Bernard Gert, Common Morality Part II, The Moral Theory
¨ a relative concept
ˇ in a certain respect (e.g. whether a ball is in the strike zone)
ˇ with regard to a specified group (e.g. the pitchers for the two teams playing the game)
¨ impartiality = being uninfluenced by which members of the group receive harms and benefits in the specified respect
ˇ not taking a God’s eye view (non-existent)
ˇ nor treating like cases alike (not required by impartiality)
¨ does not require unanimity (cf. two impartial referees with different policies on calling fouls)
Evaluative question: Is this analysis of impartiality correct? What might be a better analysis of the concept?
Respects in which morality requires impartiality (122-125)
¨ Morality requires impartiality with respect to
ˇ obedience to the moral rules (which are formulated so that obedience to them is impartial)
ˇ justified violation of moral rules (where the 2-step procedure rules out favouring some over others)
ú violation described just by its morally relevant features in terms all can understand (cf. Kant’s maxims)
ú estimating consequences of publicly (not) allowing a kind of violation (cf. Kant’s universalizability)
¨ It does not require it for following moral ideals.
¨ Relationship of violator of a moral rule to violatee is morally relevant.
Group for which morality requires impartiality (126-131)
¨ at least all moral agents and former moral agents who have not permanently lost consciousness
ˇ their protection universally desired by impartial rational agents behind the blindfold of justice
¨ for most people: infants and young children
ˇ rational agents know that if they were parents they would care for them as much as for themselves
¨ unresolvable disagreement on:
ˇ non-human animals
ˇ the environment
Evaluative question: How if at all might we resolve disagreements about the scope of morality?
Why act morally? I (131-132)
¨ Suppose a rational impartial informed person exists.
¨ Behind the blindfold of justice this person would advocate that everybody do what morality requires or encourages.
¨ If it were irrational for somebody for whom this person cares to act as morality requires or encourages, the person would advocate that this person not do what morality requires or encourages.
¨ Hence it is never irrational to act as morality requires or encourages.
NB: It is usually not rationally required to act morally.
Why act morally? II (132-135)
¨ It is sometimes not irrational for someone to act immorally (e.g. a callous person harming someone from an out-group).
ˇ Common reasons to the contrary don’t always apply:
ú “you may get caught and punished”
ú “God will punish you”
¨ Basic reason for acting morally: to avoid causing harm to others.
¨ What about unjustified violations of the second five rules that seem to harm nobody?
ˇ act-consequentialism --> paradoxical results
ˇ effect of the example on others: inconclusive reason
ˇ violator fails to recognize personal fallibility (= arrogance) --> likely to immorally cause harm later
Why be moral? (136)
¨ A different question than: Why act morally?
¨ In a decent society, you will be happier and more successful if you are a moral person than if you are an immoral one.
ˇ distinguishing feature: concern for others
¨ Parents who love their children may be rationally required to raise them to be moral persons.
¨ Reasons for being a moral person have more justifying force than those for the contrary:
ˇ far more harm caused by immoral people
Morality: an informal public system (137-139)
¨ informal --> in some situations no definite answer
¨ definite answer needed in such a situation --> appeal to a formal system (e.g. the law)
¨ possible functions of the law:
ˇ prohibit something not otherwise morally forbidden (e.g. bigamy [Issue: Is bigamy in itself morally wrong?])
ˇ require something not otherwise morally required (e.g. taxes)
ˇ settle what is legally allowed where there is unresolvable moral disagreement (e.g. abortion)
Political settling of unresolvable moral disagreements (139-142)
Issue: How if at all should governments settle what is legally allowed when there is unresolvable moral disagreement?
¨ Every person has a moral right not to have any moral rule unjustifiably violated towards them.
¨ Equivalently: Governments can pass laws under which serious unjustified violations of moral rules can be punished.
¨ Derivative rights based on an interpretation of a moral rule (e.g. right to privacy) are partly moral, and partly political.
¨ Positive rights (to health care, education) are purely political: duties of a government to provide something
ˇ a function of the resources available
ˇ best determined by what rational impartial people informed of resources and demands on them would favour as a minimum entitlement
Consequences of morality not always giving a unique correct answer (145-148)
¨ civilized discussion of moral disagreements
ˇ maybe neither side is mistaken
ˇ seek basis of disagreement
ú moral (scope, ranking, estimates, interpretation)
ˇ work out compromise acceptable to both sides
¨ moral reason for democratic (vs. technocratic) approach to resolving moral disagreements
Evaluative question: Is Gert correct about these consequences? Are there other consequences that he does not mention?
Requirements of a complete moral theory (148-149)
¨ explanation and justification of large areas of moral agreement
¨ explanation and justification of areas of moral disagreement
¨ analysis and linkage of the fundamental concepts of morality, rationality and impartiality
¨ an account of human nature (especially the fallibility, rationality and vulnerability of human beings) that grounds the analysis, linkage, explanations and justifications.
Two things are not required:
¨ a unique correct answer to every moral question
¨ removal of the need for human judgment
¨ There is no need for new moral discoveries.
¨ There is a need to explore how morality applies to new situations.
¨ There is a need to clarify, explain and justify what morality is, so that people have less excuse for pretending that immoral actions are morally allowed.
¨ The present clarification, explanation and justification may contribute to the goal of common morality: the lessening of the amount of harm suffered.
¨ No reflection due!
¨ Evaluation of Ben’s work as a TA (evaluate my teaching online)
¨ Format of final exam
¨ Review of the course
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