning of the 20th Century due to G.E. Moore’s influential Open Question Argument. After this, the chapter considers (...) what good general reasons there are for defending naturalism in metaethics. The bulk of the chapter will then survey new semantic and metaphysical forms of naturalism which in different ways attempt to address Moore’s objection to naturalism. These more recent versions of naturalism—using new resources from philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, philosophy of science and epistemology—attempt to explain why the Open Question Argument fails. (shrink)
Jackson and Pettit argue that expressivism in metaethics collapses into subjectivism. A sincere utterer of a moral claim must believe that she has certain attitudes to be expressed. The truth-conditions of that belief then allegedly provide truth-conditions also for the moral utterance. Thus, the expressivist cannot deny that moral claims have subjectivist truth-conditions. Critics have argued that this argument fails as stated. I try to show that expressivism does have subjectivist repercussions in a way that avoids the problems of the (...) Jackson-Pettit argument. My argument, based on the norms for asserting moral sentences, attempts to tie expressivists to a more modest form of subjectivism than the previous arguments. (shrink)
There is a family of metaethical views according to which (i) there are no objectively correct moral standards and (ii) whether a given moral claim is true depends in some way on moral standards accepted by either an individual (forms of subjectivism) or a community (forms of relativism). This chapter outlines the three most important versions of this type of theories: old-fashioned subjectivism and relativism, contextualism and new wave subjectivism and relativism. It also explores the main advantages of these views (...) and the key objections to them. (shrink)
Judgment internalism about evaluative judgments is the view that there is a necessary internal connection between evaluative judgments and motivation understood as desires. The debate about judgment internalism has reached a standoff some time ago. In this paper, I outline a new argument for judgment internalism. This argument does not rely on intuitions about cases, but rather it has the form of an inference to the best explanation. I argue that the best philosophical explanations of how we know what we (...) desire require that judgment internalism is true, which gives us a good reason to believe that judgment internalism is true. (shrink)
This paper first outlines a new taxonomy of different views concerning the relationship between normative judgments and motivation. In this taxonomy, according to the Type A views, a positive normative judgment concerning an action consists at least in part of motivation to do that action. According to the Type B views, motivation is never a constituent of a positive normative judgment even if such judgments have, due to the kind of states they are, a causal power to produce motivation in (...) an agent. Finally, according to the Type C views, a normative judgment can produce motivation only with the help of a third mental state or a distinct substantial local disposition. This paper then outlines a novel evolutionary argument for the Type B views. If we assume that normative judgments' ability to shape our motivations enabled efficient planning and cooperation , the psychological mechanism responsible for this adaptation should be understood as a proximal mechanism. This paper argues that it is then more likely that we evolved to make normative judgments that have direct causal powers to influence our motivations because such Type B mechanisms are more reliable than the Type C mechanisms. It also suggests that the Type A views are either empirically false or collapse into the Type B views. (shrink)
What makes you happy? Should you always do what is best for you, or what is best for everyone? What is the meaning of life – and how are we supposed to think about it? Should sacrifices be made to help future generations? This Is Ethics presents an accessible and engaging introduction to a variety of issues relating to contemporary moral philosophy. It reveals the intimate connection between timeless philosophical problems about right and wrong and offers timely and thought-provoking insights (...) on everyday practical concerns. Initial chapters focus on how philosophy can help us to think more clearly about how we can live happy and meaningful lives. Subsequent chapters address general ethical theories about what is right and wrong, followed by metaethical questions such as whether morality is relative and how we are motivated to do the right thing. A final series of chapters discuss moral responsibility, population growth, and climate change. Lively and engaging, This Is Ethics provides a solid foundation for making informed ethical decisions in today’s increasingly complex world. (shrink)
Many believe that, if true, reason-statements of the form ‘that X is F is a reason to φ’ describe a ‘favouring-relation’ between the fact that X is F and the act of φing. This favouring-relation has been assumed to share many features of other, more concrete relations. This combination of views leads to immediate problems. Firstly, unlike statements about many other relations, reason-statements can be true even when the relata do not exist, i.e., when the relevant facts do not obtain (...) and the relevant acts are not done. Secondly, the previous combination of views also makes it very difficult to draw the distinction between agent-relative and agent-neutral reasons. I argue that we should think that the predicate ‘is a reason to’ creates non-extensional contexts in the statements in which it is used. This would both solve the previous problems and avoid the awkward consequences of the so-called slingshot argument. (shrink)
T. M. Scanlon’s contractualism attempts to give an account of right and wrong in terms of the moral code that could not be reasonably rejected. Reasonable rejectability is then a function of what kind of consequences the general adoption of different moral codes has for different individuals. It has been shown that moral codes should be compared at a lower than 100% level of social acceptance. This leads to the counter-culture challenge. The problem is that the cultural background of the (...) individuals who have not internalized the majority code affects the consequences of the codes and furthermore there does not seem to be a non-arbitrary way of choosing the minority cultures. This chapter first surveys and critically evaluates different responses to this challenge. It then outlines a version of ‘Real World Contractualism’, which offers the best response to the counter-culture challenge. (shrink)
Climate change is ‘a complex problem raising issues across and between a large number of disciplines, including physical and life sciences, political science, economics, and psychology, to name just a few’ (Gardiner 2006: 397). It is also a moral problem. Therefore, in this chapter, I will consider what kind of a contribution an ethical theory called ‘contractualism’ can make to the climate change debates. This chapter first introduces contractualism. It then describes a simple climate change scenario. The third section explains (...) what kind of moral obligations we would have in that situation according to contractualism. Finally, the last section discusses some of the advantages and problems of the sketched view. These discussions should help us to better understand contractualism and illustrate how contractualism could perhaps enable us to come to grips with some of the more difficult moral aspects of climate change. (shrink)
In his critical notice entitled ‘An Improved Whole Life Satisfaction Theory of Happiness?’ focusing on my article that was previously published in this journal, Fred Feldman raises an important objection to a suggestion I made about how to best formulate the whole life satisfaction theories of happiness. According to my proposal, happiness is a matter of whether an idealised version of you would judge that your actual life corresponds to the life-plan, which he or she has constructed for you on (...) the basis of your cares and concerns. Feldman argues that either the idealised version will include in the relevant life-plan only actions that are possible for you to do or he or she will also include actions and outcomes that are not available for you in the real world. He then uses examples to argue that both of these alternatives have implausible consequences. In response to this objection, I argue that what it is included in the relevant life-plan depends on what you most fundamentally desire and that this constraint is enough to deal with Feldman’s new cases. (shrink)
This article is an attempt to defend Scanlon's contractualism against the so-called aggregation problems. Scanlon's contractualism attempts to make sense of right and wrong in terms of principles which no one could reasonably reject. These principles are a function of what kind personal objections persons can make to alternative sets of moral principles. Because of this, it has been argued that contractualism is unable to account for how groups of different sizes are to be treated. In this article, I argue (...) that contactualism, even if with its focus on personal burdens, can come to plausible conclusions in the group cases. (shrink)
This paper is a defence of T.M. Scanlon's contractualism - the view that an action is wrong if it is forbidden by the principles which no one could reasonably reject. Such theories have been argued to be redundant in two ways. They are claimed to assume antecedent moral facts to explain which principles could not be reasonably rejected, and the reasons they provide to follow the non-rejectable principles are said to be unnecessary given that we already have sufficient reasons not (...) to do the acts that are forbidden by those principles. In this paper, I try to argue that neither one of these claims is true. (shrink)
According to traditional forms of act-consequentialism, an action is right if and only if no other action in the given circumstances would have better consequences. It has been argued that this view does not leave us enough freedom to choose between actions which we intuitively think are morally permissible but not required options. In the first half of this article, I will explain why the previous consequentialist responses to this objection are less than satisfactory. I will then attempt to show (...) that agents have more options on consequentialist grounds than the traditional forms of act-consequentialism acknowledged. This is because having a choice between many permissible options can itself have value. (shrink)
Metaethics is often dominated by both realist views according to which moral claims are made true by either non-natural or natural properties and by non-cognitivist views according to which these claims express desire-like attitudes. It is sometimes suggested that constructivism is a fourth alternative, but it has remained opaque just how it differs from the other views. To solve this problem, this article first describes a clear constructivist theory based on Crispin Wright’s anti-realism. It then outlines an argumentative strategy that (...) can be used to argue against constructivist views about practical reasons. The rest of the article explains how the outlined constructivist metaethical framework, reasons, and contractualism in normative ethics can still be used to create a new viable metaethical constructivist position about right and wrong. (shrink)
Non-naturalist realism is the view that normative properties are unique kind of stance-independent properties. It has been argued that such views fail to explain why two actions that are exactly alike otherwise must also have the same normative properties. Mark Schroeder and Knut Olav Skarsaune have recently suggested that non-naturalist realists can respond to this supervenience challenge by taking the primary bearers of normative properties to be action-kinds. This paper develops their response in two ways. Firstly, it provides additional motivation (...) for the previous claim about the bearers of normative properties by drawing from the work of H.A. Prichard. Secondly, and more importantly, it formulates a plausible metaphysical framework based on the contemporary trope theory to explain why action-kinds would have their second-order properties, including their normative properties, necessarily. (shrink)
This is an introduction to an edited volume of critical reactions to Derek Parfit's book On What Matters. It outlines Parfit's key ideas on reasons and rationality, his revisionary interpretations of Kantian ethics, his versions of Kantian Contractualism and Rule Consequentialism, and his master argument that attempts to show how the best versions of these ethical theories converge. The introduction also intoruces the essays of the volume.
World–renowned British philosopher Derek Parfit′s On What Matters is certain to change the face of some of the most fundamental concerns of moral philosophy – including the nature of practical reasons and rationality, and the interpretation of Kantian Ethics and its relation to consequentialism. It will also initiate new debates about the freedom of the will, the nature of moral attitudes and properties, the relationship between prudentiality and ethics, and the significance of desiring. -/- In Essays on Derek Parfit s (...) On What Matters, seven leading moral philosophers offer critical evaluations of the central ideas presented in this greatly anticipated new work. Authored by a team including Princeton′s Michael Smith, one of the world′s leading meta–ethicists, the papers address a variety of topics relating to Parfit′s work, including his central thesis that the main ethical theories can agree on what matters, and his defense of moral realism. (shrink)
This article is a critical examination of Harry Frankfurt's view of reasons. Frankfurt has argued in a number of recent books for the view which holds that all practical reasons are a function of what we love. This article examines Frankfurt's key argument for this claim. It uses the analogy of a similar argument in the domain of epistemic reasons to show where Frankfurt's argument fails. It also argues that there are a number of plausible views about practical reasons that (...) are available for us as a result. (shrink)
There is a classic disagreement in moral psychology about the mental states that constitute the sincere acceptance of moral claims. Cognitivists hold that these states are beliefs aiming at a correct description of the world; whereas non-cognitivists argue that they must be some other kind of attitude. Mark Eli Kalderon has recently presented a new argument for non-cognitivism. He argues that all cognitivist inquiries include certain epistemic obligations for the participants in cases of disagreement in the inquiry. I will provide (...) additional support for this claim. Kalderon then claims that our moral inquiry lacks the required epistemic obligation and that therefore it must be non-cognitive. I will show that Kalderon’s case against the required obligation fails and furthermore provide some evidence for the existence of this obligation. Therefore, his argument for non-cognitivism is not sound and provides no pressure against cognitivism. (shrink)
I will begin this paper by identifying the problem within the theory of ethics, which contractualism as a moral theory is attempting to address. It is not that of solving the problem of moral motivation like the ‘arch-contractualist’, Thomas Scanlon, often claims, but rather that of describing a class of fundamental moral reasons – contractualist reasons for short. In the second section, I will defend the contractualist idea of how the nature of these moral reasons provides us with sufficient, independent (...) tools to construct the content of public moral principles. The rest of my paper is defensive. It addresses the main challenges set to the contractualist account of moral reasons. In the third section, I will discuss a frequent objection according to which the contractualist reasons are a redundant addition to the space of moral reasons. In the fourth section, I will examine the worry that acting from these reasons would not lead to morally admirable action but rather to vice. In the last section, I will investigate the criticism according to which the normative force of the contractualist reasons is insufficient for rationalising our moral actions in certain difficult circumstances. In this section, we get to the heart of the matter – what the reasons contractualism describes truly are, and how they can explain the generally overriding strength of our moral requirements. I hope to conclude that even after these serious challenges contractualism remains a philosophically viable account of morality's rationalistic appeal. (shrink)
This is a longer critical notice of T.M. Scanlon's book Moral Dimensions. The main crux of the article is to investigate how Scanlon's claims about the moral significance of intentions and reactive attitudes in this book fit with the earlier contractualist ethical theory which he presented in What We Owe to Each Other.
This paper is a short review of T.M. Scanlon's book What We Owe to Each Other. The book itself is already a philosophical classic. It defends a contractualist ethical theory but also has many interesting things to say about reasons, value, well-being, promises, relativism, and so on.
This is a review of Michael Devitt's collection of previously published articles entitled Putting Metaphysics First: Essays on Metaphysics and Epistemology. The review also suggests a new way of formulation the realism/anti-realism contrast on the basis of Devitt's work. This contrast is understood in terms explanatory priority: should we in a given domain begin our theorizing from metaphysics (realism) or semantics (anti-realism)?
Rule-consequentialists tend to argue for their normative theory by claiming that their view matches our moral convictions just as well as a pluralist set of Rossian duties. As an additional advantage, rule-consequentialism offers a unifying justification for these duties. I challenge the first part of the ruleconsequentialist argument and show that Rossian duties match our moral convictions better than the rule-consequentialist principles. I ask the rule-consequentialists a simple question. In the case that circumstances change, is the wrongness of acts determined (...) by the ideal principles for the earlier circumstances or by the ideal ones for the new circumstances? I argue that whichever answer the rule-consequentialists give the view leads to normative conclusions that conflict with our moral intuitions. Because some set of Rossian duties can avoid similar problems, rule-consequentialism fails in the reflective equilibrium test advocated by the rule-consequentialists. (shrink)
This is a review of three books by Thomas Hurka. The first one, Drawing Morals - Essays in Ethical Theory, is a collection of Hurka's previously published articles. The second one, The Best Things in Life, is a short book on happiness, pleasure and love intended for the general audience. Finally, the third book, Underivative Duty is a collection of articles edited by Hurka on British Moral Philosophers from Sidgwick to Ewing.