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Consequentialism and Robust Goods

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2019

Vuko Andrić
Affiliation:
Institute for Futures Studies, Stockholm, and Bayreuth University
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Abstract

In this article, I critique the moral theory developed in Philip Pettit's The Robust Demands of the Good: Ethics with Attachment, Virtue, and Respect (2015). Pettit's theory, which I label Robust-Goods Consequentialism, aims to avoid the problems but retain the attractive features of traditional consequentialist theories. The distinctive feature of Robust-Goods Consequentialism is a value theory that attempts to accommodate what Pettit calls rich goods: certain moral phenomena that can be categorized under the headings of attachment, virtue and respect. I argue that Robust-Goods Consequentialism fails because it implies very implausible value judgements.

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References

1 Page and chapter numbers refer to Pettit, Philip, The Robust Demands of the Good: Ethics with Attachment, Virtue, and Respect (Oxford, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 For ease of exposition, and because it is irrelevant to my critique, I will ignore the part about modesty, which Pettit develops in Demands of the Good, pp. 28–31, 62–4, and 99–102.

3 One might worry that the situation is badly described as it is incompatible with the claim that, if you know now that I will later need X, then I need X now already. This claim, however, is not a general truth. You might know now that I will need an amniocentesis between the fifteenth and eighteenth week of my pregnancy, but I do not need it now as I am not in that stage yet.

4 The harmony is less straightforward if we hold that reasons and duties are determined not by actual but by rationally expectable consequences. I think nonetheless that consequentialists should accept the second view, see Andrić, Vuko, ‘Objective Consequentialism and the Licensing Dilemma’, Philosophical Studies 162 (2013), pp. 547–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Andrić, Vuko, ‘Objective Consequentialism and the Rationales of “ ‘Ought’ Implies ‘Can’ ” ’, Ratio 30 (2017), pp. 7287CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 For an overview of such ideas, see Bader, Ralf M., ‘Kantian Axiology and the Dualism of Practical Reason’, The Oxford Handbook of Value Theory, ed. Hirose, I. and Olson, J. (New York, 2015), pp. 175201, esp. 192–7Google Scholar.

6 To forestall objections based on the position that duties and reasons are determined by rationally expectable rather than actual consequences, let's assume that Morris knows what Anna will or would do.

7 I am grateful to everybody who commented on earlier versions of this article. Special thanks to Ben Ferguson, Stefan Gosepath, Anders Herlitz, Roland Hesse, Tamara Jugov, Benjamin Kiesewetter, Sebastian Köhler, Philip Pettit, Daniel Ramöller, Michael Schefczyk, Thomas Schmidt, Michael Smith, and anonymous reviewers.

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