A (PURELY) CONSEQUENTIALIST ethical theory is one that bases the moral evaluation of acts, rules, institutions, etc. solely on the goodness of their consequences (or intended consequences), where the standard of goodness employed is a standard of non-moral goodness.


       A NON-CONSEQUENTIALIST ethical theory is one that is not (purely) consequentialist.


       An ANTI-CONSEQUENTIALIST ethical theory is one according to which the goodness of consequences (or intended consequences) has no role in the moral evaluation of acts, rules, institutions, etc.








       A HYPOTHETICAL IMPERATIVE [i.e., an imperative based on inclination or desire] represents "the practical necessity of a possible action as means to something else that is willed (or at least which one might possibly will)."(294).


       A CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE [i.e., an imperative based on reason alone]  is one that represents "an action as objectively necessary in itself apart from its relation to a further end"(294).


Because morality holds independently of contingent facts about us such as what we desire (or the contents of our subjective motivational set), moral imperatives must be categorical imperatives that apply with absolute necessity to all rational beings and can be known a priori (i.e., by reason alone, independent of experience).




       HETERONOMOUS CHOICE = a choice based on a desire [e.g., based on a hypothetical imperative + desire].


       AUTONOMOUS CHOICE = a choice not based on any desire [e.g., based on a categorical imperative].


       A person making a HETERONOMOUS CHOICE is said to have a HETERONOMOUS WILL. 


       A person making an AUTONOMOUS CHOICE is said to have an AUTONOMOUS WILL.  For Kant, an autonomous will is a moral will, the good will.  It is good in itself, not because of any good results that it brings about.








       Action from inclination, even if morally right, has "no genuinely moral worth"(287).

       Like actions based on honor, it deserves praise and encouragement, but not esteem (287).



       Why isn't happiness an adequate ground for morality?  No determinate principles, only empirical counsels[WJT1] .  Thus, no necessity.


       "The problem of determining certainly and universally what action will promote the happiness of a rational being is completely insoluble"(296).













No. 1.  [Universalizability Formula] "Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law"(297).


Two kinds of contradiction: 


       “Some actions [e.g., suicide] are of such a character that their maxim cannot without contradiction be even conceived as a universal law of nature . . . .”(299)  


       “In others this intrinsic impossibility is not found, but still it is impossible to will that their maxim should be raised to the universality of a law of nature, since such a will would contradict itself”(299).





Kant's Examples



Four Illustrations


1.  Suicide.


2.  Borrowing money knowing that one will not pay it back.  See, also, Kant’s earlier discussion:

"While I can will the lie, I can by no means will that lying should be a universal law "(290).  Why not?


3. Neglecting one's natural gifts.


4.  Refusing to help others in great need whom one could easily help.









What is the contradiction in our will?



       "The contradiction that a certain principle should be objectively necessary as a universal law and yet subjectively should not hold universally but should admit of exceptions"(272).



The problem of justified exceptions will be a big problem for Kant, one that he never solves.














No. 2:  [Ends-in-themselves Formula] "So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only"(301).


Consider the four examples again.



















No. 3:  [Kingdom of Ends Formula]  Every rational being must so act as if he were by his maxims in every case a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends.” (306)






















Nozick on Moral Side Constraints



Morality as Side Constraints vs. Morality as an End or Goal


What is Nozick's idea of a "utilitarianism of rights"(239)?



How does this idea help to explain why a side constraints view fits with Kant's idea of morality as categorical imperatives rather than hypothetical imperatives?












Agent-Neutral vs. Agent-Relative Reasons


Translate the following into an agent-relative reason:  "Don't violate other people's rights."


Translate the following into an agent-neutral reason:  "Minimize the number of rights violations."


Nozick is claiming that the second version of the categorical imperative makes moral reasons agent-relative.



How does Nozick's understanding of the second version of the categorical imperative differ from Kant's?








The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn



What does Huck's conscience tell him to do?  What does his reasoning tell him to do?


What opposes his conscience and his reasoning?


What moral Jonathan Bennett draw from this example about the relation between reasons and feelings in morality?












Gauthier's Thesis:  "Morality is a system of principles such that it is advantageous for everyone if everyone accepts and acts on it, yet acting on the system of principles requires that some persons perform disadvantageous acts"(99).


















              COLUMN CHOOSER






























(from Gauthier, p. 102).

Lower numbers represent higher ranked (more preferred) outcomes.











I.  Terminology


       1.  INDIVIDUALISTICALLY RATIONAL (IR) = to Maximize One's Expected Return (Total Expected Benefits Less Total Expected Costs).  This sense of rationality is the twentieth-century development of the concept of INSTRUMENTAL RATIONALITY.  It is the notion of rationality that is employed in economics.  (Note that to be INDIVIDUALISTICALLY RATIONAL does not require that one be an egoist.)


       2.  COLLECTIVE ACTION PROBLEM = A situation in which everyone (in a given group) has a choice between two alternatives and where, if everyone involved chooses the alternative act that is Individualistically Rational (IR), the outcome will be worse for everyone involved, in their own estimation, than it would be if they were all to choose the other alternative (i.e., than it would be if they were all to choose the alternative that is not IR).


       By convention, in any Collective Action Problem, the IR alternative is referred to as "Defection" ("D"); and the non-IR alternative is referred to as "Cooperation" ("C").


N-Person Collective Action Problem


                                     Everyone else









I Cooperate









I Defect (D)









       FREERIDING.  In an N-Person Collective Action Problem in which most agents choose to Cooperate, Defectors are referred to as FREERIDERS, because they benefit from the Cooperation of others, but are unwilling to reciprocate Cooperation. 








                                                                                     2, 2








                                                                                      4, 1

                                                                                      1, 4







                                                                                        3, 3

Player #1                         Player #2



The Sequential Two-Person Prisoner's Dilemma.







Gauthier's three-fold distinction:

       the prudent person

       the "moral" (prudent but trustworthy [Gauthier should have said: prudent but "trustworthy") person

       the truly moral [without quotes] (trustworthy [without quotes] and fair [without quotes]) person.



"The individual who needs a reason for being moral which is not itself a moral reason cannot have it"(103).
















Scanlon's Contractualism


What is philosophical explanation of morality?  What two questions does it answer?


(1) What is the subject matter of morality?


(2) Given an answer to (1), why would anyone care about it?

















How does philosophical utilitarianism answer those two questions?


(1) Subject matter of morality:  individual well-being.


(2) Source of moral motivation:  Sympathy for the well-being of others.  Well-being is clearly something important.
















What is Scanlon's contractualist answer to those two questions?


(1) Subject matter of morality:  the rules for regulating behavior that people would agree to if they were motivated to find rules that no one could reasonably reject. 


(2) Source of moral motivation:  Note that Scanlon does not think that moral reasons are relative to one’s SMS (127).  Moral motivation comes from the desire to be able to justify myself to others on grounds they could not reasonably reject, which he does not assume is in the SMS of every agent.


In class I will explain an important change between this article and Scanlon’s book,

What We Owe to Each Other.







Scanlon's Contractualist Principle



"An act is wrong if its performance under the circumstances would be disallowed by any system of rules for the general regulation of behaviour which no one could reasonably reject as the basis for informed, unforced general agreement"(132).

















What does Scanlon mean when he says that “the appeal of contractualism, like that of utilitarianism, rests in part on a qualified skepticism”?  Who is the skeptic that he is influenced by?


Is he correct that utilitarianism rests on this sort of qualified skepticism?




















The three stages:


(1) Moral principles must be impartially acceptable;


Step 1 is the step from stage (1) to:


(2) Moral principles are those that would be chosen (by a rational agent) in ignorance of his/her social position;


Step 2 is the step from stage (2) to:

(3) Moral principles are those that would be chosen (by a rational agent) under the assumption that he/she had an equal chance of occupying any social position.


Harsanyi takes both steps; Rawls objects to step (2); Scanlon objects to step (1).






Harsanyi argues that in an impartial choice situations, rationally self-interested agents would choose to maximize average expected utility.


Why does Scanlon not accept the formula for maximizing average expected utility?


The example of the winners and the losers:  The distribution problem.















Rawls claims that his two principles of justice would be chosen by rationally disinterested agents in the original position behind the veil of ignorance.


Why does Scanlon not employ an original position construction?


Scanlon replaces the Harsanyi-Rawls impartial point of view with an intersubjective point of view.












Does Scanlon Attempt to Provide PD N&S Conditions for MR and MW?



       If that were what he was doing, there would be a problem with his account:  “failure to explain the central notion on which it relies”(144).