Deontological pluralism and its consequentialist critics
Place: Lecture room 24, 5th floor, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40)
This paper explores conceptual issues in the debate over deontological pluralism and consequentialist alternatives. In previous work, I have argued for the appeal of pluralist theories like that of W. D. Ross, in which multiple principles reflect a range of values and moral conflicts are to be expected. In response to such proposals, it is sometimes said that consequentialism itself can be pluralistic, and that maximizing a pluralistic conception of the good offers a framework superior to that of deontology. Further, recent proponents of “consequentializing,” argue that for any set of moral judgments, we can find a consequentialist theory that entails those very same judgments; then, since consequential theories allow us to bring about “the most good possible,” they are an attractive fit with our views of rational action and non-arbitrariness, and thus better justified than pluralist deontological theories. I argue here against these ideas, and in defense of pluralist deontology, drawing on considerations related to moral dilemmas, to finding the right reasons for moral judgments, to the pragmatics of moral debate and disagreement, and to the potentially distorting effects of thinking in terms of maximizing when considerations of fairness should be front and center.
Patricia Marino is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo in Canada. She works on topics in ethics, epistemology, philosophy of sex and love, and philosophy of economics. She received her PhD from the University of California, Irvine, in 2002, and was a Stanford Humanities Fellow from 2002-2004. She is the author of Moral Reasoning in a Pluralistic World (McGill-Queens University Press, 2015) and articles on moral dilemmas, ambivalence, sexual objectification, and other topics. She is currently working on a book tentatively titled “The Philosophy of Sex and Love: An Opinionated Introduction,” and blogs at The Kramer Is Now: Accidental Philosopher Encounters Modern Life. For more information, visit patriciamarino.org.