Big ethics post

This was my dissertation. It goes over some of the same ground as the previous ethics posts, but expands somewhat too.


In this essay, I will give a review of normative ethical theories. Although this has been the subject of previous work of mine, I felt I had done insufficient justice to some of the arguments surrounding the general forms of the ethical theories. I also wish to use this opportunity to explore certain theories that I have not covered significantly in my time as a philosophy undergraduate. There will be a degree of overlap in what I take to be the spine of the assignment, namely in the discussions about the generalised forms of the ethical systems, although the focus here is in greater depth and more extended. There will also be a small amount of similarity when discussing the particular forms of consequentialism, as I find there to be only two major theories in the consequential framework. I will attempt, where it will not damage the overall structure of the work, to use different examples and theories as case studies. This explains the omission approaches such as the standard Kantian school and W. D. Ross’ view of prima facie duties among others.

The essay will be split into three main segments, named after each of the main forms of ethical theory. The first will evaluate virtue ethics, discussing the different readings of Aristotle and agent based approaches. I will follow this with a discussion of the potential criticisms. I will then describe the necessary and common features of deontology, focusing on theistic views and contractarianism. I will, again, give these a critical review. I will, finally, discuss the dominant versions of consequentialism. I will then subject these theories to evaluation. Throughout, I will be applying certain criteria that I feel are necessary for an ethical theory, the entirety of which will become apparent when I review the theory I feel best meets them. First, however, I will discuss the relationship between the theories, and some of the necessary components to qualify as an ethical theory.

The three ethical forms.

Ethical theories are intended to guide action. They are frameworks or methods used to evaluate ethical dilemmas and to illuminate the right or permissible course or courses of action. There are three forms of normative ethics. These map directly on to the three components of action. The first aspect of action is the agent or actor, the person who acts. The second is the act itself. The third is the consequences that follow from the act. The three forms of ethical theory fundamentally differ in virtue of which aspect the emphasis is placed on. ‘Virtue theories take judgements of agents or persons as most basic; deontological theories take judgments of actions as most basic; and consequentialist theories take judgements of the possible consequences as more basic.’[1]

For an ethical theory to be functional, it must draw an important distinction. ‘The two main concepts of ethics are those of the right and the good.’[2] The good is often defined first, and may be, for example, flourishing, autonomy, or wellbeing. The good is normally seen as something that is to be honoured or promoted. This may be directly, through an individual action, or indirectly, through the formulation of rules. The right refers to the action performed, as in ‘the right thing to do’. This can be defined in reference to the good, being the action or rule that best preserves or promotes, or conversely least damages or infringes upon, the good. Other theories will define the right independently, and relate it to the good in a different fashion. The relationship between the right and the good stand is fundamental to the structure of an ethical theory, and must be defined. Different particular theories will view different aspects as good, and different actions as right. However, forms of theory generally relate the two in an internally consistent fashion.

Thus we see that in a situation whereby a decision on the correct behaviour is needed, each form of normative ethics will approach it with a different perspective, dependant on what is taken to be right, what is taken to be good, and the relationship in which they stand. Often, the chosen action of an ethical decision will be similar across the forms, but the reasoning for it will be based on the judgement of a different aspect of the action. ‘Suppose it is obvious that someone in need should be helped. A utilitarian will point to the fact that the consequences of doing so will maximise well-being, a deontologist to the fact that, in doing so the agent will be acting in accordance with a moral rule such as “Do unto others as you would be done by” and a virtue ethicist to the fact that helping the person would be charitable or benevolent.’[3] In other cases, the chosen actions may be very different, as dictated by the aspect of action taken to be the most salient to ethical thought.

In the next section I will outline and evaluate these three ethical theories, using the most common instances of each form of theory as illustrations. Each form of theory contains many particular versions, often with components in common running through several of the permutations. For example, it is common in virtue ethics to contain the concept of flourishing. Most deontological outlooks contain something akin to the Kantian categorical imperative. The majority of consequentialist theories contain the concept of aggregation. However, it must be noted that these themes are not defining of the forms, and are not essential components of a theory.

Virtue ethics.

The necessary and common constituents of a virtue ethic.

Forms of moral thought that focus on the nature of the agent are known as virtue ethics. ‘[V]irtue ethics specifies what is moral in relation to such inner factors as character and motive, and unlike most modern views, it treats aretaic notions like “admirable” and “excellent” – rather than deontic concepts like “ought,” “right,” and “obligatory” – as fundamental to the enterprise of ethics.’[4] Here we see that when we come to evaluate an action, we do so by reference to the character either displayed or cultivated by the actor, rather than by the nature of the act or its outcomes. The action to be performed in any given situation is that which is most closely associated with virtues, and least with vice. It is this focus on the character of the agent that is fundamental to virtue ethics.

A mistake that may be made is in the interpretation of what counts as a virtue ethic, as opposed to a virtue theory. Other forms of ethical thought have contained the concept of virtue, particularly since the relatively recent revival of virtue ethics. Kant, the founder of one of the major schools of deontological thought, ‘has a “doctrine of virtue,” an account of moral virtue that flows out of what he has to say about right and wrong action’[5]. However, this is supplementary, rather than fundamental, to his position. Therefore, Kantian ethics are not viewed as virtue ethics, but deontological with a theory of virtue.

The various approaches of virtue ethics.

Virtue ethicists define the good primarily. The common tradition, rooted in the moral philosophy of Aristotle, takes eudaimonia, translated as happiness or flourishing, to be the good. A person flourishing is being the best person they can, and living as well as possible. To flourish in this way, a person must possess and exhibit the virtuous traits. This flourishing is the good aimed toward by virtue ethicists of this tradition.

In one modern reading of Aristotelian, or agent-prior, virtue ethics, the right is defined entirely in terms of the good, and is specifically aimed toward it. ‘The virtues, they say, are those character traits that human beings need to acquire and exercise if they are to live well, to live a full, satisfying human life.’[6] If the good is taken to be the having of certain character traits, then the right course of action is that which promotes those traits. For example, if courage were taken to be a virtue, the action that would best nurture courage in the agent would be the correct one. This view is teleological, in that acts are right in respect to the end, or good, of eudaimonia. Hursthouse also holds, as she believes Aristotle does, that an act is deemed virtuous in respect of what the perfectly virtuous person would do.

The other common reading of Aristotle relates to the meta-ethical position ‘intuitionism’. Aristotle talks of seeing or perceiving that which is right. He seems to claim that the virtuous person knows independently what course of action would be required in any particular situation. ‘[I]t makes most sense to talk of perceiving when what is being perceived is at least somewhat independent of the perceiver.’[7] If we view the moral quality of actions as being external to the character of the agent, we can argue that acts are not judged correct by the fact that a virtuous person performs them. Rather, what should be said is that the truly virtuous person has infallible perception and judgement of these moral truths. This leaves the possibility that judgements on the moral value of acts are made independently of claims about eudaimonia, and can be seen as basic. Therefore, in this version of Aristotelean ethics, the good and the right are defined seperately.

Another form of virtue ethics is agent-based, and takes the motives for action to be the good. It is in the sense that the character of the agent is the primary source of value that this is agent-based. That which is good is the character and motives of the agent. Value judgements on action will be passed in reference to the motives expressed, rather than in reference to the promotion of flourishing. ‘[J]udgements about eudaimonia, in turn, will be either independent of or derived from claims about right actions.’[8] Therefore, the right action will be that which expresses the best motives.

Other, less common, virtue ethics ‘not only focus on how people should be, rather than on how they should act, but have nothing to say about the moral evaluation of actions’[9]. I find it difficult to understand exactly how such views can be seen as ethical positions. As I have pointed out above, I feel the main task of ethical thought is to guide and evaluate actions. The attempt to outline what sort of people we should be without trying to give a framework for guiding action seems to me, at best, a pursuit outside the realm of ethics. As such, this branch of the theory will not be discussed further here.

The edicts of virtue ethics.

Different theorists will place the virtues in various orders of importance. There is, however, a tradition following from the Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They commonly listed the major virtues ‘of courage, temperance, wisdom, and justice’[10]. These were the central characteristics of virtue ethics until the thirteenth century, and became known as the ‘cardinal’ virtues. Saint Thomas Aquinas then included the ‘“theological” virtues of faith, hope and charity’[11]. Although these seven virtues form the core of many modern virtue ethics, the individual ethicist may add others, and give them orders of priority, to fit in with their own views.

While the virtues are positive, and are used to prescribe certain courses of action, there are considerably, by some accounts infinitely, more vices to prohibit others. The vices begin with the negatives of the virtues, such as cowardice as opposed to courage or rashness as opposed to wisdom. This is normally formulated into an edict along the lines of ‘do that which is courageous, and not that which is cowardly’. If we take the seven traditional virtues, we might expect seven vices. The list of vices, however, is not often limited to the negatives of the virtues. It will be expanded to fit any character trait that is deemed to be undesirable. There is a string of edicts of the form ‘do not act in a way that is…’. Here we can insert vices such as laziness, presumptuousness, and fecklessness.

The nature of virtues, and how a virtue can be displayed.

Due to the complex nature of interactions in the real world, it may be very difficult to discern when a true virtue is being observed. The first problem is discriminating between the virtues, and those acts that share similar traits, but should be seen as vicious. In the example of courage, it must be decided if there is a difference between courage and daring. ‘For Socrates, courage requires wisdom and hence cannot serve evil goals.’[12] Therefore, in this account, courage must be displayed in chorus with other virtues for it to count as courage. This shows that, for example, ‘the daring of the clever jewel thief’[13] is strictly distinguished from courage. Although this daring shows the sign of courage in that the thief has presumably suspended their fear of capture, it is probably motivated by greed. This makes it a vicious act, as it is not serving ethical ideals.

The second, and more ‘controversial question about courage and worthy ideals is really about whether courage is courage when serving the ‘wrong’ ideals.’[14] In the American Civil War, one of the major divisive factors was the existence and morality of the slave trade. An officer in the Confederacy, which was pro-slavery, would be fighting for an ideal. Although it may not always have been the case, for the sake of this illustration, we shall assume our officer to be fighting for the ideal of slavery. It seems accepted in modern society that slavery is wrong, immoral on grounds such as offence to autonomy. This means we would commonly believe the officer to have been fighting for the wrong ideal. From the Socratic view, this would mean the officer was incapable of showing courage, despite his taking risks for the sake of an ideal. However, the society in which the Greek philosophers lived also depended on systems that we would currently deem wrong, such as slavery. This was seen as part of the natural order, and perfectly acceptable. Therefore, for Socrates himself, the Confederate officer would be capable of showing courage, whilst his enemies in the Unionist movement would not. Modern virtue theorists generally agree that slavery is wrong, and therefore the Confederate officer was not exhibiting a virtue. This interdependence of the virtues means that a virtue cannot be shown in an act unless all the other appropriate virtues are also embodied in the act. Therefore, for a person to be judged virtuous, they must display all the virtues whenever possible. Each virtue is interrelated with the others, and so cannot be judged separately.

The other perspective is that the exhibition of courage of the Confederate officer should be counted as courageous, regardless of beliefs about slavery. His acts in the time of war would be of personal risk, and he has the strength of conviction in his moral beliefs to justify those risks. This is a display of courage, because he acts for an ethical goal. It is not important that the goal in question is normally seen to be wrong, as his courage is still of a virtuous nature. This does not, however, mean that he is a truly virtuous person. Despite showing the virtue of courage, he may well be simultaneously exhibiting vices. His support of slavery exhibits a lack of justice and charity. To judge a person virtuous, in this view, requires that they constantly exhibit the virtues. However, different aspects of their character can be judged separately, so a person could be wise but cowardly, or faithful but mean.

Virtue ethics as action-guidance.

One common complaint against virtue ethics is that it is insufficiently action-guiding. To shift the attention from the act, and onto the actor, virtue ethicists used slogans that asked us to think about the motives and character of the actor, rather than the act. This leads some critics to a belief that virtue ethics could not give guidance or moral judgement to acts. The accusation is that, in a given situation, the direction to act as a truly virtuous person would is vague. Hursthouse claimed that if she were asked how a virtue ethicist, as opposed to a deontologist or consequentialist, might respond to a certain situation, she could not ‘give the correct answer, because there is no knowing what someone using the virtue ethics approach might say.’[15] Each virtue ethicist will view different traits as virtuous and vicious, and each will afford these different levels of priority. It may seem as if the virtue ethicist could choose, almost at will, the outcome they desired.

However, I do not see this objection as carrying much weight. ‘[A]ll argument has to start somewhere, with some premises that are not argued for,’[16] and the fact that the virtue ethicist draws up a list of virtues as fundamental, as opposed to the laws of deontology or the maximising principles of utilitarianism, is not in itself a weakness. The honest virtue ethicist will have a relatively fixed set of values, and attempt to apply these equally to all situations. This will lead to consistency of decision, rather than choosing whichever course of action is selfishly desired. Whilst each may disagree with each other, this is also true for the other forms of ethical thought, and does not constitute a powerful objection. In answer to the ever-present question of who decides which actions are correct, the virtue ethicist will say ‘the morally wise,’ as they are the ones most able to reason or intuit the best course of action.

The charge that virtue ethics is not appropriately action-guiding also seems misplaced. The edicts are actually quite clear, although their application may be subtle. Each term, such as ‘callous,’ ‘cruel,’ or ‘mean,’ has a very specific definition, and as such can only be used fittingly in certain kinds of circumstance. However, the sheer breadth and depth of the terms available allows for a wide range of application. I feel the flexibility and subtlety of the virtue approach to be a strong point, as it allows the agent to deal with any given situation by the simple, but thoughtful, application of a wide range of ideas.

Why virtue ethics alone is insufficient.

As I have argued in previous work, I do not feel virtue ethics to be sufficient to do the work necessary of an ethical theory. If a virtue ethic is to replace rights based theories or consequentialism, it must be able to eliminate the need for principles on which we are to act. Returning to the case of the Confederate officer, we must decide whether he was acting morally in fighting for slavery. If we were to accept the Socratic line, from a modern ‘civilised’ standpoint, we would say he was not exhibiting a virtue, as we find slavery to be wrong. For an independent virtue ethic, we must justify this view of slavery using only the terms associated with virtuous and vicious character traits.

It is difficult for a Socratic virtue ethic to explain acceptably what is wrong with something like slavery. If a supporter of slavery is acting unethically, an eliminative virtue ethicist must argue, it is because they exhibit and possess a vicious character. They are not showing the appropriate trait of justice, charity, or other virtues. Therefore, the agent will not flourish as a person, and live the appropriate life for a human being. It is this prevention of personal eudaimonia that makes slavery wrong. The wrongness of slavery is rooted in the character of the person supporting it, rather than the offence to the autonomy of, or the suffering caused to, the slave.

The agent-based approach would argue that the slave owner is immoral in virtue of the viciousness of the character and motives displayed. The desire to own slaves exhibits a motive that is selfish and unjust. The presence of such forms of motivation display a flaw in the character of the agent. This motive is, therefore, that which gives value to the act, and makes it wrong.

These interpretations of what it is that makes something wrong are against moral intuition. We would often think of someone who was willing to own slaves as a bad person. However, we pass this kind of moral judgement on people because of the acts they do, rather than value the act based on the kind of person they are. If an act is wrong, it is wrong regardless of the character of the person committing it. The wrongness of causing harm to another person cannot be fully explained by reference to the prevention of eudaimonia in the actor. Nor is it explained by the motivation of the actor. The key feature is not the character of the actor, but the harm caused. It is due to this lack of proper explanation of the wrongness or rightness that I find virtue ethics to be unable to do the work required of an ethical theory.


The necessary and common constituents of a deontological ethic.

A deontological theory is one that concentrates on the nature of the act itself as fundamental to moral deliberation. Deontological ethics provides a set of rules by which we judge actions. These rules are, normally, related to principles and duties. Although either may be defined primarily, often the rule will derive from the obligation, which derives from a principle. The correct action in any situation is that which follows these rules, or, if this is not possible in a given situation, breaks the least important. It is this adherence to the rules that is the primary defining feature of deontology.

In deontology, the right and the good can be defined independently. The good or goods may be taken to be any of a range of things, such as liberty, equality, and autonomy. Deontology may share a good with other forms of ethical theory, such as the virtue ethics idea of eudaimonia, or the hedonic or welfare aspects of utilitarianism. However, as the right is not defined in virtue of the good, ‘there is no clear specifiable relation between doing right and doing good’[17]. The right may be intended to be the sort of act that would normally honour the good, but this will not always be the case. As the rules are primary, rather than the likely outcome from following them, deontology asks ‘agents to refrain from doing the sorts of things that are wrong even when they foresee that their refusal to do such things will clearly result in greater harm’[18].

Typical features of a deontological approach are apparent in the formulation of the deontological constraints. The first common, although not necessary, aspect is that the constraints will be negatively formulated. This means a deontological commandment will normally be prohibitive. The edict against lying, for example, would probably be of the form ‘do not lie’. It should be noted that the negative formulation does not entail its positive counterpart. While one may be commanded not to lie, this constraint does not extend to enforce an agent to actively volunteer the truth.

The second common feature of deontological theories is that the constraints are narrowly framed and bounded. By this we mean that each constraint is limited to a particular type of act. ‘This is critical, for different understandings of the scope of deontological constraints – or different views about what constitutes different kinds of acts – will obviously yield very different understandings of agents’ obligations and responsibilities.’[19] Different theories will pick out different kinds of act as right or wrong, and place a different emphasis on each.

The third common feature of the deontological restraint is that it is narrowly directed. ‘Deontological reasons have their full force against your doing something – not just against its happening’[20]. Prohibitions are directed toward the individual agent alone, and they are only responsible for their own actions. As an agent, there is no need to contemplate the further consequences of an action once it has been decided that the action is permissible. This includes the possibility that the action may place other agents in a situation whereby they are forced to break one or more rule themselves.

These common factors culminate to mean that the deontologist is primarily concerned with themselves, rather than others, not performing certain acts, rather than performing others. For example, it is not the concern of the deontologist to affect the behaviour of another. If there arises a situation whereby an agent must cause many others to break the rules by following their own deontological constraints, this is a secondary and unfortunate consequence. ‘For the deontologist, an act may be permissible without being the best (or even a good) option.’[21]

Personal freedom and supererogatory behaviour.

Within deontology, there is a great deal of room for personal choice. Anything that is prohibited by the deontological constraints is unacceptable. Other than that, however, there is no direction. Having obeyed the appropriate deontological constraints, the agent has freedom to act howsoever they wish. Where those acts that are against the rules are impermissible, those that are not are permissible. This allows the agent the choice to perform supererogatory acts, which are those that are good, yet are not obliged. Supererogatory acts allow the deontologist to show favour to their loved ones, or to perform acts of charity that are not obliged by duty. This is seen as an advantage over the other approaches, as it allows the agent a range of permissible choices. They are not compelled into a particular action in any situation. We have a strong duty, for example, not to harm, but the duty to aid is, if it is formulated, a much weaker one. Therefore, it is obligatory not to cause harm, and supererogatory to give aid.

The view that the opportunity for choice is a positive aspect of deontology is borne of the belief that a moral theory should allow an element of freedom for the agent. As we will see, this is in contrast to some consequentialist approaches, which are often regarded as being too prohibitive. The argument is that the agent must have a realm of non-moral choices, and this seems to fit with the intuition that not every choice in life is necessarily a moral one. Once it is known that an act does not break the rules and fulfils all obligations, there is no moral value in a decision to act in that fashion. Whether I have an apple or a pear as a morning snack is a choice of personal preference, rather than a moral one.

However, I would argue that a moral theory need not necessarily leave the agent with a variety of accepted actions. The choice of snack, other things being equal, may well be a matter of taste. However, it is rare that other things are equal. If the apple is locally grown the environmental damage is reduced, and appears to better follow the rule not to harm. If it is fairly traded, the workers producing the fruit are not exploited, and receive reasonable compensation for their efforts. Again, this appears to better respect the rule not to cause harm. This suggests that even such apparently nebulous choices are potentially morally significant.

A deontologist would claim that the above argument misses the point of the deontological constraints. As they are narrowly directed, the constraints are not intended to dictate anything other than the direct action of the agent. The direct action of the agent in the above example is merely the eating of one or another piece of fruit. They are not responsible for the associated potential outcomes. However, this is one flaw of deontology, as I see it. Every action has a moral value, dependent on what the outcomes may be. In deontology, an agent may choose not to help another, and this is seen as permissible given the negative formulation of deontological constraints. However, I would argue that the agent that helps is acting in the better way. I believe that one of two deontologically permissible actions being better has a moral weight. I believe we should act in the way that is better wherever possible, and that to act in a manner other than that which is best has a moral weight against it. This means the moral choice in a given situation should be defined as that which is best, rather than one of a varied choice.

Monotheism as a basis for deontology.

One example of a deontological ethic can be found in theology. I will talk here only of the monotheistic religions, as although some of the polytheistic religions may share similar aspects, it is not necessarily the case. Much of western, monotheistic, religion can be interpreted as deontological. Possibly the best known example of a theological deontology comes from the Ten Commandments, although these are often complimented or supplanted by other commandments throughout the Bible. These rules form the basis of a deontological approach.

The rules of some theological deontologies appeal to the word of God as justification. ‘One achieves holiness, that is, by obeying God’s commandments’[22]. Here, the ethicist would take the appropriate religious texts accounting God’s commands, and use these as the structure of a religious ethic. Those acts that are decried by God are deemed impermissible, those that are demanded are obligatory, and those that are not mentioned are permissible. They are deemed such in virtue of the given commandments of God. However, the use of commandments as instructive appears to miss a fundamental point of God as determining the deontological status of acts. What actually creates the obligation in any given case should not be the fact that God said so, but that he has a desire or a belief that it should be so. If God dislikes an act, it should be seen as the wrong act, whether he has issued formal edicts about it or not.

An alternative basis for moral status could be the will of God. This form of theory believes ‘it is at the deepest level God’s will, and not divine commands, which merely express or reveal God’s will, that determines the deontological status of human actions.’[23] God’s will is often defined in two forms; his consequent will and his antecedent will. Consequent will is his preference regarding all considerations. God’s consequent will is what he wants to happen in the long run, and cannot be contradicted. If the rightness of actions is termed in relation to the consequent will, there could be no wrong actions, as ‘nothing happens contrary to God’s consequent will.’[24] However, it seems clear that wrong actions do occur, and therefore the moral value of an action is not to be found in its relation to the consequent will of God.

Alternatively, the antecedent will of God ‘is God’s preference regarding a particular issue considered rather narrowly in itself, other things being equal.’[25] Antecedent intentions are those directed at a particular case, and are not infallible. An antecedent intention can be ignored or contradicted. If we take the antecedent will of God to be the root of moral evaluation, we can explain the possibility of immoral behaviour as that which is contrary to the intentions attached to this will. We are also able to explain supererogatory behaviour, as ‘it seems possible for there to be an action that is preferable from God’s point of view whose performance is not antecedently intended by God.’[26]

If we are to take God’s will as the basis of an ethical theory, however, there are problems that arise. Primarily, if we believe ethical value to be concurrent with God’s will, we must describe the communication and revelation of that will. It seems that we would be left with uncertainty as to what the correct course of action would be without some form of direct consultation. God may make a certain act morally obligatory without informing the agent it was so. Reading the relevant Holy writings would give guidance as to what God’s revealed will had been in other situations, or may be as a general rule, but this does not provide a guarantee of his unrevealed will for the current situation. Therefore, for any reliability, we should take the commandments as basic to a deontological method. However, we have already seen that this is unsatisfactory.

In either case, regarding the word or the will of God as primary, we come up against the difficulty of confusion. In the Old Testament, common to the three largest monotheistic belief systems today, there is a great deal of contradiction. ‘[M]uch of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.’[27] This makes it difficult, or impossible, to understand what should be taken as God’s will, and how to prioritise the conflicting commandments. If an individual is free to choose those passages to believe and those to discount, they are not using God as their ultimate justification, but their own beliefs.

The major problem that arises with regard to all theistic forms of ethics is the assumption of the existence of God. This is not the place for an in-depth review of theology, but the existence, or not, of God is a controversial subject. To base an ethical theory on his commandments or will, is therefore contentious. Although I cannot honestly deny the remote possibility of his existence, the fact that the probability he does is almost negligible means any theory based on him is probably without foundation. Before a theological ethic can be considered, one must ascribe to a fundamentally irrational belief, which I do not.


Contractarianism is a theory that states that ethical duties, obligations, and rights derive from the idea that morality is a form of social contract. The original contractarianism took this literally, and attempted ‘to articulate the origins of, obligations to, and limits on, legitimate government.’[28] This aim proved impossible, as governments rarely, if ever, actually received consent. Whilst the classical form of contractarianism has ceased to be widely considered as an option, other forms have drawn upon its central ideas. There are two main forms of projected social contract theory that I will discuss here. Each has a central idea of equality, although they are very different. The interactions of these equals lead to obligations that are conventional in the society, rather than divinely given. The obligations will protect and promote the important interests of the agents in the society.

The first form of social contract theory is the Hobbesian contract, which ‘stresses a natural equality of physical power, which makes it advantageous for people to accept conventions that recognize and protect each other’s interests and possessions.’[29] Here, morality is rooted in self-interest. If I am assumed to be of equal power and vulnerability to others, in that I can harm or be harmed equally, it is in my interest to bargain for a contract that protects me from being harmed by others. I will decide that it would best protect my interests to ensure there exists a contract whereby it is agreed that we should live by certain rules. I am obliged to live by the constraints for fear of the sort of society it would be if people were to go against the constraints, potentially harming my interests.

The Hobbesian view does not attribute equality in any moral sense. There is no inherent value in the interests of a person, or even the person themselves. Therefore, we do not have natural duties to anyone. Although rights and obligations come into the theory, they are also not given any moral weight. The duties are the sacrifices made by the rational person to protect their own interests, and the rights are the protections we gain by curbing our own behaviour to the socially accepted norm.

However, the assumption that all involved would have equal power is unrealistic. It is generally the case that relationships have a balance of power, with one party more able to harm the other. This imbalance could be in the form of physical capabilities, financial wealth, or technological advancement. Whatever the advantage, one party is normally in a position to demand more from the other in the contract, or be less motivated to stick by it. ‘Indeed, the theory allows some people to be killed or enslaved’[30] if there is sufficient inequality between them. Where one party can offer the other nothing in return for their protection, the powerful have no reason to refrain from doing as they wish, such as during the period of the slave trade.

This form of contractarianism appears not to provide the principles most would expect of an ethical theory. It allows the torture of babies for the enjoyment of it, as babies have no power, which most would see as an immoral act. However, to give this criticism any weight, we must show why it is wrong in terms of the Hobbesian social contract theory, as this theory could simply point out that the intuition is wrong, as the baby is unable to defend itself, or offer anything reasonable as a bargain for its defence. ‘To claim that that Hobbesian contractarianism ignores our duty to protect the vulnerable is not to give an argument against the theory, for the existence of such moral duties is precisely what is in question.’[31]

However, the response that the suffering of the baby is not important due to its lack of contractual capabilities is not the answer commonly given. Most modern Hobbesian contract theorists would ‘admit that people’s interests and preferences may be other-regarding, sympathetically directed, and broadly sensitive’[32]. This would mean that the act of torturing a child would be seen as wrong, but only in virtue of the interest people have in not seeing babies tortured. The common preference is not to see people suffering, and to protect that interest one of the duties recognised in a social contract would be the duty not to harm anyone, whether or not they were actually a direct party to the contract or not.

Hobbesian contractarianism, however, still does not appear to be a true ethical theory. It describes one possible way in which morality occurs, but does not give a moral foundation for it. There is no goal except self–interest, even when we accept the possibility of interests being tied up with the wellbeing of others. The only compulsion to behave morally is the fear of suffering otherwise. In certain cases, like that of power, there is no compulsion to act in what would intuitively appear to be a moral fashion. Hobbesian contractarianism is ‘not so much an alternative account of morality, but an alternative to morality.’[33]

The second form of contractarianism I will refer to as Kantian contract theory, due to the basis it has in the moral tradition of Immanuel Kant. The major point of difference between this form of contractarianism and that of Hobbes is in the interpretation of equality. Rawls believed that ‘each person matters and matters equally, each person is entitled to equal consideration.’[34] This equality arises from the acceptance of the categorical imperative, that people should treat each other as ends-in-themselves, rather than means. This means that we should ‘act in ways that respect, so leave intact, others’ capacity to act’[35]. Treating somebody as an end is, in effect, respecting their autonomy, rather than manipulating them to ones’ own end.

In respect of the principle of treating people as means, the method of deciding the rules of the social contract is very different from that of Hobbes. Rather than bargaining, based on current positions of power, the Kantian social contract comprises those rules upon which reasonable people would agree from behind the ‘veil of ignorance’. This means these people will have no knowledge of the status they will have when they are in society. ‘Rawls hopes to ensure genuine equality by depriving people in the original position of the knowledge of their ultimate position in society.’[36] Without this knowledge of which rules would be best suited to their own position in society, people would only agree on those rules that would provide equal opportunity and protection for everyone.

However, against the claims of Rawls, it does not appear necessary that people will be disposed to creating the laws based strictly on egalitarian principles. If there is, for example, a willingness to gamble on the situation they find themselves in once the veil of ignorance disappears, each agent may agree to principles that are not egalitarian. They may, for example, assume that they would be one of the majority, and be willing to introduce utilitarian principles of maximising the good, and run the risk of having to sacrifice if they are not. There must be a theory of justice in place before it can be decided which rules should be accepted, as the rules would be created to mirror this ideal of justice. This ideal, along with other salient points in the contractual formation, will vary significantly from person to person. Therefore, ‘[w]hatever counts as good grounds for settling on one (contractarian) characterization of our moral concern rather than another, it seems it won’t be grounds that turn in any interesting sense on what people would agree to’[37]. Contractarianism, of any particular form, must therefore rely on justification from outside the contractarian realm as to the legitimacy of its obligations.

These considerations mean that contractarianism is not able to fulfil the demands I would place on an ethical theory. The relevant demand here is that a theory provides a self contained justification for the actions prescribed. Kantian contractarianism manages to provide a model in which we can see adequate action-guidance. However, key to this theory is the aspect of mutual agreement. This agreement must be based on a theory of moral value, and contractarianism does not provide one internally.

Although I have not been able to deal with them here, there are many other deontological theories available. Each one, I find, is flawed. Some may be said to stand up in their own right, in that they are internally consistent and so on. However, all go against my moral intuition that moral evaluation should be founded in the outcomes, rather than the acts. It seems clear to me that the best available action is that which promotes the best consequences.


The necessary and common constituents of a consequentialist ethic.

A consequentialist theory is one that places the emphasis of moral evaluation on the outcome of the act. Where an act or type of act is deemed wrong, it is judged in virtue of the negative consequences, or right in terms of the positive outcome. The consequentialist will primarily define a good, something that is desired. The evaluation of an act or type of act is considered in virtue of this good. That course of action that creates or protects this good, or minimises its opposite, the best will be the correct action. In this section I will be primarily discussing the primary example of consequentialism, utilitarianism. Although I appear to use the language of act-utilitarianism, it should be borne in mind that the other option is the following of a rule that optimises the good, rather than particular forms of action. Again, unless specifically mentioned as act-utilitarianism, rather than rule-utilitarianism, ‘act’ should be read as ‘act or type of act’.

A common aspect of consequentialist theories is that of aggregation. In most forms of consequentialism, the good is desired to be available to everyone. The utilitarian would, therefore, say that the right action in any given situation is that which maximises happiness, or whatever is accepted as good, for those potentially affected, or minimises pain, or whatever is taken as bad. This means there must be some form of aggregation, as each possible outcome would affect various parties in different ways. Many people would potentially be affected, and it is necessary in some way to compare the value of the benefits afforded to one person to those afforded to another.

An important part of this comparison is an impartial egalitarian standpoint. In this context, equality relates to the moral consideration a person is due. When judging an act, the benefits given to one person must count for the same value as those given to others. For example, if I had to choose between an act that benefited a loved one and one that benefited a stranger, no special consideration should be given to the loved one simply because of my affection for them. ‘What we ought to do, individually and collectively, is for the utilitarian therefore independent of any consideration of who we are or of any special duties that might arise from that fact.’[38] If pain is taken as a negative consequence, it should be considered equally in whoever suffers it.

A common method of judging the best action will be the consideration of the optional prognoses. ‘Every prognosis for an option, every way the world may be as the result of a choice of option, has a value that is determined… by the valuable properties realised there’[39]. The value of every possible outcome of a choice of action is a function of the goods thereby realised. The values of these prognoses give value to the choice itself. There must be a calculation of the value of these possible outcomes. One form would be to evaluate the benefit of a prognosis to each individual, total this for all affected individuals, and then subtract the cumulative value of the harm caused. Some would argue that the negative aspects of a consequence should be weighted to a greater degree than the positive ones. This would leave a net total of the benefit and harm caused by one predicted outcome of a given action. This value would then be divided by the likelihood of that particular prognosis being realised. This should be repeated for every predicted prognosis of an action, with all the totals added together to give a value for a particular course of action. This process should then be repeated for each action, with the resultant values compared to show that with the highest value. This is then considered the best form of action.

There are several common attacks against the fact that utilitarianism requires the aggregation and calculation of goods. The first is that of interpersonal comparison. If something like happiness, preference, or any other subjective experience is taken as the good to be maximised, we come across the problem of knowing what is subjectively good for others. An individual cannot directly access the subjective experience of another, and therefore we cannot ‘say whether what I have lost is more or less than you have gained in consequence of some particular action.’[40] This would leave only the option ‘that one alternative is better than another if everyone is at least as well off and at least one person is better off, in their own terms.’[41] This form of consequentialism is almost unworkable, as the majority of possible choices would remain unranked. As such, there would be situations in which there would be no possible utilitarian action, as all the courses of action are prohibited.

However, this criticism appears not to hold against other forms of utilitarianism: particularly those that pick out welfare, or the satisfaction of interests, as the good. A welfare model would seek to satisfy and promote interests, rather than preferences. Although it may not be possible to list all the particular interests of a particular person, it is much more reasonable to believe we are in a position to know what is in their interests than to claim we can understand their subjective experience. ‘[W]elfare interests consist just in that set of generalized resources that will be necessary for people to have before pursuing any of the more particular preferences that they might happen to have.’[42] It is reasonable to assume that people have the same basic welfare interests, such as food, shelter, health, and warmth. Money is also important as a facilitator of the satisfaction of other preferences. Therefore, in certain utilitarian models, there is not a major problem with regard to the interpersonally comparative nature of aggregation.

Another common criticism of utilitarianism is related to its impersonal nature. That no extra concern should be given to those near and dear to an agent goes against common intuition. People want to help their loved ones before, and to a greater extent than, a distant stranger. They, by virtue of the relationships in which they stand, have an obligation to behave in certain ways that are not expected of strangers. This fact is not accounted for by utilitarian beliefs, and so represents a flaw.

However, I would argue that this line of argument is unconvincing. I would agree that, to an extent, we do and should have special obligations to those closest to us. However, I would say ‘these are not moral primitives but rather that they are derived from broader utilitarian considerations.’[43] If I have a particular duty to my family, it is not simply because of the biological or emotional relationship we share. It is because I am in a much greater position to affect their welfare. More of their preferences, and probably more important preferences, depend on my behaviour, and I am more aware of their interests, than those of distant strangers. Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate to expect me to behave in a way that prioritises them, as it is easier for me to ensure the utilitarian demands of maximising welfare or interests are realised.


Direct act-consequentialism is a theory that claims every act should be decided upon before acting. Although this is more often used a caricature than put forward as an ethical theory, it deserves a segment due to the criticisms against it. There is no restriction here based on types of act, but only on individual instances. Primarily, the good should be defined, as this theory is teleological in that it aims toward that good. In virtue of this, ‘an act is right if its consequences are at least as good as those of any other alternative.’[44] One aspect of this emphasis on outcomes is that whatever is defined as good is promoted wherever possible, rather than honoured. If I took the promotion of welfare to be a good, my duty would be to ensure that, with each act, overall wellbeing was increased. This may mean that in certain circumstances, I may be required to directly harm somebody for the sake of others.

Here, act-consequentialism is not just a theoretical framework, but a decision making procedure. One should evaluate all the possible outcomes, possibly using the form of calculation described above, and choose that act that is most likely to produce the best results. This relies on a simple acceptance that, if we want to maximise the good, the best way to do it is to set about maximising the good.

However, it has often been pointed out that this form of direct utilitarianism would not effectively maximise the good. If we were to evaluate every action, we would become almost incapable of acting in any coherent fashion. The vast majority of our time would be spent attempting to evaluate each and every action, rather than actually acting. Normally, by the time a decision has been reached, the situation will have changed sufficiently to require a fresh calculation. Clearly, in many situations, the best course requires speed of action, therefore leaving little time for calculation. Therefore, act-utilitarianism as a decision procedure is fatally flawed.

The common method of rebuttal is to claim that act-utilitarianism is not a decision making procedure, but a method of justification. In the purest form of justification, utilitarianism will deem which acts are right and wrong by virtue of the act-utilitarian principles, but will make the claim that this aggregative calculation should not come into play in everyday life. Thus this utilitarian theory has no direct application of consequentialist principles to practical situations, and as such is known as indirect act-utilitarianism. Rather than guide action, it will be a source of appeal for justification for an action.

However, following thought on a comment by Warwick Fox, I feel this is insufficient. The indirect version of act-utilitarianism explicitly does not guide action. I demanded earlier that an ethical theory must be action-guiding, as an ethical framework should instruct us as to what the best course of action is. Therefore, whilst it may be of interest as a justification principle or an addendum to another theory, it will not be able to do the work of ethics.

With regard to this criticism the act-consequentialist will draw a distinction between levels of ethics, those of theoretical and practical. Indirect act-consequentialism ‘adopts ism at the critical level and then uses it in order to select those guides at the intuitive or practical level by which to conduct one’s life.’[45] This, indirect, version of utilitarianism gives us guides abstracted from the level of utilitarian reasoning to the practical level. This reformation allows people to act intuitively, with reference to guidelines. However, as these guides are not rules, following them is no guarantee of the rightness of an action. One common guide may be to avoid doing harm. It may be that in a particular case, I avoid harming someone, and yet because of my abstention from causing harm to one person, my inaction indirectly causes a greater amount. Although I have acted by the given guidelines, I have not done the right thing, as the consequences of my action are negative.

Whilst this form makes the attempt to guide action, again it is insufficient. A fundamental part of the guidance necessary in ethics is not just that it provides us with the ability to act, but to act in the correct fashion. For all of the above formulations, the choice of a correct action is not entailed by the decision making procedure. For indirect act-utilitarianism, the guides deducted from the theoretical reasoning may be thought to be useful in everyday situations. However, the complex nature of the consequences of even simple actions precludes any assurance of these guides producing the desired results. Therefore, act-utilitarianism is not an adequate ethical theory.


Rule-utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism that argues ‘the rightness of an act depends not on its own consequences, but rather on the consequences of a code of rules.’[46] This ideal comes, at least partly, from a reaction to the consequences of constantly evaluating every act, and against the lack of action-guidance in using utilitarian principles as action justification. Given the impossibility of knowing all the salient factors in every given situation, the rule-utilitarian will guide their actions by referring to rules to which they ascribe. Following rules will eradicate the constant calculation procedure that is thought to restrict act-utilitarianism, as they make quick points of reference in times of moral deliberation. These rules are those that, when followed, will maximise the good. Following the rule ‘do not kill’ will create more of the good than not following it. Consequentially, a rule-utilitarian will follow the rule ‘do not kill’.

Rule-utilitarianism requires primarily that we comply with the rules. However, compliance is not the only thing of importance. If only compliance with the rules is considered, we appear to miss a crucial factor of morality. That is the moral concerns of people, which are also of interest. In this version of the theory, ‘[t]he focus on acceptance of rules, i.e., dispositions, is crucial’[47]. To accept a rule, and therefore have the disposition to act upon it, has consequences over and above those of merely acting on a rule. If for example you accept the rule to alawys retaliate to attacks, and this is known, the internalisation of that rule will act as a deterrent for potential attackers. Therefore you are less likely to, and might never, be attacked. ‘Thus, your accepting the rule is so successful at deterring attack that you never have an opportunity to comply with the rule. Your accepting the rule thus obviously has important consequences that simply cannot come from your acting on a rule, since you never in fact do’[48].

The major criticism of rule-utilitarianism is that it collapses into either act-utilitarianism, or deontology. If the consequences are to be taken as the fundamental point of ethical consideration, then in a situation whereby following the rule does not create the best consequences the rule-consequentialist should, it is argued, break the rule. Otherwise, the rule-utilitarian is not holding to the central principle of utilitarianism, which is that of maximising the good. Rather, it appears to be holding to the rules for the sake of it, which is a feature of deontology. Whichever response a rule-utilitarian gives, the theory has become just a version of one of the other models.

However, both of these claims are unsubstantiated. The theory of rule-utilitarianism is definitively consequentialist, rather than deontological. In deontology, the rules are stuck to in virtue of the respect due to the principles founding them. The deontological constraints demand the honouring of a principle, and must be adhered to fundamentally because they are the rules. The utilitarian rules are chosen purely in terms of those that will produce the best outcomes, clearly promoting rather than honouring a teleological principle. The good is defined, and aimed toward, rather than respected in the deontological sense. The reason that the rule-utilitarian would stick by the rules is the fact that the rules are known to produce the best consequences.

Having just placed such emphasis on the maximisation of the good, the reply to the accusation of a collapse into act-consequentialism appears more difficult to deal with. However, this collapse is best viewed in relation to the rules likely to be internalised. If the rule ‘do not break promises, except when breaking promises will maximise the good’ were accepted, we would see a very different outcome from the acceptance of ‘do not break promises’. The acceptance of rules of the first formulation would, indeed, represent a terminal collapse into act-utilitarianism. In the first case, it would be known that the rules were conditional. This would lead to extreme breakdowns of the trust in relationships, even with those closest to us, due to the impartial nature of utilitarianism. This would represent a negative consequence of following the conditional rule. However, if the rule were not conditional, as in the second formulation, it would be known that the agent is a person who would stick to their word, even against the active principle of maximisation. This would create a bond of trust, and be a consequential good. Therefore, the internalising rule-utilitarian may act in a different fashion from the act-utilitarian, and so differentiate the two forms of theory.

The second way in which rule-utilitarianism may collapse into act-utilitarianism is by virtue of the specific rules adopted. If the maximisation principle demands of rule-utilitarianism that it maximises the good, the appropriate rule should be that ‘one must always do what will maximise the good’[49]. It seems the sensible extension that if everyone followed the rule to impartially maximise the good, the good would therefore be maximised. This again collapses into act-utilitarianism, as the only available constraint for rule-utilitarianism is the key principle thereof.

This criticism fails to take account, again, of the principle of internalising rules. When internalising a moral constraint, there will be associated costs. For a rule such as ‘do not kill’, this cost would easily be outweighed by the benefits. Few people find it harms them or those around if they refrain from killing, and the majority would internalise this rule quite readily. Therefore, this acceptance would come at little cost. It is obvious the benefits would be great. However, the internalisation of the principle of impartiality comes at a much greater cost. Each individual is emotionally invested in those closest to them. To act in a way that is truly impartial would often be of great harm to the kith and kin of the actor, and the actor themselves. The costs would be a great expenditure of time and effort in learning and accepting the rules, and a great deal of psychological conflict would occur. ‘The costs of trying to make humans into saints would be too great[50]’ as ‘[w]e are contemplating here a radical reshaping of something deep in human nature’[51]. Therefore, the rule-utilitarian will not accept that the only available rule is that of the act-utilitarianistic principle of impartial maximisation. The adopted rules will be those that have the greatest outcome if internalised, against the lowest cost of internalisation. Again, this is clearly not a collapse into act-utilitarianism.

Having outlined and evaluated rule-utilitarianism, I must ask whether it fulfils my criteria to qualify as an adequate theory. It is clearly action-guiding, in that it provides rules that must be followed. This action can be evaluated by an accessible principle, that of the necessity for the code of rules to create the best outcomes. This principle is contained by the theory, as it is fundamental to the basic conception of the theory. The resultant actions will generally be in accord with moral intuition, as the rules created with the aim of maximising the good would likely follow those with which we would agree.


I set out, at the beginning of researching for this assignment, with a high regard for act-utilitarianism. I had the intention of applying act-utilitarianism to a variety of different test cases, pitting it against other theories in predominantly animal based scenarios, such as hunting and diet. However, in my research I found that some of the arguments against this form of thought to be stronger than I had previously given credit them for. Having attempted to give a fair appraisal of various approaches, I am now more persuaded by the approach taken by rule-utilitarianism.

Although, of course, the criticisms presented here are not comprehensive, I feel that rule-utilitarianism is the best equipped of the ethical theories to rebut them. It appears to be the only theory that can withstand the criticisms I have come across and come up with, and can simultaneously satisfy the criteria by which I judge ethical theories. This may be in part due to the minor standing in which rule-utilitarianism is currently regarded, meaning it is often overlooked as a viable theory.

A virtue ethic alone does not account for the value judgement placed on acts, and cannot therefore do the required work of ethics. Deontology does not fit with my moral intuition that the outcome is of primary importance. Act-utilitarianism is either prohibitive to action, or gives insufficient guidance. It appears to me that the only viable option is rule-utilitarianism. I will watch future work in this area with interest, and attempt to formulate a practical code in this model.


Davis, Nancy (Ann) Contemporary deontology in Peter Singer, ed., A Companion to Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 1991), p. 205-218

Dawkins, Richard The God Delusion (London: Transworld Publishers: 2006)

Frey, R. G. Act-Utilitarianism in Hugh LaFollette, ed., The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 2000), p. 165-182

Goodin, Robert E. Utility and the good in Peter Singer, ed., A Companion to Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 1991), p. 241-248

Hooker, Brad Rule-Consequentialism in Hugh LaFollette, ed., The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 2000), p. 183-204

Hursthouse, Rosalind Ethics, Humans and Other Animals (London: Routledge: 2000)

Kellner, Menachem Jewish ethics in Peter Singer, ed., A Companion to Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 1991), p. 82-90

Kymlicka, Will The social contract tradition in Peter Singer, ed., A Companion to Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 1991), p. 186-196

O’Neill, Onora Kantian ethics in Peter Singer, ed., A Companion to Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 1991), p. 175-185

Pence, Greg Virtue Theory in Peter Singer, ed., A Companion to Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 1991), p. 249-258

Pettit, Philip Consequentialism in Peter Singer, ed., A Companion to Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 1991), p. 230-240

Quinn, Phillip L. Divine Command Theory in Hugh LaFollette, ed., The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 2000), p. 53-73

Sayre-McCord, Geoffrey Contractarianism in Hugh LaFollette, ed., The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 2000), p. 247-267

Slote, Michael Virtue Ethics in Hugh LaFollette, ed., The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing: 2000), p. 325-347

Solomon, W. David Normative Ethical Theories, in Warren Thomas Reich, ed., Encyclopedia of Bioethics, rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan and Simon and Schuster Macmillan: 1995), p. 736-748.

[1] W. David Solomon Normative Ethical Theories in Encyclopedia of Bioethics p.738

[2] John Rawls A Theory of Justice cited Nancy (Ann) Davis Contemporary deontology in A Companion to Ethics p.206


[4] Michael Slote Virtue Ethics in The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory p.325

[5] Ibid.

[6] Rosalind Hursthouse Ethics, Humans and Other Animals p. 154

[7] Michael Slote Virtue Ethics in The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory p.327

[8] Ibid. p.329

[9] Ibid. p. 326

[10] Greg Pence Virtue Theory in A Companion to Ethics p.252

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid. p.253

[13] Ibid. p.254

[14] Ibid.

[15] Rosalind Hursthouse Ethics, Humans and Other Animals p. 153

[16] Ibid. p. 154

[17] Nancy (Ann) Davis Contemporary deontology in A Companion to Ethics p.206

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid. p.208

[20] Thomas Nagel The View from Nowhere p.177 cited Ibid.

[21] Nancy (Ann) Davis Contemporary deontology in A Companion to Ethics p.209

[22] Menachem Kellner Jewish ethics in A Companion to Ethics p. 85

[23] Phillip L. Quinn Divine Command Theory in The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory p.55

[24] Ibid.

[25] Adams cited Ibid.

[26] Ibid. p.56

[27] Richard Dawkins The God Delusion p.237

[28] Geoffrey Sayre-McCord Contractarianism in The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory p.249

[29] Will Kymlicka The social contract tradition in A Companion to Ethics p. 188

[30] Ibid. p. 189

[31] Ibid. p. 190

[32] Geoffrey Sayre-McCord Contractarianism in The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory p.262

[33] Will Kymlicka The social contract tradition in A Companion to Ethics p. 190

[34] Ibid. p. 191

[35] Onora O’Neill Kantian ethics in A Companion to Ethics p. 178

[36] Will Kymlicka The social contract tradition in A Companion to Ethics p. 192

[37] Geoffrey Sayre-McCord Contractarianism in The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory p.262

[38] Robert E. Goodin Utility and the good in A Companion to Ethics p. 246

[39] Philip Pettit Consequentialism in A Companion to Ethics p.232

[40] Robert E. Goodin Utility and the good in A Companion to Ethics p. 244

[41] Ibid. p. 246

[42] Ibid. p. 244

[43] Ibid. p. 247

[44] R. G. Frey Act-Utilitarianism in The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory p. 165

[45] Ibid. p. 169

[46] Brad Hooker Rule-Consequentialism in The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory p.183

[47] Ibid. p.189

[48] Ibid.

[49] Ibid. p.190

[50] Ibid. p.191

[51] Ibid.

  1. October 7th, 2011

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