Moral Obligation, Self-Interest and The Transitivity Problem

Utilitas 28 (4):441-464 (2016)
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Is the relation ‘is a morally permissible alternative to’ transitive? The answer seems to be a straightforward yes. If Act B is a morally permissible alternative to Act A and Act C is a morally permissible alternative to B then how could C fail to be a morally permissible alternative to A? However, as both Dale Dorsey and Frances Kamm point out, there are cases where this transitivity appears problematic. My aim in this paper is to provide a solution to this problem. I will then investigate Kamm’s justification for rejecting the transitivity of the ‘is a permissible alternative to’ relation. Next, I will look at Dorsey’s solution, which involves a reinterpretation of the intuitions used to generate the problem. I will argue that neither of these solutions are fully satisfying before going on to provide my own solution to the problem and arguing that it avoids these problems.

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Alfred Archer
Tilburg University


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