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Constructivism about intertheoretic comparisons


Riedener, Stefan (2019). Constructivism about intertheoretic comparisons. Utilitas: A Journal of Utilitarian Studies, 31(3):277-290.

Abstract

Many people think that if you're uncertain about which moral theory is correct, you ought to maximize the expected choice-worthiness of your actions. This idea presupposes that the strengths of our moral reasons are comparable across theories – for instance, that our reasons to create new people, according to total utilitarianism, can be stronger than our reasons to benefit an existing person, according to a person-affecting view. But how can we make sense of such comparisons? In this article, I introduce a constructivist account of intertheoretic comparisons. On this account, such comparisons don't hold independently of facts about morally uncertain agents. They're simply the result of an ideal deliberation in terms of certain epistemic norms about what you ought to do in light of your uncertainty. If I'm right, this account is metaphysically more parsimonious than some existing proposals, and yet has plausible and strong implications.

Abstract

Many people think that if you're uncertain about which moral theory is correct, you ought to maximize the expected choice-worthiness of your actions. This idea presupposes that the strengths of our moral reasons are comparable across theories – for instance, that our reasons to create new people, according to total utilitarianism, can be stronger than our reasons to benefit an existing person, according to a person-affecting view. But how can we make sense of such comparisons? In this article, I introduce a constructivist account of intertheoretic comparisons. On this account, such comparisons don't hold independently of facts about morally uncertain agents. They're simply the result of an ideal deliberation in terms of certain epistemic norms about what you ought to do in light of your uncertainty. If I'm right, this account is metaphysically more parsimonious than some existing proposals, and yet has plausible and strong implications.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology > Center for Ethics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Philosophy
Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:Philosophy, Sociology and Political Science
Language:English
Date:1 September 2019
Deposited On:24 Sep 2019 09:35
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 11:18
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0953-8208
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/s0953820819000165

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